The Autonomy Argument for Liberal Nationalism



Abstract. The article examines a recent normative argument for ‘liberal nationalism’ that can be found in the work of a range of influential contemporary writers. That argument seeks to defend the view that the state has a responsibility to preserve and promote national cultures. It does so by arguing that the liberal ideal of an autonomous individual chooser presupposes a rich and healthy national culture which provides, and gives meaning to, the options which an individual faces. The claim of the present article is that the liberal nationalist argument is much less successful than these writers would like to think. Although the argument may be valid in certain restricted contexts, the article shows that it runs into severe difficulties for a wide range of central cases that nationalists have traditionally been concerned with.