Anderson’s analysis was particularly interesting to me, as an International Relations major, since it seems to contradict everything I have learned in my classes. In my studies, nations are the foundations of states, and states are clearly defined. They are tangible entities, the basis of everything we study, and the key actors in the system I am trying to understand.
Anderson, however, disagrees. He believes that nations are simply defined “imagined political communities,” imagined because the identification with a particular nation is made entirely in a person’s mind. This concept is rather revolutionary in politics, since “nationalist” sentiment is political capital, used to create armies and fight wars.
However, Anderson believes that the notion of “nationhood” and community was largely perpetuated by the media, print media centers that were primarily concerned with making profits. Even religious based communities bought into the capitalist notions of selling media with Martin Luther as a prime example. Through this print capitalism, a distinct language system was developed in different European states that defines the “national” borders today. Print media, Anderson argues, driven by purely capitalistic desires, has defined what people new as their nationality and the communities they identify with.
Because of the variety of languages being printed, the stretch of the imagined communities was limited and thus, confined. While the process of national identification through print media was a feature of the 1500s, it was in 1648, with the Peace of Westphalia, that the states of Europe were truly defined. Logically from Anderson’s argument, the advent of print media’s hold on nationalism helped shape the borders of modern Europe since it lay the foundation of identity and community in enclosed spheres.