The Invention of a Nation

Zionist Thought and the Making of Modern Israel

Edited by Part of the CERI/Sciences Po. series
March 2003 9781850655954 308pp


The vulnerability which is the lot of any nation without a state was experienced in a particularly extreme way by the Jews. With the destitution and persecution of many Jewish communities in the 19th century, especially in Eastern Europe, Jews demanded a solution to their uprootedness. This required a state. Alain Dieckhoff recounts the tortuous ordeal through which the Jews reacted to the challenge of modernity. While some contributed to the development of capitalism and put their talents at the service of the Western European states, others threw themselves into revolutionary movements. Yet others imagined ways of ‘re-nationalising’ Jews by transforming them into a nation. Thus the Jews were formidable experimenters who participated in causes with contradictory agendas: assimilation (bourgeois or socialist) or nationalism. The text focuses on Zionism, whose ultimate objective was the creation of a sovereign state for the Jews in Palestine. This required the invention of the Jewish nation. Such an objective meant several things: building a national language, defining a secularised and territorialised Jewish identity, and using military power. This was a difficult enterprise, as the national project was faced with the persistence of communitarianism. But the enterprise was at least partly successful: this process of politicisation makes Israel a paradigmatic example of the invention of a nation-state, the main focus of this work.


‘In this extremely interesting book, Dieckhoff has claimed Zionism as a serious rationalist ideology.’ — Colin Schindler, Fellow in Israeli Studies, SOAS


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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