Cultural nationalism and liberal values: An elusive synthesis

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In this article, we critically analyse the scholarly advocacy of nationalism recently offered by scholars such as Will Kymlicka, Neil MacCormick and David Miller. Their overall position is that basing nationality on culture rather than descent or religion would make nationalism compatible with liberalism. Synthesising nationalism and liberalism, according to this perspective, renders liberalism applicable in a world where nationalism is a reality, and addresses the flaws that communitarians have found in liberalism. Relying on earlier critiques of this position, we contend that the tacit character of national culture places political authority on a basis that is not universally visible and debatable. It accordingly conflicts with the strong constitutionalist element in liberalism. We argue, moreover, that the outlook offered by cultural nationalist authors seems to prize the determination of choice and deliberation by forces that cannot be reduced to verbal analysis. This new advocacy of nationalism thus suffers from some of the flaws that have made nationalism suspect to liberals since its inception.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-213
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Political Science Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 25 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2014.


  • Constitutional law
  • cultural nationalism
  • liberalism
  • political theory
  • tacit solidarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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