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Stories of Peoplehood: The Politics and Morals of Political Memberships

Rogers M. Smith

"Rogers Smith's fresh and incisive intervention in debates about national solidarity exemplifies the combination of historical depth and theoretical acuity that have made Smith one of the most respected and influential political scientists of his generation."
-David A. Hollinger, University of California, Berkeley, author of Postethnic America

"In a book of formidable erudition and learning, Smith succeeds brilliantly in reviewing the vast literature on nationalism, reformulating it into a highly innovative and important thesis about peoplehood and demonstrating the analytical purchase of the derived 'ethically constitutive stories' as an approach to building better societies. Written in elegant prose, Smith's argument is illustrated with a dazzling array of examples, historical and contemporary, imagined and real. Many social scientists declaim the need for scholarship engaged with real political and social problems but few succeed as impressively as Rogers Smith does here. This is political science for our times, applying rigorous analysis to compelling moral challenges. I cannot recommend this book too strongly..."
-Desmond S. King, Oxford University

How is a sense of belonging to a political community created? Rogers Smith suggests that Stories of Peoplehood, narratives which include racial, religious, ethnic and cultural elements, serve to make membership of a political group part of an individuals' identity. He argues that competition over accounts of a nation's history and culture is thus an important part of political life. Examples from around the world since the 18th century are included. In particular, Smith traces the history of competing conceptions of national identity and citizenship in the United States from the revolution to the present day, showing the tension between liberal and egalitarian ideals, and traditions of racism and chauvinism. Combining theory with rich historical detail, Smith's book is an original and provocative account of how national identity is forged.

Rogers M. Smith is the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Smith centers his research on contitutional law, American political thought, and modern legal and political theory, with special interests in questions of citizenship, race, ethnicity and gender. His previous books include, Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U.S. History (Yale, 1997) and Liberalism and American Constitutional Law (Harvard, 1985).

 
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