Chapter 2 in “Theorizing Nationalism” ed. by Ronald Beiner
Possibility of a liberal nationalism;
1- It is wrong to assume that liberalism and nationalism are “isms” on the same plane.
2- It is wrong to identify nationalism with its most extreme racist and fascist manifestations.
A liberal, who is concerned with justice within the state, should be also concerned with national community.
A liberal theory of nationalism would try to indicate the limits of nationalist actions by political actors and the institutions, which distribute the fundamental rights and duties (p. 59). Since there is many ways in which major social and political institutions can be involved in nationalist projects or manipulated by nationalist movements, a liberal theory of nationalism is needed that is to focus on (a) what kinds of national identities, values, shared memories, and the like can legitimately be forged by such institutions, (b) what political and institutional methods are permissible, and (c) how such decisions should be debated and decided in a democratic society.
Challenge 1- The range of possible arrangements for institutionalizing certain kind of minority rights and differentiated citizenship (special representation rights in central institutions, federal and consociational arrangements, and multicultural rights for immigrants.)
The main academic debates about these issues have not revolved around issues of nationalism or the evaluation of nationalism. Rather the question has been whether it would be possible for minorities demanding group rights to articulate and justify their demands without straying from basic liberal principles of equality and individual autonomy. Yet, there is a need for considering the question of politics of minority rights and differentiated citizenship, and how minority rights should be conducted in the public sphere.
Challenge 2- To what extent do the leaders of minority groups remain “good” liberals while talking like nationalists? When is it legitimate, from a liberal point of view, to employ a nationalistic discourse with the explicit aim of nurturing and shaping a national identity, or mobilizing a population on the basis of that identity?
The question concerning public discourse has not been a major preoccupation of liberal theorists. Freedom of speech is not an adequate concept to deal with nationalist discourse—a parallel argument to the question of the role of religious discourse can legitimately play in liberal political debates in a pluralistic society.
It is permissible for liberals to speak like nationalists in some cases such as to mobilize a minority to fight for its legitimate rights, to rally a larger nation to defend its just state against an invader, and the like. On the other hand, there are some cases where the discourse is being used in an inflammatory way, or to distract attention from the shortcomings of the regime in power, and the like, it is not permissible to use nationalist discourse. However, there are many more difficult cases that are demanding a sophisticated normative/liberal theory of nationalism.
Challenge 3- A normative theory of nationalism must deal with the constitutional issues and the matters of international law especially when a multination state is under question.
The federal arrangements cannot deal with the case of a multination state because such arrangements are for managing the tensions of overlapping ethnic and political identities, not nationalisms. A normative theorizing about nationalism is necessary for evaluating or designing federal arrangements.
Challenge 4- The problem of rights to national self-determination.
A normative theory of nationalism would have to explain which sorts of groups would qualify for such a right, and what international and constitutional status it entitles to them. However, this right of national self-determination need not figure prominently in a normative theory because it can be argued that the secession is not justified by this right, but rather, for example, by considerations of whether a territorially concentrated group has just the cause perhaps because it is systematically exploited.