Empires and nation-states are generally opposed to each other, as contrasting and antithetical forms. Nationalism is widely held to have been the solvent that dissolved the historic European empires. In this year’s Thesis Eleven Centre annual lecture, Krishan Kumar argues that there are in fact, in practice at least, significant similarities between nation-states and empires. Many nation-states are in effect empires in miniature. Similarly, many empires can be seen as nation-states “writ large”. Moreover, empires were not, as is usually held, superseded by nation-states but continued alongside them. Empires and nation-states may in fact best be thought of as alternative political projects, both of which are available for elites to pursue depending on the circumstances of the moment. Ultimately empires and nation-states do point in different directions, but it is not clear that the future is a future of nation-states. Empires, as large-scale and long-lasting multiethnic and “multicultural” experiments, may have much to teach us in the current historical phase of globalization and increasingly heterogeneous societies.
Wednesday 11 December, 11-1pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora Campus
Room: SS 232
Krishan Kumar is University Professor, as well as William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia. He was previously Professor of Social and Political Thought at the University of Kent at Canterbury, England. He received his undergraduate education at the University of Cambridge and his postgraduate education at the London School of Economics. Among his publications are Prophecy and Progress: The Sociology of Industrial and Post-Industrial Society; Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times; The Rise of Modern Society; From Post-Industrial to Post-Modern Society; 1989: Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals; The Making of English National Identity.
Thesis Eleven Centre for Cultural Sociology
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
La Trobe University