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Originally published in 1937, Rudolf Rocker’s classic Nationalism and Culture is a detailed study of the intellectual development and cultural history of European nationalism. Tracing the evolution of religious and political systems and their relation to the authoritarian state, Rocker analyses concepts of ‘Nation’ as alleged communities of race, culture, language,and comm Originally published in 1937, Rudolf Rocker’s classic Nationalism and Culture is a detailed study of the intellectual development and cultural history of European nationalism. Tracing the evolution of religious and political systems and their relation to the authoritarian state, Rocker analyses concepts of ‘Nation’ as alleged communities of race, culture, language,and common interest.


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Originally published in 1937, Rudolf Rocker’s classic Nationalism and Culture is a detailed study of the intellectual development and cultural history of European nationalism. Tracing the evolution of religious and political systems and their relation to the authoritarian state, Rocker analyses concepts of ‘Nation’ as alleged communities of race, culture, language,and comm Originally published in 1937, Rudolf Rocker’s classic Nationalism and Culture is a detailed study of the intellectual development and cultural history of European nationalism. Tracing the evolution of religious and political systems and their relation to the authoritarian state, Rocker analyses concepts of ‘Nation’ as alleged communities of race, culture, language,and common interest.

30 review for Nationalism And Culture

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ollie

    I’ve been putting off reviewing Nationalism and Culture for quite some time now. While the book has been revered by the likes of Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, there is such a thorough study in Nationalism and Culture that I simply fear I’m going to get it wrong. But here goes… Written over the span of more than a decade, Nationalism and Culture, is considered Rudolf Rocker’s magnum opus (I honestly don’t know enough about his output to make that claim), and certainly appears to be his mos I’ve been putting off reviewing Nationalism and Culture for quite some time now. While the book has been revered by the likes of Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, there is such a thorough study in Nationalism and Culture that I simply fear I’m going to get it wrong. But here goes… Written over the span of more than a decade, Nationalism and Culture, is considered Rudolf Rocker’s magnum opus (I honestly don’t know enough about his output to make that claim), and certainly appears to be his most well known work. The underlining theme of Nationalism and Culture is that our current society is purely a human creation. As such, the idea that there is a natural order to things that we can’t control is simply based on false assumptions. Human change to a human system is entirely possible. There are many ideas in the over 500 pages that make up Nationalism and Culture but instead of building, this book mostly deals with critiquing statism, religion, and of course nationalism itself. There is some historical reviewing as well, but given that this is such a lightly referenced book, I am hesitant to consider Rocker’s hindsight on history. However, it helps to understand that Rocker was writing this book as a response to the rise of fascism in Germany, and in doing so spends most of the book refuting ideas that in any way serve to divide the human race. Rocker often makes his point with a great deal of wit, and it’s refreshing to see a book dealing with such complex issues written in a manner that is so easy to follow and simple to understand. Or maybe it’s not that the issues are that complex, but that that Rocker’s presentation is so clear. From the beginning, Rocker is concerned with explaining humanity’s need to rule over others. This of course has to do with the obsession with power, and as separate tribes defeat one another, it becomes more practical to rule over the defeated ones rather than banish them altogether. And so, slavery comes about, and the class system develops. And brutal force is a short term solution for maintaining rule over the subjects, religion is required if one wants a long term effect i.e. the idea that your ruler is part of a “divinely willed mission” and that this idea of dividing the earth into separate nations was the people’s idea and not the rulers. This thirst for power becomes fatal for both ruler and ruled as wars are conducted in order to further consolidate power into the hands of the few, further separating them from the poor, further instilling the belief that in life we have superiors and inferiors. And so, the state is born, nourishing and fostering its own evil existence. The state then functions to maintain its power and does so by creating obedient followers, willing to live within the confines of the state to nurture it. The state has therefore no use for intellectual culture (which is a form of resistance of humans so that they can master their environment) and does what it can to fight it. Rocker’s also provides a brief analysis of German socialism, tracing Marx back to Hegel and Kant and the belief in an unchangeable law, which has given it an unfortunate “authoritarian character.” Then we deal with nationalism (culminating with the birth of Nazi Germany), which Rocker defines as reactionary and enforcing a certain character on the population based on preconceived ideas. But these ideas themselves are based on false presumptions, and Rocker lets loose on the Germans for this. Such as the idea that the Nordic race is pure and superior (when it is actually a mix of races, and actually no Germans fit the bill of a pure “Nordic” appearance), that Germans are the chosen people (brought about by the Romantic School of the middle ages and Fitche’s idea that Germans were a “primary people”) and that German is the purest language (when of course, it borrows from many other languages, as they do as well). And so, one of the greatest forces on earth is founded simply on an illusion. In the end we are presented with two processes: culture and politics. Both going in opposite directions and as Rocker says, “their allegiance is to different worlds.” Since we know that our society is man-made, it should be up to us to create the real world we want to live in. It would only be natural.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

    Complete text available here: http://www.anarchosyndicalism.net/roc... Complete text available here: http://www.anarchosyndicalism.net/roc...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Roxana

    The chapters on language, race, and the insufficiency of economic materialism were my favorite. This book was not an easy read, but I will definitely keep it for reference.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Fasching-Gray

    The best pages here are when Rocker is giving overviews of particular philosophers, artists or cultural turns such as the Renaissance or the French Revolution. It is clear that the lectures he gave on diverse topics in the British WW1 prison camps must have been riveting. Even if most of his sources are from the 19th Century, Rocker's anarchist viewpoint points him to conclusions that are much more in line with 21st Century thinking. The larger argument in this work is showing some wear and tear The best pages here are when Rocker is giving overviews of particular philosophers, artists or cultural turns such as the Renaissance or the French Revolution. It is clear that the lectures he gave on diverse topics in the British WW1 prison camps must have been riveting. Even if most of his sources are from the 19th Century, Rocker's anarchist viewpoint points him to conclusions that are much more in line with 21st Century thinking. The larger argument in this work is showing some wear and tear, however. Rocker's attack on racist concepts of nationalism, culture, and the state is entirely valid but today all that talk he is criticizing, of "blood" and "the destiny of a people" for example, is even more ridiculous in light of a century of scientific progress in genetics and human behavior. The more interesting goal of this book, to prove that nationalism hinders culture, seems overwrought. There is the obvious point that authoritarian state censorship and attempts to "purify" language or art is detrimental to creativity, collaboration and innovation. There is likely something to the idea that societies with smaller, related political units, like the ancient Greeks or 15th Century Italy, can promote art better than large centralized states like that of the Sun King, but I would need more examples from beyond Europe, a more rigorous examination of questions of taste, and a chapter or two about national movements within larger states promoting regional arts or bringing 'traditional' elements into the 'universal' style. Basically, it's too simple. The afterword is simply heartbreaking. Rocker's call for a federated Europe and his criticism of the U.N. is a bullseye even today.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alan Hughes

    This book was well received by Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann. It is unfortunately out of print, but free e-copies are available, as it is well worth reading for his critiques of statism and religion.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Utku Üngüder

    anarşist bir yazar olan rudolf rocker'ın din, devlet, reformasyon, kilise, protestanlığın doğuşu, toplumsal sözleşme, sosyalizm, dil, millet, felsefe gibi birçok kavram üzerine özgürlüğü temel alarak devleti ve tahakkümü olumsuzladığı önemli bir eser. anarşist düşüncenin bu kavramlara bakışını kavramak için başvurulabilecek bir kaynak kitap. devlet, millet, ırk gibi tarihsel olarak mevcut yapıların aslında zorunlu olmadığını, çeşitli illüzyonlarla ayakta kaldığını iddia ediyor kitap ve özgürlük anarşist bir yazar olan rudolf rocker'ın din, devlet, reformasyon, kilise, protestanlığın doğuşu, toplumsal sözleşme, sosyalizm, dil, millet, felsefe gibi birçok kavram üzerine özgürlüğü temel alarak devleti ve tahakkümü olumsuzladığı önemli bir eser. anarşist düşüncenin bu kavramlara bakışını kavramak için başvurulabilecek bir kaynak kitap. devlet, millet, ırk gibi tarihsel olarak mevcut yapıların aslında zorunlu olmadığını, çeşitli illüzyonlarla ayakta kaldığını iddia ediyor kitap ve özgürlük mücadelesine teorik bir kapı açıyor. einstein ve russell gibi 20.yüzyıla damga vurmuş isimlerin arka kapakta kitapla ilgili olumlu yorumları mevcut. kitabın genel önermesine katılınmasa da okunmalı bence önemli. a priori olarak gerekli gördüğümüz bazı oluşumların gereksiz olduğunun iddia edilmesi ufuk açıcı bir deneyime sebep olacaktır.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Simon Parent

    Although full of cringy terminology, given that it was written between 1927 and 1937, it shines a really important light on the rise of Fascism and the 3rd Reich, while giving a really good analysis of the connection between Religion, the State, Nationalism, patriarchy, etc. His anarchist frame, while somewhat confusing at times (not sure if he advocates for a Federalism of free cities, or an Anarcho Communist platform), was a very interesting frame of analysis. It echoed Kropotkin's Conquest of Although full of cringy terminology, given that it was written between 1927 and 1937, it shines a really important light on the rise of Fascism and the 3rd Reich, while giving a really good analysis of the connection between Religion, the State, Nationalism, patriarchy, etc. His anarchist frame, while somewhat confusing at times (not sure if he advocates for a Federalism of free cities, or an Anarcho Communist platform), was a very interesting frame of analysis. It echoed Kropotkin's Conquest of Bread, but it seem more descriptivr than prescriptive, more focused on history and the corrupting influence of power. Honestly, the language confused me at times, and I was often lost. But the overall lessons are important.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rog Harrison

    My edition is a paperback. I am writing this review forty years later and to be honest I am not entirely sure that I actually finished this book!

  9. 4 out of 5

    William Leight

    "Nationalism and Culture" is basically Rocker's response to the rise of the Nazis, which explains, to a certain extent, its idiosyncrasies and occasionally feverish prose (though the latter could be due to the translation, of course). The preface notes that this manuscript was literally the only thing Rocker brought with him when he escaped Nazi Germany (on, Wikipedia informs me, the last train to Basel that was not searched): under these circumstances, it's not too surprising that the work tend "Nationalism and Culture" is basically Rocker's response to the rise of the Nazis, which explains, to a certain extent, its idiosyncrasies and occasionally feverish prose (though the latter could be due to the translation, of course). The preface notes that this manuscript was literally the only thing Rocker brought with him when he escaped Nazi Germany (on, Wikipedia informs me, the last train to Basel that was not searched): under these circumstances, it's not too surprising that the work tends to take the form of a polemic, albeit an impressively well-read and often interesting one. The title describes the structure of the book -- loosely speaking, the first half discusses nationalism, the second half culture -- as well as Rocker's fundamental argument: that nationalism and culture are intrinsically opposed. His goal in the book was essentially to refute Nazism by refuting nationalism, but time has rendered the first part of that objective essentially superfluous -- for instance, the chapters where he attacks the variety of racial theories that were current at the time are occasionally interesting but rather dated -- and his arguments on the second head are not always entirely persuasive, largely because of their maximalist nature. To take one example, Rocker spends a considerable amount of time trying to prove his thesis that political centralization is the death of culture by presenting ancient Greece, with its many city-states, as humanity's cultural acme, and the strongly centralized Roman Empire as its cultural nadir. However, his argument consists largely of giving you lists of names of artists, writers, architects (Rocker is big on architecture), and other cultural figures who I had either never heard of, or had heard of but knew little to nothing about, or knew a little bit about but hadn't read in years, and either praising them to the skies (if Greek) or dismissing them as at best second-rate (if Roman). While he may be correct in his judgments, the all-or-nothing nature of the argument, combined with the fact that art is, at least in part, subjective, makes it difficult (for me at least) to believe him without first-hand knowledge of all the people he's talking about. His comparison of Muslim and Christian Spain was even less persuasive, as even he is forced to admit the greatness of, e.g., Goya. I'd be perfectly willing to believe that Muslim Spain and ancient Greece were culturally superior to Christian Spain and ancient Rome due to the fact that the former were less centralized and absolutist than the latter, but trying to cast the latter as cultural wastelands just seems too extreme. Rocker is on firmer ground when it comes to political philosophy: his analyses of Rousseau, Hegel, and Kant (he doesn't like any of them), the French Revolution (started well but went downhill fast), the Reformation (ditto: he is especially scathing on the topic of John Calvin) were all quite interesting, and his discussion of the rise of the Romantics and German nationalism gives an overview of the kind of ideas that the Nazis built on during their rise to power. Moreover, his explication of the fundamental connection between democracy and nationalism might have been the strongest part of the book. However, it hasn't aged all that well (the almost total lack of attention to anything beyond Europe, with the exception of some quotes from Tagore, is particularly noticeable), and the cultural section, with its tendency to take arguments to extremes, makes the second half of the book a bit of a slog.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Craig Plunkito

    I'll say the thing I didn't enjoy about it first and get it out of the way. The beginning chapters are inevitably repetitive as Rocker establishes his socialist libertarian point of view.."monstrous crimes of the state", "living under the murderous yoke of..". I completely agree with what he says, having socialist libertarian politics myself, but the delivery can come off a little soapboxy at times. "I know, bloody hell" being my main sensation skimming over the condemnations of authoritarian re I'll say the thing I didn't enjoy about it first and get it out of the way. The beginning chapters are inevitably repetitive as Rocker establishes his socialist libertarian point of view.."monstrous crimes of the state", "living under the murderous yoke of..". I completely agree with what he says, having socialist libertarian politics myself, but the delivery can come off a little soapboxy at times. "I know, bloody hell" being my main sensation skimming over the condemnations of authoritarian regimes throughout history. I suppose it's inevitable and I'll do the same, I think it's probably thanks to the urgency of it all. That said, some of the repetition is hardly the man's fault. History itself is tragically repetitious, so the tomes about it will tend to be so as well. The good points are that I'm thoroughly convinced that periods of strong nationalism correspond with a reduction in cultural activity, whether it be Fascist Italy or Soviet Russia. The two entities are equally willing to eat an individual human being for their own purposes. I was of this opinion before reading the book, but I feel like I've come away with a deeper understanding. Those regimes can only be coherently understood to be products of capitalism, because what else were they than the idea 'man exists for production, not production for man' carried to a level which only differed in degree and not in kind? Hitler put hundreds of thousands of slave labourers at the disposal of the most prominent capitalists of the time - if nothing else this should serve to show that a worker's relation to the means of production is the centre of gravity around which contemporary history orbits. The power to make, create by labour - that is, culture - is the resource that capitalists and the state work together to harvest for the benefit of their own minority groups, and nationalism is categorically a tool to that end.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Petter Nordal

    Simply the fact of a German writing an anarchist history of the world in Yiddish during the run-up to WWII makes it worth reading. Some of his history is stretched thin, relying on secondary sources to make arguments that he wants to make, rather than arguments called for by the facts (such as his history of the Inca empire).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dietcokedick

    a critique of nationalism from the anarchist perspective. Written during the buildup of the Nazi regime in Germany

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Christian

    Sometimes downright wickedly funny, which is not what one would expect. It's detailed in research and very convincing. Sometimes downright wickedly funny, which is not what one would expect. It's detailed in research and very convincing.

  14. 4 out of 5

    J. M.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

  16. 5 out of 5

    K

  17. 4 out of 5

    Vasilis

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rhys

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andy Hill

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Kellerman

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jefferson Taylor

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  23. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steven Fake

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ted Thomas

  26. 4 out of 5

    Océane Dubois

  27. 5 out of 5

    Adosinda

  28. 5 out of 5

    Allen Severino

  29. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

  30. 5 out of 5

    Clemente Jacques

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