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The roots of hegemony


The roots of hegemony:

The mechanisms of class
accommodation and the emergence
of the nation-people
Luis M. Pozo
This study is an investigation of the foundations of
hegemony, drawing and expanding on Gramscis
insight about the need for an ethico-political principle
such as the nation, linking dominant and subordinate
to attain hegemony. In order to overcome Gramsci's
limitations, it introduces the notion of mechanisms
of class accommodation, referring to inclusive identities whose eect is to render the reality of class
divisions politically irrelevant by stressing the organic
unity of dominant and dominated. It investigates the
structural conditions for the nations emergence, linked
to the rise of capitalism, and the concrete ways in
which it was constructed, strongly dependent on its
nature as a mechanism of class accommodation.

common justification, it is claimed, for the power

of any dominant group over a subordinate one is that
it enables the collective purposes or general interests
of the society as a whole to be realised (Beetham, 1991: 46);
and as Beetham also points out, an idea of community that
embraces dominant and subordinate is central to securing
legitimacy (ibid: 8290). But he warns that to treat any
collective as an undierentiated whole, as a single entity
with definable purposes and interests is to overlook the way
these purposes and interests are constructed by and mediated
through its internal relations of power (ibid: 47). Very often,
certain collectives are treated in this way regardless of their
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Capital & Class #91

members actual dierences in terms of power and resources.

Nations and the national interest; peoples and their putative
wills; the families of powerful magnates comprising a
clientele of dependants; all of these have been invoked by
dominant classes and their organic intellectuals in order to
deny the salience of class, and to legitimate their rule.
This is not surprising. In order for a class society to be
functional; that is, for it to persist as a viable system of social
relations of exploitation, some degree of social cohesion is
necessary. Arguably, the primary goal of the hegemony of
dominant classes over society is precisely to provide such
integration in order to render the fact of class politically
manageable. In this study, I undertake an investigation of
the political/cultural foundations of hegemonyof the
ideological and institutional preconditions for the
legitimation of class rule. For that purpose, I introduce the
notion of mechanisms of class accommodation, which refers
to the myths of community and inclusive (id)entities shaped
by the systemic power of ruling classes. Aimed at de-classing
social consciousness, preventing class unity and obscuring
subordinate classes interest in an independent politics, the
eect of these identities is to render the reality of class
divisions politically irrelevant by stressing the allegedly
fundamental, organic unity of dominant and dominated.
The mechanisms can be defined as organising principles
that predetermine collective experience by including people
in a mythic community in the name of an ideologically and
culturally constructed identification, which claims moral
priority and exclusive loyalty. They are necessary but not
sucient conditions for hegemony, involving the creation
time- and space-boundof collective identities that unite
people of dierent classes through ritual and symbolic
practices, and through ideologies of common good and social
harmony. They form a framework of interrelated idioms and
arguments (the ideological dimension) and ritual practices
and institutions (the performative dimension), closely knit
together in reality, but analytically separable. Ideologically,
they consist of elaborations of a few basic themes conveyed
in the formulae of consensual harmony, organic unity, symbolic
equality and common good, articulated through the functional
metaphors of the family and the body.
Following Gramsci, I identify the nation-people as one
of those mechanisms.1 Strikingly, despite the importance
that should be accorded to the study of the foundations of
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The roots of hegemony

hegemony, and despite the popularity enjoyed by Gramsci

in recent decades, there is a glaring silence on the issue in
Gramscian scholarship and in the literature on the concept
of the nation. The reason may be that Gramsci himself was
uninterested in investigating, at either a theoretical or
historical level, the hegemonic principles and the concept
of nation (Gramsci 1975: 1236 [all quotations from the
Quaderni are the authors own translations]), which he placed
at the basis of hegemony. That certain hegemonic principles
unifying dominant and subordinatethe nation among
themconstitute the roots of hegemony was suggested by
Gramsci without further elaboration. He seemingly took
these principles for granted, explaining that one replaced
another not by virtue of its intrinsically logical or rational
character, but by becoming a sort of popular religion (ibid:
1084, 1236). This somehow implied that they were transhistoric, always-already-constituted essences. But the process
by which nationalism became popular religion, and its
determinants and conditionsand even the simple fact that
the nation had to be imagined and constructed beforehand
apparently escaped him. This, coupled with his preoccupation
with the achievement and maintenance of Italian national
unity, prevented him from realising that if the nation-people
represented a hegemonic principle characteristic of bourgeois
hegemony, then they could hardly form the basis for nonbourgeois hegemonic projects. These two points reinforced
each other, and might be the reason for his uncritical
acceptance of nation-centric views.
Gramscis seminal insights are very important. But the
limitations of his approach force us to search for confirmation
of his intuitions in other sources. A review of the respective
bodies of literature of the modernisation school and the
Marxist tradition, though limited themselves in this respect,
confirms that the nation functions as a mechanism whereby
consensual relationships between contending classes are
secureda role that constitutes a foundational moment in
the transition to a modern, bourgeois polity. The literature
provides clues as to what the role of the nation was in its
formative stage, and which other mechanisms of class
accommodation had been historically relevant before.
If the nation constitutes the core of bourgeois hegemony,
an examination of the historical context in which this
mechanism of class accommodation emerged should provide
a more satisfactory explanation for the appearance of the
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Capital & Class #91

nation state than previous theories. The nation state, I will

argue here, must be linked to the development of capitalism,
which was crucially implicated in the political structuring
of the system of territorial states and in the liberation of a
mass of labourers from patronage and corporate bonds, thus
shaping the ways in which older, segmentary patterns of
accommodation changed into all-encompassing identifications comprising the whole population within those
states. Furthermore, I will show that those older patterns
inuenced the development of new ones. Pre-bourgeois discourses and practices of accommodation gave way to new
ones within the accommodative framework of the functional
metaphors of the family and the body. Fictive family
households and associated ideologies and practices of
patronage, variously defined corporate arrangements, and
civism (a compact of local patriotism/citizenship in urban
settings): these were replaced by new mechanisms of class
accommodation related to the expansion of capitalism. These
were the nation-people and correlated aspects of nationbuilding and citizenship, modern forms of corporatism and
ideologies, and practices of social partnership. Trade/
religious corporations and the polity as corpus mysticum gave
way to the corporate entity nation; fictive patrimonial
lineages gave way to the fraternal, family-like bourgeois
nation; and urban civism was adapted as national, state-wide
citizenship, and a new form of (national) patriotism.
In this paper, I explore the issues outlined above in turn.
First, I assess the original Gramscian arguments at the
interface between hegemony and the nation-people in order
to highlight both their usefulness and their limitations, and
hence the need to expand on them. Then I survey the relevant
literature on social cohesion and integration, which can be
of use in overcoming the silence and ambiguity in Gramsci
and in outlining a historical model of class accommodation.
Finally, I focus on the nation as accommodative device,
tracing the structural conditions for its emergence, tied to
the rise of capitalism, and the concrete forms in which it
was imagined and constructed, which are shown to depend
on its nature as a mechanism of class accommodation.
Hegemony and the nation-people
Hegemony means a determinate system of moral life
(Gramsci, 1975: 1084), and it correlates with consensus
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The roots of hegemony

and with political, moral and cultural leadership (ibid: 1222

4). Hegemony proceeds by finding mechanisms that elicit
the consent of the masses to class politics on an integrative
basis, as a prerequisite for the legitimation of the social
order. This is encoded in Gramscis reference to a hegemonic
principle resembling a sort of popular religion which, in
the form of patriotism and nationalism, is the nexus
eecting the unity of leaders and led (ibid: 1084, 12367).
The notion of hegemony, with its aspects of consent and
social binding, prefigures the modes of social integration
investigated by DurkheimianWeberian structural functionalism but, despite the Durkheimian inections inherited
by Gramsci via Sorel, retaining the role of class struggle
(Buci-Glucksmann, 1978: 78). It is this preoccupation with
social cohesion instead of conict that, ironically, makes this
internationalist communist liable to be seen as contributing
to a classical issue from the nationalist agenda in Italy, along
with such right-wing figures as Pareto, Mosca, Croce or
Gentile (Szporluk, 1988: vii). Accordingly, Gramscis
research on hegemony could be read as a reworking of the
characteristic Italian theme of how to bring together the
diverse classes and cultures which made up the Italian state
(Bellamy, 1987: 115)a crucially important theme for Italian
elites since unification. In this sense, Gramsci was an Italian
son of his times, and this may give us a clue as to why he
was unable or unwilling to problematise the concept of nationpeople. 2
According to Gramsci, the integrative ethico-political
nexus between rulers and ruled changed from the person
of the emperor or king who, embodying the authority
principle, personified a religion among peasants, to the
concept of fatherland and of nation (1975: 12367).
The problem is that Gramsci avoided a discussion of the
historical emergence of those hegemonic principles which,
had he addressed it, would have led him to conclude that
fictive kinship and corporatism, in the guise of extended
lineages of patrons and clients and trade/religious corporations, were more important as hegemonic principles than
the alleged devotion of the masses to kings (Pozo, forthcoming). Likewise, he failed to thoroughly historicise the
nation-people, mistaking the conditions for a bourgeois
hegemonic takeover (the construction of an identity and its
representation as a non-fissured social formation) for the
conditions for a proletarian one. Ironically, an investigation
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Capital & Class #91

of the nation illuminated by the concept of hegemony proves

Luxemburgs allegedly contrasting Marxist account of the role
of the nation correct. For while Luxemburg (1976: 1356)
claimed that, in a class-divided society, the nation as a uniform
social and political whole simply does not exist, Gramsci
believed that national unity was valuable because the system of
productionthe heritage of social wealthrepresented an area
of common interest between dierent classes.
However, he felt obliged to qualify the nationalpopular
with expressions such as profoundly popular and radically
national when referring to the revolutionary activity of the
subordinate classes, which hints that he was unsure that a
proletarian hegemony through the nation-people would
suce to end class oppression (Gramsci, 1975: 1220). His
uncertainty arises from the contradictory application of a
principle associated with bourgeois hegemony to proletarian
hegemony, due to the alleged necessity for the proletariat to
replace the bourgeoisie as the national class in order to
achieve and maintain a genuine national unity.
The inconsistency in Gramscis account stems from his
conceptualisation of hegemony through the nationalpopular
compact necessarily dependent on the historically unique case
of the bourgeois nation-building project. He conceived the
nationalpopular as a process of Jacobin inclusion and
mobilisation of the subaltern classes, especially the peasantry,
directly derived from the French Revolution (ibid: 9513),
but then applied the nationalpopular to a future proletarian
hegemony, still unseen and hard to forecast.
Arguably, the French masses had an interest in abolishing
the ancien rgime by taking part in the historical bloc formed
by the bour-geoisie, but not in remaining trapped forever
within the entity used by the bourgeoisie to represent its interests as universal.
For if what is at stake in the nationalpopular concept is
the construction of hegemony involving the building of class
alliances under the leadership of a unitary centre in order to
form a collective will against a pre-existing hegemonic bloc
(Forgacs, 1988: 94), then the hegemony to be constructed
through the nation-people is none other than bourgeois hegemony. Marx grasped the conditions necessary for the
formation of such a collective subject in his reections on
the French bourgeois upheavals; that is, partial and merely
political revolutions in which a section of civil society
emancipates itself and attains universal domination:
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The roots of hegemony

For a popular revolution and the emancipation of a particular

class of civil society to coincide, for one class to represent
the whole of society, another class must concentrate in
itself all the evils of society A particular social sphere
must be regarded as the notorious crime of the whole
society, so that emancipation from this sphere appears as
a general emancipation. For one class to be the liberating
class par excellence it is necessary that another class should
be openly the oppressing class. The negative significance
of the French nobility and clergy produced the positive
significance of the bourgeoisie. (quoted in Szporluk, 1988:
In discussing, in The German Ideology, the quarrels between
the bourgeoisie and nobility, he insisted:
For each new class which puts itself in the place of one
ruling before it, is compelled merely in order to carry
through its aim, to represent its interests as the common
interests of all the members of society it has to give its
ideas the form of universality The class making a
revolution appears from the very start, if only because it
is opposed to a class, not as a class, but as a representative
of the whole of society, it appears as the whole mass of
society confronting the one ruling class. (Marx, 1964:
Gramsci never clearly exposed the nation-people as an
ad hoc, conjuncturally meaningful and necessarily short-lived
coalescence of interests under the aegis of the bourgeoisie
in historically specific circumstances (as grasped by Marx);
as the formation of a historical bloc, uniting material interests
and a dominant worldview in order to eect the transition
to bourgeois society. He thus translated a specific mode of
bourgeois hegemonic intervention into proletarian concerns.
As a result, his followers made the theoretically abhorrent
and practically disastrous mistake of promoting an
accommodation with the bourgeoisie through the nationpeople concept after the Second World War, in a very different historical conjuncture. This accommodation was in
fact unable to prevent, and very likely helped to bring about,
a regrouping of bourgeois hegemony under the political
leadership of the Christian Democrats (Forgacs, 1988: 96).
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orgimento, re-eecting a passive or defensive revolution

by transformist co-optation and the securing of mass
support. Gramsci opposed the same strategic alliance of
workers, peasants and petty-bourgeois intelligentsia that he
had considered apposite in Italian conditions since the
Risorgimento. This strategy may have been sound before the
war, but his characterisation of it as nationalpopular was
rather problematic. How this alliance could be anti-bourgeois
yet still nationalpopular, and avoid unravelling the Italian
state and blowing up national unity, is a question I think
Gramsci was unprepared to answer.
After all, the Fascists secured mass consent precisely by
appealing to people and nationa staple of right-wing
politics since the nineteenth century. During the war, the
Communists included bourgeois forces in the anti-Fascist
eort of all the people-nation, thus unwittingly contributing
to the reinvigoration and re-legitimisation of the bourgeoisie
in the post-war period, at a time when the circumstances
were even further removed from those of the Fascist takeover,
let alone from those of the Risorgimento, and when the bourgeoisie had already resumed its constitutive national role.
Gramsciand hence also his followerswas seemingly
unable to see the dangerous openness of a nation-people,
dictated by its very nature, to (re)colonisation by a bourgeoisie
claiming to act in the national interest. Thus, in the final
analysis, the concept of hegemony underscores the essential
contradiction at the heart of the notion of nation-people,
as diagnosed by Luxemburg and intimated by Marx.
Consequently, Gramscis investigations are characteristically incomplete. He never systematically discussed the
social and historical roots of the notion he placed at the
basis of hegemony. He somehow took it for granted, writing
as if the Italian people-nation were a transhistoric essence
already discernible in the Middle Ages (Gramsci, 1975: 640
653). He deplored the lack of vision of the merchant oligarchies and intellectuals of the Renaissance (save perhaps
Machiavelli) for failing to ally themselves with the peasantry
in order to gain full hegemony, and to form a national
popular historical bloc to unify the country. This was anachronistic since there was nothing remotely resembling an
Italian nation in the Renaissance, and the resources that
would have been needed to build one vastly surpassed anything at the disposal of the ruling classes at that time, even
if they had found the task intelligible at all. Gramsci rightly
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The roots of hegemony

viewed the Risorgimento as a passive revolution marked

by the bourgeoisies failure to formulate a prog-rammatic
unity of the interests of the people against the old nonnational elites, implying that nationalpopular unity was
necessary in order to achieve a successful bourgeois revolution,
which explains the incomplete nature of that revolution in
Italy. Gramsci was also right in highlighting the way social
arrangements reecting the territorial and economic division
of Italy prevented that unity (Gramsci, 1978: 179, 923).
The bourgeoisie failed to create a Jacobin collective will
involving an alliance with the peasantry, hence the passive
or defensive nature of unification. Yet it was creating an
alternative collective will by allying itself with the proletariat, landowners and intermediate strata, and by excluding
peasants. This certainly meant that the Italian process of
nation-building was somehow inadequate: a passive,
exclusively elite-led process. But it was, for all its lack of
peasant involvement, as nationalpopular as any other
European process of nation-building in its presuppositions
and methods, especially in the attempt to spread a sense of
national identity previously lacking amongst the population.
But in Italys case, only the northern masses were included.
Southern Italy, a quasi-feudal mixture of declining feudalism
and growing marketisation, buttressed by patronclient
relations, was incorporated as a colony. The national consciousness promoted by the bourgeoisie was barely understood in this milieu.3 Thus, a historical bloc of integ-rative
ideologies and material practices rallying together proletariat
and bourgeoisie, culminating with Giolittism, was forged:
one that, at the same time, depicted the southern peasant
masses as backward and as a hindrance to national unity
and progress, in order to prevent their alliance with workers.
The northern masses, inuenced by the Church, the papers,
the bourgeois tradition and propaganda, viewed southern
peasants as biologically inferior, lazy, savage and
barbarous, thus fostering mutual, violent hatred (ibid: 94,
1023, 117). 4 Though Gramsci rightly highlighted the
divisive, defensive aspect of that national ideology, he was
unconcerned with the construction of ideologies and practices
of social cohesion that impose ultimate goals and moral
standards as a precondition for divisive strategies to succeed.
That is, he was unconcerned with the process of nationbuilding as such. Since the bourgeoisie had not fulfilled its
Jacobin function, Gramsci charged the proletariat with
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doing this itself; but since he failed to conceptualise the

Jacobin moment as the starting-point for the construction
of a previously inexistent nation, he did not realise that he
was demanding that the proletariat undertake the task of
nation-building on its own. He failed to ask whether a
process of nation-building that marginalised the bourgeoisie
could be national at all. He also overlooked the fact that
the bourgeoisie was actually undertaking the task, however
inadequately. Massimo DAzeglios famous dictum, We have
made Italy, now we must make Italians, speaks for itself.
Forging a territorial state was not identical with building a
nation: that would have to be constructedand this the
bourgeoisie, even more sensitive than Gramsci to the need
for social integration, viewed as of paramount importance,
and acted accordingly.5
The search for integration
Gramsci was, then, somewhat ambivalent and ambiguous
or simply silentin dealing with the issue of the ethicopolitical worldviews uniting dominant and subordinate.
Revealingly, the concern with social integration was taken
up not by Marxists working in the Gramscian tradition, but
by structuralfunctionalist and modernisation theorists. In
this section, I will review the literature in search of the theme
of integration/incorporation in order to confirm Gramscis
basic insights, while remaining sensitive to the inclusive and
functional role ascribed to the nation, and to references to
older modes of inclusion or identification in disparate strands
of scholarship. It should be stressed that there has been no
focused research on the nation-peoplelet alone on previous
mechanisms of class accommodationin relation to
hegemony, and that the study of integrative mechanisms has
been so far unsystematic and fragmentar y. Hence the
exploratory nature of this endeavour.
The most extensive treatment of the way stability and
harmony may be fostered in a functional political system,
inspired by what were perceived as historical crises of
incorporation of the working classes, came from the broad
literature on modernisation that drew to varying degrees on
structural functionalism, which in turn combined a
Durkheimian concern with social cohesion with a Weberian
focus on legitimacy. It tracked the political evolution
necessary in order to maintain stability in conditions of rapid
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The roots of hegemony

structural change from traditional to modern societies.

The incorporation of the industrial working class, seen as
the solution to the crises of modernisation, was investigated
as a protracted process of mobilisation followed by
integration (Germani, 1964) in terms of the related theme
of inclusion in the political community through formal
citizenship (Bendix, 1996; Lipset, 1973; Marshall, 1992), or
in terms of the institutional buers needed to absorb the
participation explosion (Huntington, 1968). In a
paradigmatic study, Waisman (1980: 24) concludes that the
incorporation of the working class is the crucial variable
in the relationship between modernisation and the
legitimation of capitalism.
This preoccupation was linked to the penetration of
capitalism in emergent nation states in the context of Cold
War struggles, which prompted Western concerns about the
achievement of cohesive polities. It entailed the devising of
the doctrine for political development (Cammack, 1997; cf.
Tilly, 1975: 3843; Robinson, 1996: 448)a theory of politics
in the process of capitalist modernisation, and a doctrine aimed
at guaranteeing the capitalist direction of change: the
installation and consolidation of capitalist regimes in the
developing world (Cammack, 1997: 1). Pro-capitalist organic
intellectuals recommended nation-building as a policy
prescription to imperialist elites and their colonial allies.
Clearly, they viewed the nation as a tool with which class
conict could be stied, deeming that the consolidation of
national identity in the process of expanding political
participation contributed decisively to the legitimation of class
rule (ibid: 57, 159). As Verba put it, a sense of identity with the
nation legitimizes the activities of national elites and makes
it possible for them to mobilize the commitment and support
of their followers (quoted in Cammack, 1997: 135).
The basic concern, within this literature, was to insulate
political institutions from social pressure and to control the
participation of the masses in order to achieve stability under
the rule of responsible elites (ibid: 202). The central question
was that of mass politicshow to include the masses
innocuously in the political community, controlling the
participation explosion (ibid: 45, 49)? Social integration,
deemed indispensable to securing social harmony (ibid: 44
5), was invariably linked to a proper process of nationbuilding and to the achievement of a sense of national unity
(ibid: 39, 42, 119, 156), identified with political development
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or modernisation' (ibid: 56). Progress in overcoming the

crisis of identity and legitimacy brought about by the political
breakthrough of the masses depended upon clarifying both
individual and collective feelings of identity, and establishing
an appropriate common identity and elite autonomy and
authority over the masses (ibid: 119, 154).
Thus, the prescription involved extensive social engineering
through mass media, educational systems, etc., and the creation
of a responsible middle class; and through stressing a sense
of national loyalty, but retaining traditional bonds of
interpersonal loyalty (patronclient relationships) when
required (ibid: 1289). Stories of success were contrasted
with stories of failures: Japan succeeded through the
manipulation of citizenship rights, the cultivation of national
symbols and the use of the school system for political
indoctrination. Latin America failed due to the alleged lack of
mass parties of national integration (ibid: 136, 1567, 1846).
In Mouzeliss more sophisticated account (1995: 224
33), during the course of the modernisation of European
social structures after the Industrial and French Revolutions,
the lower classesexposed to national markets, educational
systems and administrative networkswere politically
included in one of three ways:
z The integrative mode, in north-western Europe: a
horizontal form of inclusion based on the interplay between
the cor ps inter mdiaires of the ancien rgime and the
centralising drives of absolutist monarchies.
z The incorporative clientelistic mode of semi-peripheral
regions like Greece: political inclusion via the extension
and centralisation of already available patronage networks
and organisations.
z The incorporative populistic mode, employed in regions
such as the Balkans: inclusion via the attachment of the
masses to a populist leader.
Oxhorn (1995) depicts limited processes of controlled
inclusion in Latin America, referring to hierarchical patterns
of controlled political participation: a state corporatism built
upon clientelistic and populistic appeals.
Marxism, opposing this literature, has produced rival
accounts that nonetheless display a certain revealing anity
in which, to compound Gramscis oblivion, the functionally
inclusive dimension of the nation becomes a commonplace
made out of scattered references, scarcely theorised or
developed. The Gramscian system of moral life or popular
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The roots of hegemony

religion is recast as a civic (or civil), secular religion.

The all-inclusive capacity of the nation underscores nationalisms potential as a secular religion, fitting for
conservative purposes: the most integrative and stabilising
force; the functional creed par excellence (Miliband, 1969:
206). The nation is linked to the demise of older forms of
collective identification, and to the changes that converted
subjects into citizens and prompted the arrival of mass politics
(Hobsbawm, 1983: 2638, 303, 307). The means applied in
order to construct new identities were the creation of political
symbols depicting the nation as a community that was often
emblematically represented by kingship as a surrogate for
the peoples unity (ibid: 2726, 282), and the extensive use
of ritual, ceremony and myth amounting to the creation of a
civic religion (ibid: 283, 304).6 The story behind the creation
of this civic religion, seen by Hobsbawm as hegemonic
trickle-down, is best described as the construction of a
political/cultural identity that spuriously embraces dominant
and subordinate as a foundational moment or precondition
in a hegemonic process.
Since hegemony comprises that part of a dominant
ideology that has been naturalized (Comaro & Comaro,
1992: 28)encompassing the constraints that shape the forms
of struggle: the ways in which subordinate classes understand
and resist their domination through institutions, images and
symbols shaped by the process of domination itself
(Roseberry, 1994: 361)the construction of a sense of
nationhood is crucial. For, once established as the cornerstone of peoples identity and consciousness, the nation
represents an ideological and institutional structure of
immense power, which already determines the possible
forms of political activity and belief (Eley, 1981: 104).
Associated with the nation, the state withholds from public
view the fact of class struggle, presenting itself as the political
unity of the people-nation (Poulantzas, 1968: 23940; Balibar,
1991: 14950; Miliband, 1969: 72). Thus, in seeking or
wielding state power, political forces, even those of the Left,
become agents of what Nairn (1977) calls the nationalisation
of class. The British Labour Party, for example, becomes
an agent of political socialization and social control,
mediating between nation and class:
by upholding the values of the nation against the values
of direct action, revolution or sectional interests, it
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Capital & Class #91

legitimates existing society and militates against the

development of a revolutionary political consciousness
on the part of the working class. [It acts] to maintain
values to which the working class has already been
exposed, and usually absorbed from other institutions of
political socialization such as the family, the educational
system, the church, the media and even the Conservative
Party. (Panitch, 1976: 2356)
Political parties became national parties, cast in the historical
role of integrating the interests and demands of the working
class with those of the nation as a whole; that is, integrative
parties imbued with a conception of the social order as being
basically unified rather than fissured, and eecting a compromise between the interests of various classes by
means of policies in the national interest (ibid: 1). Such
policies attempt to obtain the working class consent to more
exploitation by means of a communitarian conception,
defining a community of interests between capital and labour
in the name of a supposed interest transcending social classes
(Foa, quoted in ibid: 4).7 Analogously, fascist movements
used the nation to reinterpret a class-ridden reality as classless
unity. According to Marcuse, fascism presents a unity
that combines all classes. A classless society on the basis
of and within the framework of, the existing class society
(quoted in Neocleous, 1997: 40). Vlkisch thought is a
mechanism for not only incorporating the working class but
also subduing it (ibid: 401). The nation makes these
operations possible, whatever the type of bourgeois political
regime, for the people-nation represents the unity of society,
the overcoming of class divisions at the level of political
practice, and the state legitimises itself and achieves its goals
by appealing to that unity.
Clearly, then, two opposite schools of thoughtconservative and radicalalmost complement each other when
assessing the role of the nation. Both see it as the essential
nexus in societies undergoing capitalist modernisation: a
civic religion, recalling Gramscis popular religion,
binding together all classes in capitalist social formations.
Both, although for dierent reasons, are concerned with social
cohesion; and each reaches basically the same conclusions.
This cannot be accidental. In their own ways, both capture a
fundamental property of the nation-people as a historical
phenomenon. Scattered references to patronage/clientage and
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The roots of hegemony

corporate categories give us some clue as to where to begin

a systematic investigation of the mechanisms of class accommodation before the maturation of capitalism; and I have
attempted to do this elsewhere (Pozo, forthcoming). In the
next section, I explore the structural determinants of the
emergence of nation states from territorial states, and the
concrete forms in which the nation-people were set forth as
the basis for any attempt at bourgeois hegemony.
Imagining communities: Nation and/as
In order to understand why and how the new mechanisms of
class accommodation adopted their modern, all-encompassing form, we must consider the way in which the
development of capitalism aected the spatial clustering of
socio-political organisations, and rearranged social relations.
The low level of development of productive forces and the
relatively widespread access to the means of production in
preindustrial Europe underpinned the extra-economic
character of surplus extraction in conditions of close personal
intercourse, limited social and spatial mobility, widespread
illiteracy, limited means of ideological conditioning, and
fragmented sovereignties. In this context, hegemonic
principles appeared in the shape of sections across the social
structure modelling vertical communities: extended lineages
of lords and dependants predicated on the metaphor of the
family household. In urban settings, there was a dynamic
interplay between patronage systems and corporate
arrangements modelled after familial and bodily metaphors.
Both competed with civism: universalist notions of civic
patriotism brought about by the concentration of artisanal
production and commercial capital (Pozo, forthcoming). To
those could be added the presence, largely confined to selfserving elite ideologies, of remote entities barely capable of
eliciting a sense of identification, which would later inuence
the conception of the nation in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries. These were dynastic states as a corpus mysticum,
with a princely figure as head/father (Bendix, 1996; Cohen,
1988: 79; Pitkin, 1989: 1389; Manicas, 1988: 17783)a
figure viewed by Gramsci as the social cement in precapitalist
societies. What circumstances determined the change in
accommodative patterns from segmentary and/or local to
universalist notions encompassing the whole state population?
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Capital & Class #91

Both the system of territorial states and the nation form

owe a great deal to the rise of capitalism. State and nation
are interrelated phenomena arising from the political
structuration of the world capitalist system (Wallerstein, 1991:
1267; Hobsbawm, 1990: 18; Patterson, 1988: 346, 349). But
a set of territorial states was the chronological and
organisational precondition for the emergence of nations
(Balibar, 1991: 1378; Calhoun, 1997: 37880; Tilly, 1975).
There were other possibilities for the spatial distribution of
political power: political federation or empire; theocratic
federation; trading network of city-states, etc. (Balibar, 1991:
140; Tilly, 1975: 26; and for the dichotomy between
territorialism and capitalism in early modern state-formation, see Arrighi, 1994). However, capitalism and the
territorial state developed mutually reinforcing features.
Capitalism freed resources for state-making, and at the same
time, the existence of several territorial states reduced the
capacity of governments to capture or smother the operations
of private capital. Genuine economic growth and strength
depended on strong mercantile states laying the grounds
for an expansion of capitalist production, and regulating
and protecting the operations of an integrated economy
(Tilly, 1975: 30, 45, 723; Hobsbawm, 1990: 34 .). Thus
powerful incentives existed for the formation of strictly
bordered territorial states usually imagined as grostaaten
(small states were considered unviable), which could consolidate and promote capitalist social relations. In this
context, politicaleconomic changes liberated the masses
from patronage and corporate bonds to create the mass of
formally free workers required for the expansion of capitalism.
Then commenced the construction of more inclusive, statewide identities due to the ascendant bourgeoisies urge to
represent its interests as those of a population freed from
special or corporate jurisdictions, against the vested interests
of the old order (Balibar, 1991:1545; Hobsbawm, 1990: 29).
The words nation and people did not define a collective
identity with political capabilities until the rise of the
bourgeoisie to predominance8. Hence the mass character of
national consciousness, attained following a process with
no birth date, which locates fully-edged nation states in
the nineteenth century (Connor, 1990: 92100).9
Nationalism10, forged in that crucible, locates the source
of individual identity within a people, seen as the bearer
of sovereignty, the central object of loyalty and the basis of
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The roots of hegemony

collective solidarity (Greenfeld, 1992: 3). The modern sense

of national identity derives from membership in a people
defined as a nation. Every member of the people thus
interpreted partakes in its superior elite quality and it is in
consequence that a stratified national population is perceived
as essentially homogeneous, and the lines of status and class
as superficiala principle that lies at the basis of all nationalisms and justifies viewing them as expressions of the same
phenomenon (ibid: 79). It was in order to render class
lines superficial that new identities and solidarities were
constructed11 through ideological conditioning and ritual
practices, creating a Bourdieuan habitus: the inculcation of
knowledge and discipline through routinised practice (Billig,
1995: 426; Karakasidou, 1996: 423; see also Alfonsi, 1997:
602; Balibar, 1991: 1445, 149; Delannoi, 1993: 11; Heater,
1990: 567; Hobsbawm, 1983; Rokkan, 1999: 171; and the
concept of habitus in Bourdieu, 1977). Ideologies, practices
and institutions were created or reshaped in order to
homogenise the population into a culturally cohesive whole.
This was necessary in order to buttress the claim that there
was a harmonious social unity where there remained class
dierences, which, unlike their cultural counterparts, could
not be eliminated but whose political relevance had to be
lessened. Two processes were crucial. First, the refashioning
of old conceptions of kingship and the dynastic realm as
fictive kinship and corporation, to match the new conditions.
Ideological motives and cultural trends were selected through
intellectual debate within the literate elite, involving a reconceptualisation of the familial and bodily metaphors that had
informed class accommodation in the past. Second, the
recasting at a territorial-state level of the mercantile experience of towns and city-states, with their notions of citizenship
and patriotism, was crucial.12
Organic intellectuals retained the metaphors of the family,
of a natural order, and of the body, integrated in the harmony
of the ensemble of its parts. The utility of these metaphors
rests on the fact that they represent communities as
functional, and as havens of social harmony pervaded by the
identity of interests. Organic analogies to represent social
harmony have been popular since Plato. The extended fictive
family, seemingly the antithesis of the nation-people
(Calhoun, 1997: 3834), was reconstituted as a functionally
equivalent (id)entity, more inclusive but with the same
organic and emotional connotations (Balibar, 1991:1556;
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Capital & Class #91

Gilbert, 1998: 4656). The familial idiom was rooted in longstanding practices. The domestic unitthe oikos or domus
in the form of the nobiliar dominion, the peasant mansus or
the house/workshophad constituted the material and ideological foundation of the sociopolitical order, a central
element of the constitution in the wider sense since the Middle
Ages, if not before. The concept of family derived from it,
meaning originally (famulus) the people depending on a
house, a borough, a castle, bonded together by patronclient
ties. The central features of patronage/clientage, characteristic
of societies of a broadly feudal type, underpinned its usefulness as a mechanism of class accommodation, for it both
serves as a mechanism for maintaining ruling class interests
and at the same time systematically inhibits the articulation
of class as a source of overt political conict, providing
some mechanism for representation and participation in
politics by and on behalf of people of subordinate classes,
and some kind of stake in the system while its main benefits
go elsewhere (Clapham, 1985: 589). The existence of
patronclient vertical relations in a deferential social
hierarchy inhibits the significance of class as a form of
horizontal solidarity, and undermines the legitimacy of
egalitarian forms of ideology (Johnson & Dandeker, 1989:
2234). Bourgeois organic intellectuals ideologically
construed the nation as a family because they came to
naturally dwell on past traditions of class accommodation,
but reconfigured the metaphor in the light of the new
bourgeois sentimental family. Loyalty to fictive lineages
was replaced by loyalty to the fatherlandnot a patrimonial
fatherland, but a civic fatherland. Citizenship performed, for
the nation, the role that patronage/clientage performed for
the extended family. In France, literate elites obsessively
promoted ideals of deep social unity that negated class
dierence and sought to bring the French together in a moral
community called patrie, which was itself a sentimental family
writ large (Maza, 1997: 221). Those ideals were highly
functional and emphasized the harmonious integration of
social groups into a transcendent whole (ibid: 229). The
bourgeois sentimental drama of the second half of the eighteenth century promoted the ideal of a community that
transcended social divisions, for which the metaphor of choice
was the family (ibid: 227). As dHolbach contended, any
political society is but an assemblage of particular societies;
many families make that bigger one called the nation (quoted
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The roots of hegemony

in ibid: 222). The old-regime fatherland that stressed the

patron-like figure of the king was recast as the fraternal
revolutionar y nation. The patrie, Adrien Lamourette
claimed, is a second, vast family whose members are
linked by a sort of civic fraternity. France is no longer
composed of anything but a single family of brothers and
equals, wrote the Club of Auch to the Abb Grgoire. All
the French are brothers and make up but a single family,
stated a decree of 1789 (all quoted in Bell, 2001: 19, 147).
This notion of fraternity owed a great deal of its force to
the long-standing thrust of class accommodation attached
to it in politicaleconomic writing, defining the polity as a
composite of productive classes on whose harmony progress
and prosperity depended: a theory, according to Condorcet,
that unified for the sake of a common felicity the dierent
classes into which societies are naturally divided into a
fraternity of the human kind. As Mercier de la Rivire
claimed, the law of property established in society a fraternity that interested everyone in each others conservation.
[T]he ownerworker and the simple worker, according to
Roederer, were unified by the frater nit ncessaire de
lindustrie dans la division des mtiers (all quoted in Bach,
n.d.). Sooner or later, claimed Sieys (1985: 144), giving
the theme of class accommodation the appearance of absolute
necessity, it will be necessary that all classes contain
themselves within the limits of the social contract mutually
obliging all the associated. The common good or general
interest was to define public morality on the grounds of a
naturally just division of labour. Class dierences were natural (Les ingalits de proprit et dindustrie sont comme les
ingalits dge, de sexe, de couleur, ibid: 181), and they were
surreptitiously fused, as the first article of the Dclaration
des Droits proclaimed, with the common good (lutilit
commune), which was itself predicated on the protection of
private property and free enterprise. The pursuit of private
interests would make up the physiocratic general interest
of the body social.
Diverse types of corporations (trade-related, religious,
etc.) had been put, from the Middle Ages onwards, to the
task of uniting people of diverse classes in supposedly
harmonious communities, with the aim of fostering mutual
aection or concordia (a single heart). Just like the family
household, the body, as an ensemble of unequal but useful
parts, was an immediately graspable metaphor for a funcDownloaded from cnc.sagepub.com at UNLP on December 11, 2014



Capital & Class #91

tional, harmonious community. The organic metaphor stated

that it was indeed right that dierent persons should perform
dierent tasks; it tended to sanctify the division of labour in
its existing form, people should be content with their station
in life; the idea of an organic division of labour was the
antithesis of the idea of equality (Black, 1992: 17). This
pattern, characteristic of urban Europe, was reected at the
territorial-state level in the form of the corpus mysticum
the body politic identified with the body of the sovereign
king: the head commanding over the members, estates or
corporate orders. During the revolutionary era, the corps of
the old regime were abolished as obstacles to the constitution
of a state-wide unified commodity regime and to the unmediated relation between citizen and nation, and conceptions
of the body politic were transformed following a common
bourgeois pattern.
In Britain, the mystic body of the king became the mystic
representative body of parliament. The symbol of the state
was ascribed to king and parliament jointly (Manicas, 1988:
177; Morgan, 1988: 1720; Pitkin, 1989; Bendix, 1978, 1996:
401). Then parliament was transformed from its medieval
roots into a national assembly representing the nationpeople as a single body or corporation with interests. As
Edmund Burke put it, parliament was an assembly of one
nation with one interest, that of the whole (Manicas, 1988:
1812; Bendix, 1978: 3147; Morgan, 1988: ch. 2; Pitkin,
1989: 1389). This was precisely the stance of the French
National Assembly (Woloch, 1993: 223). The technical
idiom of the French medical profession, widely recognised
among the bourgeoisie due to its use in advertising papers
or aches, reconstructed the meaning of the political vocabulary centred upon the symbolism of the body. Widely used
concepts were circulation, eervescence, exaltation and
regeneration of the nationunderstood not as the body of
the realm; that is, as the king, but as the bodies of the
bourgeois readers of the aches; that is, the body social,
understood as the organic unity of the nation-people (Jones,
1996: 27). Through the medical idiom, the bourgeoisie created new conceptions of the body in order to legitimate new
roles in political life (Outram, 1989). These conceptions
developed in medical, political and literary thought were
bourgeois: individualised, self-determining and publicspirited. The monarch was criticised metaphorically in the
mmoires judiciaries, and the body of the state was recomposed
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The roots of hegemony

as the body of the nation, which was a bourgeois body, for

the aches allowed readers to remake the body of French
society in their own, bourgeois, imagean image of organic
harmony (Jones, 1996: 39). This organic conception derived
from the idea of the social contract naturalising class difference and underpinning the body politic.This, in Rousseaus
terms, may be considered as an organized, living body,
resembling that of man, in which citizens are the members, which make the machine live, move and work (1973:
Just as the incipient mercantilisation of medieval citystates resulted in attempts to promote a sense of civic identity,
the mercantilisation of territorial states laid the ground for
the ulterior construction of nationhood. Medieval towns were
incipiently mercantile, providing protected and regulated
environments that promoted craft production and trade networking, integrating the operations of a merchant-capitalist
economy embedded in the feudal one through municipal
legislation and the control of citizenship (Katznelson, 1992:
183). Mercantilism in the eighteenth centur y was an
instrument of unification in the same fashion but at a higher
level, which progressively created much larger and exible
economic units coinciding with the boundaries of states (ibid:
189). In this context, classical and Renaissance republican
thought and the experience of government of autonomous
cities and city-states exerted increasing in-uence (Kiernan,
1965: 267).
The coming-of-age of the bourgeoisie and the notion of
the peoples sovereignty during the English Revolution drew
on principles of citizenship and patriotism fermented in
European towns for centuries. The people was construed
as an all-inclusive identification against the old privileged
elites, in the context of the growing social dierentiation
and the rising power of the upper yeomanry, rich merchants
and artisans. This ideal of citizenship inherited by seventeenth-century England and refined by Locke, Hobbes and
Halifax, among others, linked to the rise of capitalism
(Turner, 1986: 1726, 1345), was to define the broadly
liberal vision that shaped the nineteenth century. It was a
classless society of citizens, staatsbrgers, or citoyens, quite
capable, nonetheless, of co-existing with the reality of bourgeois class society (Langewiesche, 1993: 52, 61, 63). The
notion of the people, with its universalist overtones, proved
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Capital & Class #91

sively construed as an inclusive category, as the emergent

bourgeoisies aspirations converged with those of the general
population in the decades before the French Revolution,
coming to match the concept of nation: the mass of persons
who live in one country, who compose a nation (Greenfeld,
1992: 1612). They were the Third Estate: the whole
population of the country except for a few thousand individuals
(the nobility). Furthermore, the interests of the bourgeoisie
les classes disponibles du tiers tatwere expressly considered
to be identical with those of le reste du peuple (Sieys, 1985:
133). The evident inequalities within the people were considered politically irrelevant.
The people were the sovereign subject, conceptualised as
a body imagined by Jacques-Louis David as a statue with
the word light on its forehead; on its chest, nature and
truth; on its arms, power; on its hands, work (quoted in
Baecque, 1994: 12931). The political aspirations and
activities of urban artisans were diverted by the chance, historically unprecedented, to participate in politics as the people.
Corporate identities melted into the unity of the people,
whose politics cut across class barriers.
The largely middle-class Jacobins mobilised the sansculottes by appealing to inclusive and vague notions of
fatherland and nation, which permitted them to dismiss
workers material demands in the name of the general will
(Hunt & Sheridan, 1984: 823). The class-divided but
nonetheless unified people grounded national wealth. This
principle was cunningly expressed in an inuential speech
by the deputy to the Convention, Franois Antoine de Boissy
dAnglas, who seemed to have a knack for framing and
articulating conservative Thermidorean stances on pivotal
issues (Desan, 1997: 110):
The mass of men born in France, this is the people.
Part have acquired property a second part of this
same people is working to acquire some or to gain more.
[These] two groups [are] called the rich and the poor;
they serve each other their union is their force, and in
their misunderstandings or harmony depend the
unhappiness or the prosperity of the state. (quoted in ibid.)
Boissy dAnglas forthrightly allied the defence of property
with the will of the people and based the Republic on the
acceptance of class dierence (ibid.). Citizenship based on
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The roots of hegemony

the people was an ideal of inclusion, not of liberation. It

represented the bourgeois ideal of political emancipation
within a classless polity. It was, however, as Marx (1975)
realised, an abstract and juridical device that stood in for
human emancipation, reducing the person to the egoistic
individual of bourgeois society and the abstract moral person
of the political community. In 178990, citizenship was
extended to everyone; and then dierences of wealth and
status could be allowed to remain because they would
somehow no longer matter (Higonnet, 1981: 534). After
1794, the reality of class structure was at once accepted
and denied by the Directory (ibid.).
Class dierence constituted the nation. In contrast to cultural
dierence, it could not be abolished. The nation, as it
progressively emerged in the minds of organic intellectuals,
fulfilled these basic prerequisites: symbolic equality within
an organically unified community. Equality which could
not be achieved in any practical sense would be achieved on
an ideological and illusory plane (ibid: 59). The rationale
for the cultural interventionism of the Jacobins and their
successors, from the Directory to the Third Republic,
regarding the homogenisation of culture, education and
language, rested upon the eorts of the revolutionary
bourgeoisie to reconcile its commitment to community and
spiritual or moral equality with their equally serious
determination not to give way on the economic and social
hierarchy (ibid: 49). Since there is now nothing but the
French, class hatred was abolished, claimed Cabanis (1956:
484), in the name of Francewhich was to become, according to Michelet, a powerful organism whose parts are
so skilfully brought together (quoted in Gerson, 1996: 168),
fulfilling Sieyss dream of melting all parts of France into
a single body [and] a single nation (quoted in Bell, 2001:
Thus, when dominant classes struggled to construct
mythic communities embodied in practices and institutions
in order to ground their hegemonic projects, the task was
inscribed within the spatial and social framework of the
territorial state and its free population. Hence accommodation took shape in the form of all-encompassing
(id)entities comprising the whole population within the
boundaries of states: (id)entities whose concrete shape derived
from older modes of accommodation. Nation, people and
the nation-state form emerged in this context.
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Hegemony implies the consent of the dominated to class
politics, based on an alleged common identity transcending
social cleavages: an ethico-political element, in Gramscis
terms, embracing dominant and dominated alike. In this
paper, I have searched for the mechanisms that rest at the
basis of the hegemony of dominant classes over society. I
have introduced the notion of mechanisms of class
accommodation, referring to those communitarian (id)entities acting as hegemonic principles that unify people of
antagonistic classes in order to render social divisions
politically irrelevant within functional polities. I have followed Gramsci in considering the nation to be one of those
However, despite the fundamental importance of these
issues there has been, to date, no systematic research on
them within Marxist scholarship. The emergence of the
nation-people has not been studied in relation to hegemony;
and the study of the mechanisms necessary in order to eect
a functional unity between people of dierent classes before
the maturation of capitalism must begin virtually from
scratch. I have contended that this may be due to the limitations of Gramscis account. He never undertook an investigation of the concepts he put at the basis of hegemony, and
this was probably a consequence of (and in turn aggravated)
his preoccupation with Italian nation-building and national
unity, which prevented him from problematising the nation
as a form of bourgeois intervention rather inapplicable to
proletarian concerns. This has made it necessary to search
for confirmation of Gramscis seminal insights in the
modernisation and Marxist bodies of literature, however
unsystematic and limited they themselves are. The search
has produced a convergence of disparate and rival sources
that reveals a certain consensus. The nation emerged in the
context of class accommodation during the twofold process
of bourgeois revolution and capitalist modernisation,
fulfilling the functional role of being the precondition for
any attempt at constructing historical blocs within which
antagonistic social forces could coexist. Further research
reveals that the form the nation-people assumed depended
on the development of capitalism, which decisively inuenced
the political/spatial structuration of the system of territorial
states with their populations of abstract citizens, and on the
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adaptation of the material and ideological forms that accommodation had taken on in previous epochs.
The basic accommodative themes of consensual harmony,
organic unity, symbolic equality and common good were played
out within the quintessentially functional metaphors of the
family and the body. These metaphors, used in the past to
describe several kinds of communities at various levels, were
recast according to new conditions and put to the task of
representing the new forms of community required for
bourgeois hegemony. Fictive kinship and the organic analogy,
which had represented vertical communities from patron/
client lineages and religious confraternities to urban communes and dynastic realms, were recast as the horizontal,
all-inclusive, fraternal nation-people defined by citizenship.
This article highlights the fact that the bourgeoisie and the
nationalpopular are indissolubly linked; that the latter is a
constitutive moment in the formation of the former as a
hegemonic class, whereas the former gives the latter its raison
detre. Thus Gramsci was indeed right in exposing nationalism as the ethico-political element underpinning bourgeois
hegemony; but he was misled in believing that the proletariat
could be hegemonic within a framework historically
associated with bourgeois concerns. For it is dicult to
foresee the outlook of (and therefore to square the nation
with) a proletarian hegemony concerned not with the maintenance but the transcendence of social divisions.
These days, pleas for national unity and social partnership are being routinely issued for dierent purposes,
from the requirements of war to competitiveness in world
markets. Furthermore, the construction of a pro-capitalist
and increasingly authoritarian supra-national (id)entity
Europe has been described as an organic process, with
long-lived cultural, economic and political roots (Hallstein,
1972: 18), with the purpose of restoring an organic whole
respecting organic realities (Rusi, 1991: 5). For those who
find those purposes illegitimate, the importance of an
investigation of the roots that ground hegemony should not
need to be spelt out.

Gramsci never defined the terms nation or people.

He used themoften lumped together indistinctly as
nation-people, people-nation, nationalpopular,
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Capital & Class #91





popularnationalin a variety of senses and contexts,

cultural and political. Especially in his discussions on
the contrast between France and Italy, nation appears
to be a cultural construct on the part of intellectuals,
whereas people denotes the actual mass of the
population. He insisted, however, that the two ought
to coincide linguistically and historically. In French,
German or Russian, he wrote, National and
popular are either synonymous or nearly so
(Gramsci, 1975: 2116). Italy was anomalous in that the
term national does not in any case coincide with
popular because in Italy the intellectuals are distant
from the people, i.e. from the nation (ibid.). In this
paper, I use nation and nation-people interchangeably.
Gramsci was aware, apparently, of the constructed
nature of nations. Individualised representations of
the nation were for him mere metaphors covering
vertical and horizontal social distinctions juxtaposed
by state coercion, and culturally organised into a moral
consciousness, contradictory but at the same time
syncretistic (Gramsci, 1975: 12223). Unfortunately,
he overlooked the fact that the creation of that moral
consciousness had to be historically situated.
Gramsci noted peasants lack of a collective consciousness such as those he revealingly ascribed to the
bourgeoisie and proletariat: the nation for property
owners, the class for the proletariat (Gramsci, 1978:
18). He then found himself in the awkward position of
urging an agency with a collective class consciousness
(the proletariat) to strike an alliance with the peasantry
around a nationalpopular consciousness, which was
a bourgeois consciousness.
For a consideration of the southern question, see Chubb
(1982). Marx himself tended to treat the nation as a
given when assessing the divisive aspect of nationhood.
He saw the working class as divided into hostile camps
by nationality: a hostility artificially kept alive and
intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers
[and] all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes
(Marx to Meyer and Vogt, in Marx & Engels, 1975:
222). However, national feelings must be (artificially)
given birth before being kept alive and intensified.
Gramsci tried to reconcile his desire for Italian national
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The roots of hegemony




nationalism by arming the alleged interest of the

Italian people-nation as such in a modern form of
cosmopolitanism, which he identified with the Roman
Empire and the medieval communesas if there were
anything distinctively Italian about classical
imperialism or medieval civism. He, apparently without
irony, denounced the nationalistic and imperialistic
outlook of national unification as French, and as an
anachronistic excrescence alien to Italian history,
extolling instead the Roman and medieval
cosmopolitanism, as if the Roman Empire were less
imperialistic for being Italian (Gramsci, 1975: 1987
The concept of civil religion originated with Rousseau,
who charged it with the tasks of binding together all
members of society and defining their duties. It strongly
inuenced Durkheim. It is rendered as a systematic
network of moods, values, thoughts, rituals and symbols
that establishes the meaning of nationhood within an
overarching hierarchy of significance, and those
symbols and suasions must speak to all sorts of
conditions of men (Davis, 1994: 274, n. 23). Compare
with Coleman (quoted in Bryant 1995: 149), who
describes it as a set of beliefs, rites and symbols which
relates a mans role as citizen to the conditions of
ultimate existence and meaning.
See Panitchs remarks on corporatism (1976: 2456;
1971:1867; 1981: 246) and his discussion of
integrative ideologies and practices in the Conservative
and Labour Parties (1971). On the theory and practice
of class collaboration in the Labour Party, see Saville
(1973). Kiernan links nationalism to imperialism and
to the purpose of unifying antagonistic classes (1995:
See Hroch (1985: 8); on conict and the selection of
cultural markers, see Brass (1979: 401). Pre-existing
ideas and values are modified by elites in a process of
conict-motivated selection in order to create a political
identity and generate massive popular support. Cultural
markers are selected and used as a basis for dierentiating the group from other groups [and] for enhancing
the internal solidarity of the group (Brass, 1991: 63,
emphasis added). Some authors link the homogenisation
of culture to state-making, although they do not propDownloaded from cnc.sagepub.com at UNLP on December 11, 2014



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erly dierentiate between state-making and nationbuilding. Tilly (1975: 70) notes the dierence, but overlooks it when explaining homogenising drives (ibid:
42, 44, 78). Motivations adduced for homogenising
drives are: to increase the loyalty of the population; to
standardise and centralise the mechanisms of control
and taxation; and to routinise the operation of desired
policieshardly credible reasons for cultural, as
opposed to merely administrative, homogenisation. See
Tilly (1975: 434, 7880), Ardant (1975), and Rokkan
For the problem of identifying patterns of groupidentity formation in antiquity and the Middle Ages,
see Pohl (1998). Reynolds (1984) and Englund (1992:
313, n. 39) stress the dynastic, familialpatrimonial
nature of kingdoms or territorial statesfar from
national sentiment, as they are commonly understood.
The modern origin of nations is asserted in Gellner
(1983, 1999), Hobsbawm (1983, 1990), Balibar (1991:
141, 143) and Billig (1995: 1922). Smith (1994: 717
9) reluctantly opts for modern European origin.
Andersons (1983) location of nationalisms origins in
colonial fringes is unconvincing, and lacks empirical
support. Rokkan (1999: 174, cf. 159, 178) locates nation
states already in the sixteenth century and even in
medieval times, but elsewhere associates the emergence
of nations and national ideologies with the French
Revolution (ibid: 106, 1612), as do Woolf (1992: 98)
and Brubaker (1992: 6). Greenfeld (1992) locates the
first nation in sixteenth-century Britain, but the general
European phenomenon in the eighteenth. According
to Kohn (1974: 778), national sentiment first appeared with the ascent of the seventeenth-century English
middle classes. For a general overview, see Kiernan
(1965); for etymology and the conceptual evolution of
nation, see Connor (1978), Hobsbawm (1990: 24 .),
Greenfeld (1992), Kedourie (1964: 334) and Rokkan
(1999: 170).
I define nationalism primarily as an ideology that asserts
that nations must and do exist, and that their existence
and continuity in time and space must be defended.
Gellner refers to a principle asserting the correspondence between nation and state (Gellner 1983: 1, cf.
138, a distinctive species of patriotism), accepted by
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The roots of hegemony



Hobsbawm (1990: 17). For Grin (1993), nationalism

is an ideology animated by a sense of belonging to and
serving a perceived national community.
This is not to suggest that the accommodation of class
is what nationalism is all about. Nevertheless, even
progressive nationalist movements such as those of
national liberation have involved the suppression of
class dierences (Harris, 1990; Patterson, 1988: 346;
Billig, 1995: 85).
For a detailed account of the themes outlined below,
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