Nationalism and Legitimacy, 2010

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Nationalism and Legitimacy
9-11 September 2010
Organising committee: Daphne Halikiopoulou and Rachel Hutchins

‘Nationalism and Legitimacy’ was co-organized with the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism (ASEN) based at the London School of Economics and attracted 30 presenters from universities and government institutions in Europe and North America. The papers delivered at the conference examined various aspects of the links between nations, national identity, nationalism and legitimacy.

Nationalism and legitimacy are both central concepts in many disciplines, including sociology, political science, history, social psychology, political sociology and cultural studies. However there has been little systematic study of their interaction; hence, the impetus for this conference, which continued and expanded upon the work done at IDEA’s 2007 conference on Nationalism in the English-Speaking World and in seminar sessions hosted by the group’s Civilisation and Cultural Studies research axis since 2006.

The keynote speakers at the conference were two world-renowned specialists on the subject from the London School of Economics: Professor John Breuilly and John Hutchinson. Professor Breuilly’s address, entitled ‘Weber, Legitimation and Nationalism’, examined Weber’s typology of legitimation, arguing that charismatic domination can extend from individuals to large-scale institutions and social relationships, and offering illustrations of this theory in communist, colonial nationalist and fascist contexts. John Hutchinson’s address, entitled ‘Warfare, Imperial Collapse and the Rise of Nation-States’, explored the role of global war in the shift, over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from a world of empires to one composed of nation-states, with the accompanying changes in principles of political legitimacy.

Other presenters’ papers adopted approaches that ranged from the theoretical to the empirical, examining the contemporary world and past historical periods, and studying a wide range of countries, peoples and trans- or supra-national institutions. They considered such questions as: what role does nationalism play in the construction and maintenance of legitimacy? How do states define and redefine themselves to create or maintain this legitimacy? How do nations and states reinforce one another’s legitimacy? To what extent might this legitimacy be strengthened or undermined by supranational bodies or sub-national separatist movements? How do political actors, institutions and political parties and movements utilise nationalism to legitimate their actions? In what ways is nationalism itself, as an ideology, legitimised?

The conference presentations were complemented by consistently lively and fruitful discussions and exchanges, which opened intriguing avenues for future reflection on the essential questions of nationalism, power, and authority within the Civilisation and Cultural Studies research axis of IDEA.

Conference programme