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Giuseppe Mazzini and the democratic logic of nationalism



ABSTRACT. This article brings the thought of Giuseppe Mazzini back into the field of nationalism studies, from which it has been largely missing for a half century. It suggests the following: that Mazzini is much more modern and secular than he is usually portrayed; and that his commitment to liberal policies while rejecting liberal principles suggests that the distinction between civic and ethnic nationalism has been misconceived. Nationalism, to Mazzini, was not an end in itself but a means to an end – government of, by and for the people. The demand for such a government was manifested in three popular demands in nineteenth-century Europe: in the West as democracy, in the East as national sovereignty (the precondition for democracy) and in both East and West as social democracy. Thus nationalism may be instrumental rather than an end in itself, and it may be attributable not to ethnic groups' natural striving for autonomy but to the pursuit of democracy.