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
Chapter 4: National Identity in the World of Nations
National Identity in the World of Nations
It is easy to think that the problems of nationalism come down to issues of ‘identity’. So much about nationalism seems, at first sight, to be explained by ‘identity’. To be German or French is, psychologically, to have a German or French ‘identity’; nation-states are being threatened by the search for ‘identities’; patriotic ceremonies strengthen the sense of national ‘identity’; ‘identity politics’ is a reaction to a crisis of modern ‘identity’; and so on. ‘Identity’ seems to provide familiar diagnoses and explanations. As John Shotter has written, “ ‘identity’ has become the watchword of the times” (1993a, p. 188).
The watchword, however, should be watched, for frequently it explains less than it appears ...