Michael Billig presents a major challenge to orthodox conceptions of nationalism in this elegantly written book. While traditional theorizing has tended to the focus on extreme expressions of nationalism, the author turns his attention to the everyday, less visible forms which are neither exotic or remote, he describes as `banal nationalism'. The author asks why people do not forget their national identity. He suggests that in daily life nationalism is constantly flagged in the media through routine symbols and habits of language. Banal Nationalism is critical of orthodox theories in sociology, politics and social psychology for ignoring this core feature of national identity. Michael Billig argues forcefully that wi
All societies that maintain armies maintain the belief that some things are more valuable than life itself. Just what is so valued varies. In previous times, wars were fought for causes which now seem incomprehensibly trivial. In Europe, for example, armies were mobilized in the name of defending religious ritual or chivalric honour. William of Normandy, speaking before the Battle of Hastings, exhorted his troops to avenge the spilling of “noble blood” (Anonymous, 1916). To fight for such matters appears ‘barbaric’, or, worse still, ‘mediaeval’ in today's balance of priorities. The great causes for which modern blood is to be spilled are different; and so is the scale of the bloodshed. As Isaiah Berlin has written, “it is by now a melancholy commonplace that ...