In exploring the role of nationalism in this century, Ernest Gellner considers first the ideas of the main modern thinkers on the subject, from Marx, List, Malonowski and Carr, to Masaryk, Heidegger, Patocka, Hroch, Havel and Said. He examines the origins, subjects and context of their writings, their interactions with culture and politics, and their influence - both on theory and on events. The range is wide, covering Eastern, Western and Islamic societies, and includes extensive discussions of the related themes of civil society, theocracy, communism, imperialism, capitalism and liberalism. Professor Gellner is concerned here not only to understand, but to criticize. He confronts several notions that fuel and/or attempt to explain contemporary nationalism - among them post-colonialism. On the one hand, he aims to expose their incoherence and irresponsibility; on the other, he places them alongside ideas of real currency. Nor does he evade the controversy surrounding the nature of judgement itself: the reader will also find here discussions of relativism, pluralism, objectivity and the possibility of universal values.