Feasibility and Stability in Normative Political Philosophy: The Case of Liberal Nationalism

  • Sune LægaardEmail author


Arguments from stability for liberal nationalism rely on considerations about conditions for the feasibility or stability of liberal political ideals and factual claims about the circumstances under which these conditions are fulfilled in order to argue for nationalist conclusions. Such reliance on factual claims has been criticised by among others G. A. Cohen in other contexts as ideological reifications of social reality. In order to assess whether arguments from stability within liberal nationalism, especially as formulated by David Miller, are vulnerable to a comparable critique, the rationale for their reliance on factual claims is discussed on the basis of a number of concerns in John Rawls’s political liberalism. The concern with stability in liberal nationalism differs from stability in Rawls’s work, mainly because of the stronger non-ideal or ‘realist’ focus of the former. In so far as the ‘realism’ of arguments from stability for liberal nationalism is recognized, they are not vulnerable to the reification charge. But if the arguments are construed as realist, this at the same time makes for other tensions within liberal nationalism.

Key words

feasibility liberal nationalism David Miller John Rawls realism reification stability 



Earlier versions of the paper were presented at the annual meeting of the Danish Philosophical Society at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, February 2003, the graduate conference in political theory at the University of Warwick, May 2004, a workshop in political philosophy at the University of Copenhagen, August 2004, and at the “Oxford–Scandinavia Ethics Summit,” St. Anne’s College, June 2005. Thanks to Paula Casal, Matthew Clayton, Roger Crisp, Klemens Kappel, Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, Andrew Mason, Søren Flinch Midtgaard, David Miller, Thomas Petersen, Daniel Star, Torbjörn Tännsjö and Andrew Williams, as well as two anonymous referees for this journal, for comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy section, Department for Media, Cognition and CommunicationUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen SDenmark

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