Nationalism Entrepreneurship: towards an actor centred theory of nationalism

Stream: Panel 49 - Comparative Politics: Nationalism and the Politics of National Identity 
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 4.00 pm – 5.30 pm


Theories of nationalism tend to inadequately account for the interplay between agency and structure. Dominant approaches often adopt a structural view, arguing that nationalism is a function of the top-down imposition of modernism or the bottom-up production and reproduction of culture via symbols and discourses of ethnicity. When the agency of individual actors in the production of nationalism is recognised, it often tends to be crudely viewed as a tool of elites in the invention of traditions for instrumental ends. In other instances, arguments occur regarding who are the causal agents of nationalism – cultural or political actors. This paper argues that the role of agency and structure in the emergence of contemporary nationalist movements is not an either/or proposition, and that we need better theoretical tools in order to account for the roles of actors in the production and reproduction of nationalism. To this end, the paper presents a heuristic of ‘nationalism entrepreneurship’, drawing upon the insights of the norm and policy entrepreneurship literatures. Astute actors working within the context of nationalism have the potential to create new ‘markets’ for nationalist feeling by identifying the desire for nationalist sentiment and fulfilling that desire. Successful nationalism entrepreneurship involves: sensitivity to the socio-political context; seizing the opportunity to advance the nationalist end; genuine commitment to the nationalist end; and, the ability and opportunity to mobilise power resources. The paper thus aims to provide a parsimonious and generalisable theory of successful nationalist actors.


Nicholas Bromfield (Presenter), The University of Sydney
Nicholas Bromfield recently completed his doctoral studies with Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. His thesis was called 'The Turn to Anzac: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Prime Ministerial Anzac Entrepreneurship, 1972-2007.' He takes a broad interest in issues pertaining to nationalism, political language, discourse analysis, and Australian politics.