Skip to main content

Photo: “Meeting 1er mai 2012 Front National“, by Blandine Le Cain licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Smith, Anthony D. Ethno-symbolism and nationalism: A cultural approach. Routledge, 2009.


Anthony D. Smith is Emeritus Professor of Nationalism and Ethnicity at the London School of Economics, and is considered one of the founders of the interdisciplinary field of nationalism studies. Anthony Smith has developed an approach to the study of nations and nationalism called ethno-symbolism, which is concerned with the nature of ethnic groups and nations, and the need to consider their symbolic dimensions.

This text provides a concise statement of an ethno-symbolic approach to the study of nations and nationalism and, at the same time, embodies a general statement of Anthony Smith’s contribution to this approach and its application to the central issues of nations and nationalism. The text:

  • Sets out the theoretical background of the emergence of ethno-symbolism in a sustained and systematic argument.
  • Explains its analysis of the formation of nations, their persistence and change and the role of nationalism.
  • Demonstrates that an ethno-symbolic approach provides an important supplement and corrective to past and present intellectual orthodoxies in the field and addresses the main theoretical criticisms levelled at an ethno-symbolic approach.

Drawing together and developing earlier brief resumes of Anthony Smith’s approach, this book represents a summary of the theoretical aspects of his work in the field since 1986. It will be useful to students and to all those who are interested in the issues raised by a study of ethnicity, nations and nationalism.

Table of contents

  • Perennialism and modernism
  • Basic themes of ethno-symbolism
  • The formation of nations
  • The role of nationalism
  • Persistence and transformation of nations
  • Pro et contra

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.