Primordialism and Ethnic Conflict: A brief review of Walker Connor’s “Beyond Reason: The Nature of the Ethnonational Bond”

The reading titled “Beyond Reason: The Nature of the Ethnonational Bond”, written by Walker Connor, will provide the contextual background for this think-piece exercise. The central argument of the author is that ethno-national bond is much stronger than patriotic bond. The basis for the formation of ethno-national bonds are never fully based on fact and evidence, but rather on some vague but convincing feeling of kinship within a group of people. In other words, the concept of ethno-nationality appeals to the notion of common genetic inheritance alongside other tangible aspects such as language, culture, religion, etc.

The author presents a wide range of examples to support the aforementioned thesis. By perusing relevant scholarship, the author does make a persuasive case for the superiority of ethno-national bonds over patriotic bonds. The notion of common ethnicity has played a significant role throughout the history of human civilization, whereas patriotism as is presently understood is a relatively new phenomenon – only with the emergence of modern democratic institutions and the establishment of nation-states did patriotism gain currency in political discourse.

While the reading is not didactic, the author does suggest some key lessons. For example, W. Connor gives examples from the era of fascism during the 1930s to support his claim that ethno-national feeling is stronger in nature than patriotism. If one were to classify all such examples given by the author, it becomes evident that the concept of ethno-nationalism has more often than not been abused by astute political leaders to gain power. If one were to evaluate ethno-nationality’s role in human history, it would appear that it has generally been a destructive force. While admitting that patriotism is no more benign than ethno-nationalism, I came away with the impression that these vague conceptions are anachronistic to the realities of contemporary world polity.

Work Cited:

Connor W. “Beyond Reason: The Nature of the Ethnonational Bond” in Connor (ed.) Ethnonationalism, Princeton University Press, 1994.