Sociology 304
Winter 1999

Definitions of Nation, Ethnic Group, and Visible Minority


Bauer. ... the totality of people who are united by a common fate so that they possess a common (national) character. The common fate is ... primarily a common history; the common national character involves almost necessarily a uniformity of language.

Otto Bauer, Austrian socialist, 1907. From Horace B. Davis, Nationalism and Socialism: Marxist and Labor Theories of Nationalism to 1917, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1967, p. 150.

Stalin. A nation is an historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological makeup manifested in a community of culture.

Quote from J. V. Stalin, 1913. From Horace B. Davis, Nationalism and Socialism: Marxist and Labor Theories of Nationalism to 1917, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1967, p. 163.

Nationality ... is not a racial or tribal phenomenon. It has five essential features: there must be a stable, continuing community, a common language, a distinct territory, economic cohesion, and a collective character. It assumes positive political form as a nation under definite historical conditions, belonging to a specific epoch, that of the rise of capitalism and the struggles of the rising bourgeosie under feudalism.

Based on J. V. Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, 1913. From Tom Bottomore, ed., A Dictionary of Marxist Thought, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1983, p. 344.

Kymlicka. ... 'nation' means a historical community, more or less institutionally complete, occupying a given territory or homeland, sharing a distinct language and culture (p. 11).

Anderson. ... it is an imagined political community - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. ... all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined. Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined.

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflection on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London, Verso, 1991, p. 6.

Ethnic Group

Weber. The belief in group affinity, regardless of whether it has any objective foundation, can have important consequences especially for the formation of a political community. We shall call "ethnic groups" those human groups that entertain a subjective belief in their common descent because of similarities of physical type or of custom or both, or because of the memories of colonization and migration; this belief must be important for the propagation of group formation; conversely, it does not matter whether or not an objective blood relationship exists. ... Ethnic membership does not constitute a group; it only facilitates group formation of any kind, particularly in the political sphere. On the other hand, it is primarily the political community, no matter how artificially organized, that inspires the belief in common ethnicity.

From Max Weber, "Ethnic Groups," Economy and Society, reprinted in Leo Driedger, ed., Ethnic Canada: Identities and Inequalities, Toronto, Copp Clark Pitman Ltd., 1987, p. 18. This essay also contains the following quote:

The loyalty of the French Canadians toward the English polity is today determined above all by the deep antipathy against the economic and social structure, and the way of life, of the neighbouring United States; hence membership in the Dominion of Canada appears as a guarantee of their own traditions (p. 26).

Gordon. ... a group of individuals with a shared sense of peoplehood based on presumed shared sociocultural experience and/or similar physical characteristics. This includes national, linguistic, religious, and racial groups.

Based on Milton M. Gordon, Assimilation in American Life, 1964, from Leo Driedger, The Ethnic Factor: Identity in Diversity, Toronto, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1989, p. 136.

Dashefsky. Group identification is "a generalized attitude involving a personal attachment to a group and a positive orientation toward being a member of a group. Therefore, ethnic identification takes place when the group in question is one with whom the individual believes he has a common ancestry based on shared individual characteristics and/or shared sociocultural experiences."

Arnold Dashefsky, Ethnic Identity in Society, 1975, from Leo Driedger, The Ethnic Factor: Identity in Diversity, Toronto, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1989, pp. 136 - 137.

Driedger. In our discussion of ethnic identification we shall touch on six factors: ecological territory, ethnic culture, ethnic institutions, historical symbols, ideology, and charismatic leadership.

Leo Driedger, The Ethnic Factor: Identity in Diversity, Toronto, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1989, p. 143.

Li. Another approach to race and ethnicity is to examine them as consequences of unequal relationships, produced and maintained by differential power between a dominant and a subordinate group. Accoring to this view, racial and ethnic groups are constructed on the basis of social relationships and are not based on genetic factors or primordial features. The focus is on the institutional framework within which groups are defined as racial or ethnic and how social interactions are organized accordingly.

Peter S. Li, Ethnic Inequality in a Class Society, Toronto, Thompson Educational Publishing, 1988, p. 23.

Visible Minority. Persons who are non-white in colour or non-Caucasian in race, other than Aboriginal people. These minorities are divided into ten groups: Blacks, Chinese, Filipino, other Pacific Islanders, Indo-Pakistani, Japanese, Korean, Southeast Asians, West Asians and Arabs, and Latin Americans.

From Anthony Synnott and David Howes, "Canada's Visible Minorities: Identity and Representation," in Vered Amit-Talai and Caroline Knowles, Re-Situating Identities: The Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture, Peterborough, Broadview Press, 1996, p. 137.

Definitions originally prepared for class on March 4, 1997.

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