Sinews of the Nation

Sinews of the Nation

Fundraising may not seem like an obvious lens through which to examine the process of nation building. Money is typically understood as a neutral resource, as something that enables movements to secure certain goods or services. In a national context, scholars often assume that people give money when they identify with the nation and that, fundraising therefore, is secondary to and dependent on prior identification. But, as Viviana Zelizer points out, money can also be understood in a different way, as a medium through which social ties are negotiated, stitched together or dismantled (1994). From this perspective, fundraising mechanisms are not simply ways of maximizing resources, but also organizational tools that, when successful, bind and even create groups. In this book, I show that fundraising mechanisms – ranging from complex transnational gift-giving systems to sophisticated national bonds – are organizational tools that can be used to bind dispersed groups to the nation.

Sinews of the Nation treats nation-building as a practical organizational accomplishment and examines how the Irish republicans and the Zionist movement secured financial support in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. Comparing the Irish and Jewish experiences, whose trajectories of homeland-diaspora relations were very different, provides a unique perspective for examining how national movements use economic transactions to attach disparate groups to the national project.

By closely examining the organizational dynamics and technical details of national fundraising at a level usually below the scrutiny of previous research, Sinews of the Nation challenges a truism: research on nationalism typically assumes that members imagine their nation as a unified whole.Internal heterogeneity, from this perspective, is simply an obstacle that national movements must overcome. In contrast, this book shows that that the production of nations does not rely only on the creation of real or perceived homogeneity. Rather, the operation of concrete organizational mechanisms—in this case, mechanisms of fundraising—allows groups to maintain their difference and develop national attachments. My focus on concrete mechanisms that secure cooperation within the nation complements existing research on the practices involved in the representation of the nation. The establishment of cooperation between different groups makes it easier for potential members to imagine themselves as belonging to the same nation.


“Dan Lainer-Vos brings insight and new knowledge to one of the important ways nationalism and nation-building remain vital amid the global connections of today’s world. Transnational fundraising supports national projects and sustains national ties. The Zionist and Irish examples are rich and informative in themselves and also the basis for advancing knowledge of broad significance.”
Craig Calhoun, London School of Economics and Political Science

“A unique take on the voluminous literature on nationalism and national identity. Lainer-Vos locates nation-building in diaspora communities that send money home to their national states that are engaged in highly contentious nationalist struggles. The idea of looking at the strength of national identity in the homeland and the diaspora through the lens of contributions to bond drives is original and compelling. Lainer-Vos unites economic sociology and political sociology in a novel way. The choice of the two cases, Ireland and Israel, is apt. Sinews of the Nation, impeccably researched and well written, injects new life into a well trodden field.”
Mabel Berezin, Cornell University

“How are nations built? Drawing from Irish and Zionist experiences, Dan Lainer-Vos’ Sinews of the Nation demonstrates the crucial role of monetary transactions in forging national movements. With style, compelling arguments, and fascinating evidence, Lainer-Vos sets up a novel research agenda. A welcome contribution to political and economic sociology.”
Viviana A. Zelizer, Princeton University