Nationalism is often associated with an unthinking devotion to one’s country and traditions that is dangerous to outsiders. It is often associated with the sort of deeply emotional commitment to one’s nation – over and against all others – that leads to atrocities like those committed by the National Socialists in Germany in the 1930s. This has led figures like John Dunn to call nationalism “the starkest political shame of the twentieth century, the deepest, most intractable and yet most unanticipated blot on the political history of the world since the year 1900” (1979: 57). That nationalism is inherently dangerous seems obvious to many, for in the words of Michael Ignatieff, “if a nation gives people a reason to sacrifice themselves, it also gives them a reason to kill” (1993: 247). To many, then, the idea of a “liberal nationalism” seems an oxymoron (Levinson 1995). Nationalism is necessarily conservative and violent; there is nothing “liberal” about it.
But liberal nationalists...
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