Essentially, in his book "Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism", Benedict
Anderson goes on to talk about the fact that prior to the rise of novels and newspapers, the “common” people were not truly able to think for themselves and really grasp the concept of life. Formerly, the “latin-reading clerisy” or intellectual elite were the only ones who could read. These clerisy therefore defined reality for the illiterate people who trusted in their interpretation. This continued through parish priests who were, in essence, the ones who communicated to God on behalf of their congregation. What the priest received from God was what the parishioners must accept as truth. This kept the communities close together because they depended on that face-to-face connection with the priest in order to define their concept of truth and their understanding of reality.
The impact of the novel’s imagined world was that the reader suddenly had the opportunity to “play God” as it were as they read. The reader of the novel is able to sit back and read a story from the perspective of multiple people and see what is going on in each of their minds, even though none of those characters are aware of each other’s thoughts. This new representation of thought and imagination opened up the idea that even though people do not personally know everyone else living in their community or even country, they are all interconnected by their personal ties, and their lives are all interwoven. In this way, the eye’s of society were opened through the novel not only to the consequences of each person’s life affecting another, but also of a new sense of nationalism, that each person in the country truly was connected, even though they may never meet face to face.
My understanding of nationalism through imagined community in the chapter came when he described the daily “consumption” of newspapers. You read the newspaper once in the morning and you have consumed it, knowing that tomorrow you will consume another one. But you also know that every morning as you read the newspaper, millions of other people are reading the same thing at the same time, even though you are not reading it in the same room as each other, nor do you even know who they are. This creates a sense of community through common action, although separated in distance. This community is not a community in the same way that a church was a community to those in the middle ages. Instead it is a community imagined by us as we relate to others in the world who are similar to us.
His explanation of juxtaposition throughout the chapter reminded me of what we call “6 degrees of separation”, where we claim that every person in the world is separated from everyone else by no more than six degrees. For instance, if you know me, and I know a cousin of mine in
- When people lost the idea that truth was only accessible to a certain group of people. For example the fact that only pastors could contact God or only clerisy could interpret philosophy. Novels and newspapers gave everyone the ability to interpret the world around them, to see the progression of time.
- When people moved away from believing that society revolved around the social elite, such as royalty and those born to be socially affluent. We see this shift in what we have studied this semester when people began to be less concerned with the outward appearance and more concerned with the inward state. Social mobility became a new possibility.
- When people were no longer bound by the concept of temporality and saw the past, present, and future laid out as a continuous stream, with cause and effect.
How does this affect
Ultimate, community was no longer defined by land and property connected, nor by the direct interaction of individuals centered around a common action. Instead, individuals were now given the opportunity to imagine a larger community by defining their associations through common thought. Individuals began to identify with others not based on a common interaction, but based on new ties.