Democracy and nationalism

Catalan language flag

From 18:30 CET on Monday the 10th October, CCCB presented a discussion with Liah Greenfeld on the relationship between democracy and nationalism.

This discussion took place in Catalan and English (introduction in Catalan, discussion in English with simultaneous interpretation into Catalan) and a recording of the evening (starting with the discussion in English) can be found on this page.

Topic / Speaker / Recording / Location

About the discussion:

If there is one author who has reflected on the sense of nationalism in the age of globalisation, then it is Liah Greenfeld. Greenfeld, a professor of sociology at the University of Boston, talked about the relationship between the roots of nations, the governance of peoples and the functioning of democracy.

Born in the former USSR, Liah Greenfeld is the author of an essential trilogy in the field of nationalism studies. Her first book to gain international acclaim was Nationalism. Five Roads to Modernity, which contrasts the ethnic and collectivist nationalism of Russia and Israel with civil libertarian Anglo-Saxon nationalism, examining the various ways of constructing national identities. More controversial was The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth, in which Greenfeld argues that nationalism forms the basis for capitalism, as it has flourished in regions based upon competitive national units. Mind, Modernity, Madness: The Impact of Culture on Human Experience is her latest essay and sets out the relationship between mental wellbeing and a healthy sense of identity.

Instead of defining nationalism as an expression of modernity, Greenfeld argues that modernity must be defined precisely by the emergence of nationalism, which she says was born in England at around 1600 and came to occupy the place which had previously been reserved for the great religions. According to Greenfeld, nationalism was the dominant cultural system for three centuries; a generator of order and the bastion of secular modern consciousness. The sense of community of nations was, she says, the basis for their political structures. Yet, how does nationalism manifest itself in different countries? What influence has it had on the construction of states? How does it relate to contemporary democracies and is there is a role for nationalism in a globalised world?


Liah Greenfeld is a professor of sociology, political science and anthropology at Boston University. Known for her trilogy on the political, economic and psychological aspects of modern culture and nationalism, her most recent book, Pensar con libertad. Mi visión de Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Ben-David, Shils, Aron, Bell y Gellner (Thinking Freely: My View of Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Ben-David, Shils, Aron, Bell and Gellner), has recently been published in Spanish by Arpa Editores (2016).

This discussion was introduced and moderated by Agustí Colomines and Aurora Madaula


5 Carrer de Montalegre, 08001 Barcelona