Chatterjee and Gellner take on political nationalism

Chatterjee and Gellner take on political nationalism

Political scientists Partha Chatterjee and Ernest Gellner had two very different opinions about nationalism. Chaterjee argues for different kinds of nationalism in his writing while Gellner asserts only one kind of nationalism with specific characteristics. Both Chatterjee and Gellner’s models stipulate the need for state-education and communication systems that were used to propagate Arab nationalism. Chatterjee’s explanation of a state which opposes any sort of imperialist interference was not originally intended for the Middle East model, but fits as well. Gellner’s theory about a power inconsistency between the people and the ruler fits Arab nationalism, but his argument about a potential “cultural duality” between the people and the ruler does not. Chatterjee makes an argument about an altogether new form of “anticolonial nationalism” opposed the traditional European nationalism which most appropriately fits Arab nationalism while Gellner makes a generalized model into which Arab nationalism only partially fits.

Chatterjee and Gellner both have theories of state controlled educational systems which breed nationalistic thought which are compliant with Arab nationalism. Gellner says that education was an important factor in spreading nationalism. Both authors agree state-controlled education is an important component of controlling the way people think and for teaching a redesigned history of a people. This theory applies to Arab nationalism because nationalism present in the modern Middle East recognized the need for them.

Chatterjee and Gellner both also agree on the need for mass communication, specifically through print capitalism, which is evident in Arab nationalism in a modern state through print capitalism as well as through radio. Both Chatterjee and Gellner agree a mass media system needs to be available for nationalist ideas to be spread. Arab nationalism fits into this specifically through nationalist newspapers and the radio station “Voice of the Arabs.”

Although Chatterjee’s anticolonial nationalistic models were originally models of nationalistic states in Asia and Africa, many of his principles—including the nations being strongly opposed to colonial states interfering in cultural state matters—is appropriate for Arab nationalism, as well. Chatterjee describes his alternative to European nationalism, which other national scholars say new nationalisms simply imitate, as an anticolonial nationalism. This variety wants to protect itself as a newly sovereign area. For this reason, it wants absolutely no intervention from its former protectorate, the colonial power. This feeling promotes nationalist feeling and a unity within the area. This example is very similar to Arab nationalism. The Western powers essentially divided up the Middle East amongst themselves and helped govern much of the area. Once the Western powers had left, Nasir and other leaders started encouraging a hatred of these imperialist powers to foster an exclusivist, nationalist feeling similar to that described in Asia and Africa.

Chatterjee’s alternative to the European model fits modern Middle Eastern nationalisms better than Gellner’s standardized model does. Chatterjee and Gellner include education and mass communication systems as essential parts in fostering a national identity. These systems play a part in Middle Eastern nationalism. One aspect of Gellner’s model, the gap between those who have power fits Arab nationalism both in the gap between those who don’t have power and those who do as well as a gap between those who have power and he who has the most power. Gellner’s claim of a possible dual culture with the people who have the power having one culture and the people with no power have a different would have been impossible in Arab nationalism. Perhaps Arab nationalism fitting improperly into Gellner’s standardized model proves modern nationalism is different than traditional models and that there is more than one kind of nationalism.