|Anderson, Benedict (b. 1936)|
British-American political scientist and Indonesianist, brother of the historian Perry Anderson. Born in China, educated in the USA and England, Anderson was doing research in Indonesia during the 1965 coup. After publishing a critical study of the coup and its aftermath, he was expelled from Indonesia for life. After some years in Thailand, he returned to the United States, where he today holds a professorship at Cornell University. Anderson's most famous book, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983) is a historical study of European nationalism, which also incorporates non-European material (it includes e.g. part of the material from his earlier study of Indonesia; in a later edition, the non-European material has been expanded substantially and questions of creolization and multinational society are addressed). In this book, Anderson argues that nations are "imagined communities", in which people who will never meet each other face to face, are brought to think of each other as belonging to the same "family". This is made possible by modern media - first the printing press, later electronic media - which spread knowledge of the same, multivalent symbols throughout the nation, thus creating the basis for an emotional communion (Anderson's famous phrase "print capitalism" is derived from his analysis of the role of books and newspapers in the initial rise of capitalist nations). According to Anderson, the national community supplants earlier forms of large-scale community based on royal, dynastic rights, religion and kinship. Nationalism is thus at its base more similar to religion than to the rationalist institutions of democracy and bureaucracy, which legitimize it.
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An overview of Anderson's work and life may be found