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The calling of social thoughtRediscovering the work of Edward Shils$
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Christopher Adair-Toteff and Stephen Turner

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781526120052

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526120052.001.0001

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Nations, nationality, and civil society in the work of Edward Shils

Nations, nationality, and civil society in the work of Edward Shils

(p.154) 8 Nations, nationality, and civil society in the work of Edward Shils
The calling of social thought

Peter Mentzel

Manchester University Press

This chapter explores Shils’ original and highly nuanced treatment of the concepts of ‘nationality’, ‘nationalism’, and ‘civil society’. In particular, the chapter argues that Shils distinguishes between ‘nationality’ (which he seems to use as a synonym for ‘national self-consciousness’) and ‘nationalism’, which he identifies as an ideology. In this taxonomy, ‘nationality’ is a basic almost primordial force that provides the foundation for civil society and, ultimately, individual liberty. In this respect, nationality is a positive, or at the very least neutral, force. Shils portrays the ideology of nationalism, on the other hand, as highly dangerous. To put it simply, while regarding nationality as essential for civil society, Shils suggested that nationalism is in fact a danger to it. The chapter goes on to situate Shils’s theories of nations and nationalism with in the broader scholarly debate on these subjects. In the process, it examines Shils’s ideas concerning the relative antiquity of nations and the historical specifics about the origins of nationalism.

Keywords:   nationality, nationalism, civil society

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