Liah Greenfeld

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Liah Greenfeld (born 1954 in Vladivostok, USSR [1][2]) is University Professor and Professor of Sociology, Political Science and Anthropology at Boston University. She is also Distinguished Adjunct Professor at Lingnan University, Hong Kong.

Greenfeld has published on the topics of art, economics, history, language, literature, philosophy, politics, religion and science. Her work investigates the cultures of England/Britain, France, Germany, Israel, China, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia/Soviet Union, and the United States.

Greenfeld received her doctoral degree from the department of sociology and anthropology of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1982. That fall she assumed her first teaching position in the United States as a post-doctoral instructor at the University of Chicago. She held positions of Assistant and the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Social Sciences at Harvard between 1985 and 1994, and in 1994 joined Boston University as a University Professor and Professor of Political Science and Sociology. At various periods, she has also held visiting positions at RPI, MIT, and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. Greenfeld has been a recipient of the UAB Ireland Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award, fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C., the Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem, Israel, and grants from Mellon, Olin, Earhart, The National Council for Soviet & East European Research, and The German Marshall Fund of the United States.

In 2002, she received the Kagan Prize of the Historical Society for the best book in European History (for The Spirit of Capitalism) and in 2004 was chosen to deliver the Gellner lecture at the London School of Economics. Since she delivered the Gellner lecture, "Nationalism and the Mind," her work has increasingly concentrated on the mind in the context of culture, resulting in Mind, Modernity, Madness: The Impact of Culture on Human Experience (Harvard University Press, 2013), the third volume in her trilogy on the political, economic, and psychological aspects of modern culture.


In Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Harvard University Press, 1992), Greenfeld argued that nationalism was invented in England by 1600. According to Greenfeld, England was “the first nation in the world".[3]

According to Margaret Canovan, Greenfeld argues that "Nationhood produced most of the features that we know as modernity. It did so by generating a society in which the traditional barriers between nobles and commoners were transcended in common membership of a people, and that 'people' acquired enough solidarity to replace a king as the bearer of sovereignty."[4] Greenfeld writes that “Democracy was born with the sense of nationality. The two are inherently linked and neither can be fully understood apart from this connection. Nationalism was the form in which democracy appeared in the world, contained in the idea of the nation as a butterfly in a cocoon.”[5]

In The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth (Harvard University Press, 2001), she argued that nationalism committed masses of people to an endless race for national prestige and thus brought into being the phenomenon of economic competitiveness.


  • Center: Ideas and Institutions. ed. with Michel Martin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1988. ISBN 0-226-30686-0. 
  • Different Worlds: A Sociological Study of Taste, Choice and Success in Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1989. ISBN 0-521-36064-1. 
  • Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. 1992. ISBN 0-674-60318-4. 
  • The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 2001. ISBN 0-674-00614-3. 
  • Nationalism and the Mind: Essays on Modern Culture. Oxford: Oneworld. 2006. ISBN 1-85168-459-X. 
  • The Ideals of Joseph Ben-David: The Scientist’s Role and Centers of Learning Revisited (ed.). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. 2012. ISBN 141284293X. 
  • Mind, Modernity, Madness: The Impact of Culture on Human Experience. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 2013. ISBN 0674072766. 
  • Globalization of Nationalism: The Motive-Force Behind Twenty-First Century Politics (ed.) Hythe Quay, Colchester: European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) Press. 2016. ISBN 978-1-785-522-64-2
  • Advanced Introduction to Nationalism. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 2016. ISBN 978-1-78536-256-9


  1. ^ Date information sourced from Library of Congress Authorities data, via corresponding WorldCat Identities linked authority file (LAF) .
  2. ^ Presentation at Boston University web site,
  3. ^ Steven Guilbert, The Making of English National Identity,
  4. ^ Canovan, 1996, p. 62.
  5. ^ Greenfeld, 1992, p. 10.

Further reading[edit]

  • Canovan, Margaret (1996). Nationhood and Political Theory. Cheltenham. Edward Elgar.
  • Greenfeld, Liah (1992). Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity. Cambridge. Harvard University Press.