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Nationalism And Patriotism

There are negative and positive arguments for both separating and fusing nationalism and patriotism. The positive statement for their fusion is contained in stronger views of communal identity. Both concepts embody powerful statements on the moral priority of the community. The positive view therefore involves the direct normative assimilation of nationalism and patriotism to communitarianism. This can be termed the "positive assimilation model." MacIntyre articulates this view, in which patriotism and nationalism become indistinguishable.

The negative reading of the "fusion" views patriotism and nationalism with equal contempt as blemishes on political and moral discourse. This can be termed the "mutually disagreeable model." There are a number of background points to this model. First, patriotism is seen as a verbal "sleight of hand" to avoid the pejorative connotations of nationalism; however, basically they are the same. The separate use of patriotism therefore has a face-saving character. Second, it might well be the case that patriotism did have an older individual meaning, but since the nineteenth century that older sense has been totally lost. Patriotism is exactly the same appalling entity as nationalism. Patriotism should therefore share all the opprobrium heaped upon nationalism. The "mutually disagreeable model" was well formulated by Leo Tolstoy at the beginning of the twentieth century. Tolstoy found both ideas repellent. Despite great efforts by states to foster patriotism, it is the same doctrine as nationalism. In the final analysis, both entail the renunciation of all human dignity, common sense, and moral conscience.

The opposite thesis to the above is the separation of nationalism from patriotism. This again has positive and negative dimensions. The positive reading of the separation is most forcibly rendered by recent republican writers. Thus, true patriotism must be kept completely distinct from nationalism. For such republicans (as Maurizio Viroli), the language of patriotism invokes a specific love of the political institutions and laws that embody a nondominatory concept of liberty. It is therefore about sustaining a particular way of life in a republic. Nationalism, on the other hand, is seen as a highly exclusive, prepolitical, culturally oriented attachment that is antagonistic to liberty. It is therefore deeply pernicious to confuse patriotism and nationalism, since patriotism is the theoretical and practical antidote to nationalism.

The negative reading of their separation suggests that patriotism and nationalism should be kept distinct on negative grounds. The concepts are historically different. Each has a distinct historical trajectory. Patriotism, for example, is an older terminology that has a much more intimate connection with both the state and religious language, whereas nationalism has closer connections to modernity and secularism. However, both terms are to be mistrusted for different reasons. Both are equally objectionable as narrow, exclusive, tribal, and deleterious to human dignity. In this context, the separation between patriotism and nationalism is valid, but this redeems neither doctrine.


Dietz, Mary. "Patriotism." In Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, edited by T. Ball, J. Farr, and R. L. Hanson. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Habermas, Jürgen. "Citizenship and National Identity: Some Reflections on the Future of Europe." Praxis International 12 (1992): 1–19.

Ingram, Attracta. "Constitutional Patriotism." Philosophy and Social Criticism 22 (1996): 1–18.

MacIntyre, Alasdair. Is Patriotism a Virtue? Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1984.

Nathanson, Stephen. Patriotism, Morality, and Peace. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1993.

Nussbaum, Martha Craven. For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism. Edited by Joshua Cohen. Boston: Beacon, 1996.

Primoratz, Igor, ed. Patriotism. New York: Humanity Books, 2002.

Taylor, Charles. "Nationalism and Modernity." In The Morality of Nationalism, edited by Robert McKim and Jeff McMahan, 31–55. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Tolstoy, L. N. "Christianity and Patriotism." In his The Kingdom of God and Peace: Essays. Translated by Aylmer Maude. London: Oxford University Press, 1935.

Vincent, Andrew. Nationalism and Particularity. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Viroli, Maurizio. For Love of Country. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995.

Andrew Vincent

Additional topics

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