Liberal nationalist versus postnational social integration: on the nation's ethno-cultural particularity and ‘concreteness’


  • *I am grateful to Jeff Miley, Peter Rutland, and Justin Stein for comments on a previous draft, and to Seyla Benhabib, Pratap Mehta and Richard Tuck for comments on sections thereof.


Abstract. Liberal nationalists advance two claims: (1) an empirical claim that nationalism is functionally indispensable to the viability of liberal democracy (because it is necessary to social integration) and (2) a normative claim that some forms of nationalism are compatible with liberal democratic norms. The empirical claim is often supported, against postnationalists' view that social integration can bypass ethnicity and nationality, by pointing to the inevitable ethnic and cultural particularities of all political institutions. I argue that (1) the argument that ethno-cultural particularity demonstrates the need for nationalist integration depends on an implausible reification of national identity at the level of social theory, and that (2) this reification ironically serves to undermine liberal nationalists' normative claim.