From the comments by the excellent and apparently new commenter Daniel:
I think I see the reason for our disagreement, Mr. Jaipal.
Lloyd Cox in “nation-state and nationalism” (The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, 2007, Volume VII) discussed five approaches to the nature of “nations.”
The first or “objectivist” view conceptualizes the nation in terms of essential features, like a common language, shared culture, contiguous territory, etc.
The second approach argues that nations can only be conceived with reference to people’s subjective states, exemplified by Hugh Seton-Watson’s statement that a nation exists “when a significant number of people in a community consider themselves to form a nation, or behave as if they formed one.”
The third approach sees nations as invented categories rather than real collectivities (Ernst Gellner argued that nations are invented by nationalism, instead of being the source of nationalism.)
The fourth approach views nations not as fictional entities, but as “imagined communities” in the minds of the people.
The fifth and most recent approach is to conceive of nations as “symbolic frames” or “discursive formations” defined by the claims made in evoking and promoting nations.
The so-called primordialist and perennialist views of the nation (Athena S. Leoussi, “Nationalism,” The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, 2007, Volume VII) fall under the first approach.
The belief that the Indian nation has existed for thousands of years because it has a millennia-old cultural heritage (including Vedic literature and Sanskrit language, among other elements) is a perennialist view, and since you consider the perennialist view to be “correct,” I assume that you subscribe to such a view, or at least do not oppose it.
I used to have a similar perennialist view of nations, until I encountered the ideas of Benedict Anderson. I now favor the second, third, and fourth approaches to the concept of nation, but most especially the fourth.
You cited the example of China. China is indeed comparable to India. China also has a long history, and the Chinese have also been keenly aware of their culture and of “barbarians” who did not share their culture. However, this sentiment of Chinese prior to the 19th century has been termed “culturalism” instead of nationalism (John K. Fairbank, Edwin O. Reischauer, and Albert M. Craig, East Asia: Tradition & Transformation, 1978).
Although China and India have gone through periods of unity and disunity, and both have had rulers who periodically reunited their respective countries, this does not indicate the presence of nationalism, since when we look at “the big picture” as you would say, the people (meaning the masses in general) were not lamenting their “national disunity” or clamoring for “reunification,” and even the “unifiers” undertook their military campaigns not to rebuild the “nation,” but to establish their personal empires.
In China, for example, the scholar class lamented the chaos and disorder and the incessant wars during times of disunity, but not the “disunity of the nation.” Such sentiments would only surface in the 19th century, and would become widespread only in the 20th century.
The case of India is similar. The Marathas for example had to fight many battles in the long process of consolidating their rule over much of India, and the people in the territories of their opponents certainly did not just surrender their lands to the Marathas because they wanted to be part of a “united Indian nation.”
I cannot remember now who it was who said that China and India are better described as “civilization states” rather than nation-states.
You also cited the Poles and the Germans. The Poles may have had a “broad sense” that they were Poles, and it may have been the same for the Germans, but ethnic or ethnocultural identity should not be confused with nationalism.
I have only encountered the term “culturalism” applied to China, but I wonder if it can equally apply to the peoples of India, Poland, Germany, and other ethnic groups before the advent of nationalism.
This is an excellent comment by Daniel, and I agree with it. This just shows what complete and utter idiots most modern nationalists really are, especially the primordialist variety, which is what just about all nationalists are anyway, at least outside of Europe, where the entire concept of nationalism has fallen away after the nationalistic disasters of the World Wars, especially the last ones.
The primordialist holds that the nation, as we know it today, has always existed in the minds of the people who are living there today. What complete, utter, total and puerile nonsense that is!
As Daniel immaculately shows, before 1900 and especially before 1800, the vast majority of the humans living in what are now known as China and India gave precisely fuck all about the concepts of “China” and “India.”
What exactly were they nationalistic about? Perhaps about their particular regions, tribes, linguistic or cultural communities or even caste communities.
When India and China became disunited, which was often, precisely no one in the disunited communities clamored for the reunification of the nation. They were perfectly happy to be under the jurisdiction of this or that warlord or princely state.
Variously power hungry sociopaths periodically tried to wage wars of reunification which were actually just attempts by sociopaths to increase their power and money by conquering enemy regions. The regions being attacked by these phony “reunifiers” had no interest in being reunified with anything, and the people waging the reunifying wars were seen as enemies attacking the homeland.
I differ with Daniel in that I believe in the 3rd explanation of nationalism. What is modern nationalism? It’s no primordial entity that has forever beaten in the hearts of all men, unless we conflate tribalism with nationalism.
Instead it’s a completely artificial construct that was invented by modern nationalists in the last 200 years and then implanted into people’s minds as something as real to them as their very own blood and soil.
The modern Indian or Chinese feels that the nation is as much a part of him as his appendages. He’d sooner hack off a limb that give up Tibet or Kashmir or whatever bullshit territory the fascist Chinese and Indian states lay false claim to.
Why does he feel this way? Because he has been trained to; trained like a dog. You can train a dog to do just about any idiotic thing you want it to do, and it seems that humans are not much different when you get down to brass tacks.
Modern nationalists, especially the ethnic nationalists, the most fake and dishonest of them all, are peddling a lie. They draw some lines on a map, tell you it’s as real to you as your arm or your leg, and like a dipshit, you believe it.
As Leftists, we believe that the modern nationalistic concept has caused untold pain, suffering and death. It also causes a shocking amount of sheer stupidity, and the injection of nationalism into the veins of a good man will turn him into a vicious, lying and murdering scoundrel of the worst sort in no time.