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Forms Of Patriotism

In contemporary discussion there have been a number of renderings of patriotism. These can be distinguished between two forms—strong and moderate patriotisms. The stronger version argues that patriotic loyalty is the sole source of any meaningful moral claims. The content of patriotism is therefore always particular or local. In this context, the loyalties demanded from the patriot are simply to whatever values are regarded as dominant within a state or community. The key critical opposition to this perspective comes from universalist forms of argument, such as universal human rights claims. However, the larger bulk of recent writings on patriotism have appeared within the moderate category. The moderate category tries to mediate between universalism and localism.

Strong patriotism.

The strong variant of patriotism does not have as many proponents as the moderate form. One key example of this is strong communitarian patriotism. In his 1984 essay, "Is Patriotism a Virtue?," Alasdair MacIntyre sees patriotism as one of a class of "loyalty-exhibiting virtues." These virtues exhibit "action-generating regard" for particular persons or groups, and they are embedded in highly particular relationships. Morality is thus rooted within communal relations. For MacIntyre, morality is always learned from within a particular way of life. Goods are always the particular goods of communities. The morality of patriotism is therefore seen as perfectly natural to us as communal beings. MacIntyre's citizen is basically a very mild-mannered political animal; however, it is important, nonetheless, to realize that the strong particularist arguments he deploys have been utilized by much more worrying forms of politics. Racial exclusivism or political authoritarianism could well be justified within this framework. The dangers implicit within this perspective are those of extreme exclusion and the lurking possibility of communal jingoism. In the twentieth century, strong variants of patriotism have been associated (rightly or wrongly) with the militaristic or bellicose stance of German national socialism and Italian fascism in the 1930s.

Moderate patriotism.

The more recent moderate account of patriotism contains four subtle variants. First, for neoclassical republicans the distinctive character of patriotism is its focus on political liberty and civic virtue. Love of country is not love of a language or ethnicity, but rather of political liberty. This is not a love of a particular liberty, but a generic nonexclusive liberty as embedded in law. It is seen essentially as a universalizing force. A republic is seen to embody a powerful sense of local solidarity contained within a universal vessel of liberty under law. For its proponents, republican language is thus a viable alternative to current liberal foundationalism, ethnic nationalism, and strong patriotic arguments.

Second, for recent theorists such as Charles Taylor, moderate communitarian patriotism envisages a direct link between patriotism, republicanism (although some would categorize it as civic humanism), and communitarian motifs. Communitarians are clearly not of one mind here. The distinction between strong and moderate patriotism has direct parallels with the distinction, made within communitarian theory, between strong and moderate senses of community. Whereas MacIntyre sees a direct synonymity between nationalism and patriotism and adopts a narrower, stronger, and more exclusive sense of community, Charles Taylor seeks some separation between patriotism and nationalism and adopts a more differentiated view of community (incorporating multicultural diversity). Further, whereas, for Taylor, moderate patriotism is a matter of self-conscious citizen identification with a polity, strong patriotism swims in murkier waters, usually envisaging patriotism as a prepolitical, nonintentional attachment. Moderate communitarian patriotism, for Taylor, has no "prepolitical" reference. It rather implies more intentional attachment to a country and its laws. Patriotism is therefore always "politically defined," as in the American and French Revolutions. However, most moderate communitarian patriots admit that in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the vocabularies of nationalism and patriotism became confusingly intermeshed.

Third, Stephen Nathanson, in constructing his moderate liberal patriotism, has contrasted it with both the "extreme patriotism" of MacIntyre and communitarian arguments. Moderate liberal patriotism basically sees certain liberal universalist, essentially neo-Kantian, moral constraints acting upon patriotic goals. Too much patriotism, or too much liberal universalism, is to be avoided. Patriotism therefore requires a middle way. Thus, liberal universalism can and should legitimately restrain local solidarities and membership loyalties. Nathanson's position is at least a salutary reminder to republicans that liberal universalist language is not necessarily always antipatriotic.

The fourth, final strand is constitutional patriotism. This is associated with the writings of Jürgen Habermas on what he calls Verfassungspatriotismus. This is essentially, again, a neo-Kantian orientated loyalty to the universalistic principles of liberty and democracy embodied in a constitution. The emphasis is quite explicitly legalistic. Constitutional patriotism is an allegiance to a constitutional juristic tradition embodying certain fundamental rational values. The background to this is Habermas's own deep sensitivity to the events of World War II in Germany, particularly in relation to nationalism. In Habermas's case, constitutional patriotism is patriotic loyalty to the universalistic principles embodied in the German constitution. Citizens, in this scenario, are linked together by a formal common agreement on the shared values of the constitution. Habermas is insistent that constitutional patriotism has no connection with any prepolitical attachments, characteristic of nationalism or strong patriotism. This kind of general constitutional theme can be found, for some Habermasians, in the polity of the United States and, possibly, even the burgeoning European Union legal structures.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Overdamped to PeatPatriotism - Origins, Objects Of Patriotic Loyalty, Forms Of Patriotism, Nationalism And Patriotism, Bibliography