Benedict Anderson

American political scientist (1936-2015)

Benedict Richard O'Gorman Anderson (August 26, 1936 – December 13, 2015) was an American historian, political scientist, polyglot, and the Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor Emeritus of International Studies, Government & Asian Studies at Cornell University, and is best known for his 1983 book Imagined Communities, which explored the origins of nationalism.


  • It is important to recognise that comparison is not a method or even an academic technique; rather, it is a discursive strategy. There are a few important points to bear in mind when one wants to make a comparison. First of all, one has to decide, in any given work, whether one is mainly after similarities or differences. It is very difficult, for example, to say, let alone prove, that Japan and China or Korea are basically similar or basically different. Either case could be made, depending on one’s angle of vision, one’s framework, and the conclusions towards which one intends to move. (In the jingoist years on the eve of the First World War, when Germans and Frenchmen were encouraged to hate each other, the great Austro-Marxist theoretician Otto Bauer enjoyed baiting both sides by saying that contemporary Parisians and Berliners had far more in common than either had with their respective medieval ancestors.) Here I have tried, as perhaps offering a useful example, to show how the comparative works I wrote between the early 1970s and the 2000s reflected, in their real difference, changing perspectives, framings and (political) intentions.

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