Few social and political phenomena have attracted more attention in recent years than has nationalism, and yet few have been so much neglected. By the middle of the twentieth century much of social and political science had confined it to the dustbin of history. Nationalism was ‘over’. It had ushered in the modern state in the nineteenth century, and had reached its deformed apotheosis in fascism in the twentieth. Its final purpose seemed to be to break up empires thereafter, as post-colonial regimes used it as a vehicle for state-building. For the rest, this observation by Dudley Seers on the conventional wisdom seemed to ring true:
Nationalism was not merely of little and declining practical consequence: it was obviously evil. It had lain at the root of war. German chauvinism, in particular, had contributed to two terrible wars. Moreover, nationalist sentiment was still a menace in the second half of the twentieth century, getting in the way of the creation of a just, peaceful and prosperous world society, which modern technology had put within our reach-if only population growth could be controlled. Particularly silly and dangerous were the narrower nationalists who rebelled, often violently, against the state to which they belonged-the Basques, Welsh, Kurds, Matabele, Amerindians, French Canadians, to name a few out of scores of possible examples. They might have economic grievances, but these could be put right by some redistribution of income.