Stateless nations in a world of nation-states

Authored by: Ephraim Nimni

Routledge Handbook of Ethnic Conflict

Print publication date:  October  2010
Online publication date:  October  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415476256
eBook ISBN: 9780203845493
Adobe ISBN: 9781136927577


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We are accustomed to understand nations as connected with states, and in many cases, particularly in everyday speech, we use the term nation as transposable with the term state. This assumption is prevalent around the world but it is based on an error. A state is an apparatus of governance and a nation is a cultural community; these are two very different kinds of human groupings. The symbiotic relation between nation and state (a nation-state) is an historical creation of early modern Western Europe, and it became in more than one way, one of its most successful exports. The Western European heirs of the architects of the nation-state, however, are paradoxically relinquishing some of the old sovereign powers of the nation-state with the expansion of the European Union. However, many of those outside Western Europe who copied the idea of the nation-state or inherited it from colonial masters are among its most zealous defenders. The nation-state model is not particularly well suited to govern states with culturally mixed populations who demand political recognition to their cultural identity. The problem is unfortunately common and solutions are hard to find, let alone implement.

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