Both liberalism and Marxism, as universalist belief systems, tend to handle the question of national and sub-national identity rather badly. Early liberalism, in proclaiming the ‘rights of man’, often ended up merely proclaiming the ‘rights of Frenchmen’ or other dominant nationalities. The result was a severe ‘romantic’ reaction. Marxism, moreover, in proclaiming the universality of ‘class struggle’, incurred the wrath of those whose struggles were not based on class and the incredulity of others as the working class rallied to the national banner during the First World War. In both cases, however, there has been a communitarian correction. From its inception, liberalism has been forced to incorporate a subversive communitarian critique and Marxism was soon influenced by its Austrian variety which was developed initially to deal with the multi-national Hapsburg Empire. Nowadays many communitarians believe that in both cases the correction has been inadequate. They are wary of liberals who talk about voluntary ‘integration’ rather than ‘assimilation’ on the grounds that the conditions necessary to make a voluntary commitment themselves demand a change in identity which destroys community.
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