Class, Nation and Identity

Class, Nation and Identity : The Anthropology of Political Movements

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Political movements across the world have such diverse characteristics and aims that it is difficult to examine them as a collective group. Movements that are class-based are usually portrayed as formed by economic categories of people driven by material interests. By contrast the study of ethnic or nationalist movements has concentrated on the complexities of identity formation within culturally defined groups driven by strong passions.

Jeff Pratt argues for the need to set up a new analytical framework that extends the study of identity formation, and the ethnographic analysis of economic and social processes, to all political movements. Setting up a new analytical framework, he argues that political processes involve two linked components: a 'discourse' (an identity narrative which positions us within social history) and a 'movement' (the process of organisation whereby local social divisions are transformed by their incorporation into a wider movement).

He illustrates his arguments with a vivid mix of case studies from across the last century including Basque nationalism, Andalusian anarchism, Italian communism, the break-up of Yugoslavia, to the 'newer' political movements in Europe, in French Occitania and the Italian Lega Nord.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 222 pages
  • 135 x 215 x 20.32mm | 433.18g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • references, index
  • 0745316727
  • 9780745316727

Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Northern Italy: `A World to Win'

3. Andalusia: everyone or no one

4. Tuscany: peasants into comrades

5. A short history of the future

6. The Basque country: making patriots

7. Yugoslavia: making war

8. Occitania and Lombardy: populism red and white

9. Conclusion


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Review quote

"This book proposes a welcome return to class analysis in terms of contemporary theories of ethnic identity and nation. Pratt (Univ. of Sussex) uses a series of cases from southern Europe (Basque nationalism, Andalusian anarchism, Italian communism, the Yugoslavia breakup, French Occitania, and the Italian Lega Nord) to note the tensions between backward-looking ethno-nationalist struggles and the forward-looking momentum of class-based movements. Resisting analytical universals of class and ethnicity, he wisely notes the historically contingent character of state, capital, and society relations in affecting identity narratives. Pratt proposes an ambitious plan of marrying discourse and movement--the former comprising the meaning-making aspect of identity, the latter the social organizing effect of political movements. This contrast is combined with two proposed axes in identity narratives: horizontal temporality focused on continuity, and vertical hierarchy producing the other. Although the recent neglect of class-based political movements needs addressing, Pratt's highly selective use of references and secondary sources undercuts the analysis. He confesses his attempt to streamline the argument in a field with many comprehensive overviews. Still, the lack of ethnographic details and scholarly context undercuts the theory sketched, particularly the emphasis on narrative and class. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above." -- J. Newberry, University of Lethbridge in CHOICE
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About Peter Luetchford

Jeff Pratt is Senior Research Fellow in Anthropology at the University of Sussex. He is the author of Class, Nation and Identity (Pluto, 2003) and Food for Change (Pluto, 2013).
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