Norwegian National Identity and the Question of European Integration
Chapter 2: Theoretical Background
1. Introduction Nations have been one of the defining features of the recent history, and a major actor of social and political life for almost two centuries. They form the founda- tion of our social consciousness, the cognitive framework of our perception of reality. They play such a crucial role in our lives that large numbers of people are prepared to make great personal sacrifices –up to and including life itself- in the struggles needed to achieve or defend the political sovereignty of their na- tion. What’s more, contemporary trends in world politics demonstrate that the significance of nations and nationalism has not been withered away; rather, it is very likely that they will continue to be relevant for us in the foreseeable future. In order to understand why national identities shape our lives so crucially, sources and functions of national identities need to be clarified. The aim of this chapter is to explain, discuss, and compare the theories on nations, national identities, and national identity dynamic. This discussion is rel- evant in order to later explain how Norwegian national identity is formed and how it functioned in the case of EU-membership debates. A clear understanding of the formation and functioning of the national identity is crucial for the analysis of the national identity dynamic in the Norwegian context in the following chapters. 2. Theories of Nationalism Nation is defined by Smith as ‘a named human population sharing an historic ter- ritory, common myths and historical memories, a mass, public...
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