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In perspective: Tom Nairn

Davidson, Neil (1999) In perspective: Tom Nairn. International Socialism, 82. pp. 97-136. ISSN 0020-8736

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Abstract

The 1960s saw an upsurge of separatist nationalisms at the core of the capitalist system, with the movements in Catalonia, Eskudai, Occitania, Quebec, Scotland, Wallonia and Wales all making their first serious impact during that decade. Nationalist demands went on to play a role-—although by no means the most important role--in the social upheavals which shook the capitalist system between 1968 and 1976. And although none of them succeeded in establishing new states, several--Catalonia, Quebec and, more recently, Scotland--gained a significant degree of formal autonomy within the state framework of the dominant nation. These events inspired a number of important studies of nationalism, the majority of which appeared in two clusters. The first appeared between 1977 and 1982 and the second between 1989 and 1992, following a further and, in terms of establishing new states, more successful revival of nationalist aspiration in Eastern Europe. Whatever criticisms might be levelled at these works the best have nevertheless helped to advance our understanding of the phenomenon in important, if partial, ways. Only a minority of these studies approached the question from an avowedly Marxist perspective. One of them was by the Scottish writer Tom Nairn, who is regarded by many as the foremost modern theoretician of the subject.