Nationalism and the Multination State

Part of the CERI/Sciences Po. series
September 2016 9781849046572 224pp


Published in English for the first time, this book defends the idea that nationhood remains a central aspect of modernity. After the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the following decade confirmed this hypothesis with the rise of independence movements in Europe (in Scotland and Flanders) and the persistence of claims to nationhood the world over (for example, in Kurdistan and Tibet).

A dual perspective informs Dieckhoff’s analysis: to understand the hidden social and cultural underpinnings of post-Cold War identity dynamics, from Kosovo to Catalonia and from Flanders to Corsica, and to examine how societies can meet the challenge of national pluralism. Finding liberalism, republicanism and multiculturalism unequal to this task, he argues that only by building ‘multi-nation’ democratic states can the issues be properly addressed and secessions prevented.

Contemporary liberal discourse often treats nationalism as an archaic aberration — as a primitive form of tribalism astray in the modern world. Dieckhoff’s sensitive and clear-headed analysis shows why nationalism is in fact a fundamental facet of modernity, which must be dealt with as such by states vulnerable to breakup.

Table of contents


1. Nationalism and Globalization

2. The Nation as a Community of Culture

3. Culture, a State Affair

4. The Appeal of Nationalism


5. The Imperfect Trinity

6. Autonomy without Territory

7. Territorial Autonomy

8. The Secessionist Temptation

Conclusion: The Future of Pluralism


‘This book explains why nationalism has been so successful at taking root in liberal democratic contexts. It is one of the best books in the field of political science in the last decade.’ — Alain G. Gagnon, Canada Research Chair, University of Québec at Montréal

‘An elegantly written and carefully balanced analysis of the continuous relevance of nationalism in contemporary politics, including in liberal societies. Dieckhoff discusses nationalism in its full complexity and multiplicity. His book is a welcome addition to a field which is so much dominated by Anglo-Saxon scholarship.’ — André W.M. Gerrits, Professor of International Studies and Global Politics, Uniersity of Leiden

‘The facts are clear: even with an increasing international division of labor and global communications, nations persist. Thus, whatever the reasons for this persistence, nationality can not be understood an atavistic remnant; rather, it is a part of our time. The great merit of Dieckhoff’s stimulating analysis is that it faces these facts, while realistically and with subtlety probing their consequences for politics, for example, the challenging possibility of a “trimmed down central state” of federated nations. A noteworthy contribution.’ — Steven Grosby, author of Nationalism: A Very Short Introduction

‘Dieckhoff’s analysis of ethnic, cultural and national diversity in the liberal democracies of Europe and in Canada, of the problems such diversity can present and his evaluation of the various policies with which one can address such problems is informed, clear, cogently argued and timely.’ — John Breuilly, Professor of Nationalism and Ethnicity, London School of Economics and Political Science and editor of the Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism 


Alain Dieckhoff is senior research fellow at CNRS and director of CERI Sciences Po. His research focuses on politics, contemporary society and transformation of the state in Israel, as well as contemporary nationalism. He is a member of the advisory council of the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies and author of, amongst others, the Routledge Handbook of Modern Israel (2013).

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