There is a stock argument on whether Iraq is an “artificial” creation of colonial power or a “real” entity with historical and psychological depth and identity. It is a futile question because all nation–states, in one form or another, are historical creations. The processes of their creation are diverse and lead to different outcomes in the degree of coherence and permanence. Our thinking on the subject has been highly influenced by the seminal concepts advanced by Benedict Anderson on the “imagining” of the nation, which is, in turn, underlined by the socioeconomic processes of modernity. The state, often superimposed from above, is a principal actor in this process. Educational systems, tied to qualifications and employment, for instance, are powerful means of enforcing a unified national language and, in turn, the medium of literacy, the press and media, and the means of imagining the nation. The state makes the nation, more or less successfully. The intelligentsia are the cadres of these processes. They and the state class, with which they overlap, are subject to the vagaries of political conflicts and struggles and, in the case of Middle Eastern states, to the repression and violence of the state and militant sectors of the population. In the case of Iraq these troublesome manifestations are particularly evident. The books under review are concerned with these processes and in particular with the role of the ideological cadres and institutions in their unfolding.
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