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The Incoherence of the Patriotic State: A Critique of ‘Constitutional Patriotism’


Habermas proposes a new solution to the problematic relation between republican values and democracy. He asserts that a new model of social cohesion is needed and he suggests that the sense of ‘‘community’’ in a democratic society should be founded exclusively on the acceptance and support of a system of constitutionally established rules which are the logical result of the historical evolution of constitution-making. He argues that an account of the constitutional process which led to the formation of the modern republican state should provide the criteria for a rational set of norms which will exclude nationalism from the political arena. In this article, I point out the democratic hazards and the internal incoherence of Habermas’s alternative to the national state and I argue that a theoretical substitute should consider the existence of national identities as one of the aspects of modern pluralistic society.

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Correspondence to Vito Breda.

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I should like to thank Zenon Bankowski, Bob Brecher, Emilios Christodoulidis, Alasdair Fay, Peter Fitzpatrick, Stefania Morandini, Rick Mohr and Res Publica’s anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments.

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Breda, V. The Incoherence of the Patriotic State: A Critique of ‘Constitutional Patriotism’. Res Publica 10, 247–265 (2004).

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  • constitutional law
  • democracy
  • European Union
  • Habermas
  • nationalism
  • patriotism