Can Economics Explain Nationalism?

32 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2006

See all articles by Ugo Pagano

Ugo Pagano

University of Siena - Department of Economics

Date Written: 1992


In order to answer this question we start by considering the role of Nations in allowing that division of labour that is associated with market economies. Even if rent-seeking activities may cause inefficient institutional equilibria, we argue that nationalism may be included among the possible causes of the accumulation of wealth. We also consider the limits of the economic explanations of nationalism and some possible extensions of the economic approach that may help to provide some rationale for nationalistic activities that seem to defy any rational choice explanation. Finally, we examine whether an evolutionary approach is more appropriate than a rational choice approach in explaining nationalism: the meme of nationalism, instead of the nationalists, may be maximising its objective function.

Keywords: Political Economy, Nationalism, Gellner, Rationality, Endogenous Preferences

JEL Classification: A10, Z10

Suggested Citation

Pagano, Ugo, Can Economics Explain Nationalism? (1992). Available at SSRN: or

Ugo Pagano (Contact Author)

University of Siena - Department of Economics ( email )

Piazza S. Francesco, 7
I-53100 Siena
+39 057 7232614 (Phone)
+39 057 7232661 (Fax)

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