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What is a Nation?
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Nations are natural cultural communities

Nations are defined by a cultural unity between people.


Originating with Herder is the idea that mankind is divided into a variety of distinct incommensurable cultural communities.[1] The idea has proved very influential and to this day many assume nations are, and should be, based on cultural unity.

The Argument

Nations are long-existing communities of people whose unity has been sustained by a shared cultural heritage. This heritage might include language, religion, myths and legends, cultural artefacts and value systems. Modern ethno-symbolist theory sees cultural unity as being based on a common set of inherited myths and symbols.[2] These form the basis of a common set of beliefs and values about the world and shared reference point for all members of the cultural community. Nations are merely a modern expression of this ancient sense of cultural community.

Counter arguments

Many modern nations contain a variety of different cultural groups and are nations nonetheless. Those nations which are culturally homogeneous only became so thanks to sustained political and governmental action to promote a particular national culture. Evidence of pre-modern cultural homogeneity is very thin.



[P1] There exist long standing coherent and distinctive cultural communities. [P2] These cultural communities are the natural basis from which people organise themselves socially.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Many modern nations are not culturally homogeneous so cannot be said to be built on cultural unity. [Rejecting P2] National homogeneity is rarely natural.


This page was last edited on Friday, 31 Jan 2020 at 12:12 UTC

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