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Belonging: Solidarity and Division in Modern Societies

Belonging: Solidarity and Division in Modern Societies

Montserrat Guibernau

ISBN: 978-0-745-65507-9 September 2013 Polity 240 Pages


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It is commonly assumed that we live in an age of unbridled individualism, but in this important new book Montserrat Guibernau argues that the need to belong to a group or community - from peer groups and local communities to ethnic groups and nations - is a pervasive and enduring feature of modern social life.

The power of belonging stems from the potential to generate an emotional attachment capable of fostering a shared identity, loyalty and solidarity among members of a given community. It is this strong emotional dimension that enables belonging to act as a trigger for political mobilization and, in extreme cases, to underpin collective violence.

Among the topics examined in this book are identity as a political instrument; emotions and political mobilization; the return of authoritarianism and the rise of the new radical right; symbols and the rituals of belonging; loyalty, the nation and nationalism. It includes case studies from Britain, Spain, Catalonia, Germany, the Middle East and the United States.

This wide-ranging and cutting-edge book will be of great interest to students and scholars in politics, sociology and the social sciences generally.

Acknowledgements viii

Introduction 1

Outline of the book 2

1 Identity as a Political Instrument 7

Conflicting identities 7

The role of boundaries 10

Traditional versus modern societies 15

The construction and meaning of identity 16

The consequences of globalization 19

Summary 24

2 Belonging by Choice 26

Belonging and emotion 26

The conditions of belonging 32

Collective identity and the power of symbols 35

Belonging to the nation 43

Collective identity and political mobilization 44

Summary 48

3 Freedom and Constraint 50

Immanuel Kant 51

Michel Foucault 55

Erich Fromm 58

The freedom to belong 61

Alienation, fear of irrelevance and group membership 64

Escaping into new dependencies: addiction 65

Summary 69

4 The New Radical Right and the Resurgence of Authoritarian Politics 71

The rise of authoritarianism 71

The new radical right versus traditional fascism 75

Who votes for the new radical right? 79

‘White resistance’ as a transnational movement 80

The rise of ethno-politics 83

On racism 84

The nation: conflicting views 86

From biological to cultural exclusion 88

Summary 90

5 The Rituals of Belonging 92

The power of symbols 92

The meaning of symbols 97

Ritual and power 98

Ritual and emotions 103

Rituals of ‘inclusion’ and ‘exclusion’ 105

Rites of belonging in modern society 108

Rites of passage 110

‘Exclusive’ and ‘inclusive’ groups and associations 112

Summary 116

6 Loyalty, Citizenship and the Nation 118

On loyalty 118

Three types of loyalty 120

Loyalty, the nation and nationalism 123

National loyalty in peacetime and wartime 128

Loyalty programmes in the USA 130

Scapegoating and dissent 134

Freedom versus conformity 135

‘Authoritarian’ versus ‘democratic’ loyalty 137

The great challenge: turning immigrants into Americans 140

Summary 142

7 Emotion and Political Mobilization 144

Emotion and social action 144

Emotion and the rational imperatives of market capitalism 147

‘Taming’ emotion and the construction of ‘healing spaces’ 153

Emotion and political mobilization 154

Summary 170

Conclusion 172

Notes 181

Bibliography 200

Index 211

“A well-written and wide-ranging overview of many important ideas about belonging.”
Journal of Social Policy

"A thought-provoking book on fundamentally important issues."

"A rich, sound and consistent book within the classical political science tradition."
Journal of Catalan Intellectual History

"In Belonging Professor Guibernau skilfully deconstructs the many differing elements that determine the individual’s identity. In a world where conflicting trends, tendencies and tensions compete to define us, it is a timely analysis of the increasing complexities influencing much of the contemporary human predicament. It will become a standard work on the subject."
Lord Smith of Clifton

"Montserrat Guibernau reformulates the concept of belonging through an in-depth exploration of mechanisms of solidarity and psychological connections between citizens and communities. The author takes us beyond debates on national identity and nationalism by deepening our understanding of loyalty, freedom and trust - three dimensions that have been neglected for too long by social scientists and political authorities - in divided polities. This book is theorerically rich and highly accessible."
Alain Gagnon, Université du Québec à Montréal

"How to define and interpret the relationship between the individual and community? Guibernau demonstrates possibilities of new understanding of this almost secular problem by introducing the newly defined term belonging in mutual tension with identification and nationalism. Theoretical reflections are connected with pressing political problems of our times. This approach is rich on inspiration and intellectual challenge for all social sciences."
Miroslav Hroch, Charles University, Prague

  • An original new book by one of the leading experts on nationalism and national identity
  • Argues that our need to belong, whether to a nation or a community, is a key feature of modern social life, one that runs against the view that modern societies are characterized by unbridled individualism
  • Guibernau examines issues such as the role of emotions in political life, the symbols and rituals of belonging and the rise of the radical right and extreme nationalist movements
  • Broadly comparative in character, the book draws on case studies from Britain, Europe, the Middle East and the United States