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The acid test? Competing theses on the nationality – democracy nexus and the case of Switzerland


  • We are grateful to the Swiss National Science Foundation for providing financial assistance for Nenad Stojanović to visit the Centre for Federal Studies at the University of Kent. We would also like to thank Clive Church, Michael Burgess, Marc Helbling, Hugh Miall, Edward Morgan-Jones and the journal referees for their very helpful comments on previous drafts of this article.


ABSTRACT. This article deals with the connection between nationality and democracy and explores the role Switzerland plays in the scholarly debate on this question. It identifies three main theses – liberal-nationalist, liberal-multinationalist and liberal-postnationalist – and shows that each of them uses the Swiss case to claim empirical support. It then analyses the connections between nationality and democracy in Switzerland and demonstrates that the country is neither multinational nor postnational, but is best characterised as a mononational state. These findings expose the fallacy of using Switzerland to claim support for either the multinational or the postnational thesis and call for a reconsideration of them. Additionally, they show that “civic nationalism” and “civic republicanism” can be conflated and that a predominantly civic nation is viable and sustainable and is not necessarily an ethnic nation in disguise. The Swiss case thus provides qualified empirical support for the liberal-nationalist thesis.