What Does It Mean to Be a Citizen?   /   Fall 2008   /    Reviews

Craig Calhoun’s Nations Matter

Regina Smardon

Nations Matter is not Craig Calhoun’s most rigorous and comprehensive state- ment on nationalism (his 1997 book Nationalism is a better source on this topic); nor is Nations Matter Calhoun’s most complete treatise on cosmopoli- tanism (for that we will have to wait for his forthcoming Cosmopolitanism and Belonging). But Nations Matter holds many treasures for thinking about citi- zenship in the age of globalization.

Nations Matter is a collection of previously published essays, each one pitched to a slightly different audience. The common thread is that all are intended to sway liberal-leaning audiences to realize the danger of a cosmopolitan fantasy that denies the historical, and current, importance of nations and nationalism. Calhoun is primarily concerned here with the often-overlooked link between nationalism and liberalism. According to Calhoun, history proves that nationalism has often served to promote the establishment of democratic institutions, as well as the equitable distribution of resources. He further argues that the notion of international cooperation makes little sense in the absence of strong nations. The cosmopolitan dream of transcending nationalism is, for Calhoun, a fantasy. He believes that nations matter more than ever in the age of globalization.

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