On Nationality

On Nationality

On Nationality

On Nationality

Synopsis

Nationalism is a dominating force in contemporary politics, but political philosophers have been markedly reluctant to discuss, let alone endorse, nationalist ideas. In this book David Miller defends the principle of nationality. He argues that national identities are valid sources of personal identity; that we are justified in recognizing special obligations to our co-nationals; that nations have good grounds for wanting to be politically self-determining; but that recognizing the claims of nationality does not entail suppressing other sources of personal identity, such as ethnicity. Finally, he considers the claim that national identities are dissolving in the late twentieth century. This timely and provocative book offers the most compelling defence to date of nationality from a radical perspective. Series description Oxford Political Theory presents the best new work in contemporary political theory. It is intended to be broad in scope, including original contributions to political philosophy, and also work in applied political theory. The series will contain works of outstanding quality with no restriction as to approach or subject matter.

Excerpt

The claims of nationality have come to dominate politics in the last decade of the twentieth century. As the ideological contest between capitalism and communism has abated with the breakup of the Soviet Union and its satellite regions, so questions of national identity and national self-determination have come to the fore. It matters less, it seems, whether the state embraces the free market, or the planned economy, or something in between. It matters more where the boundaries of the state are drawn, who gets included and who gets excluded, what language is used, what religion endorsed, what culture promoted. Battles fought centuries ago suddenly assume new importance as they come to symbolize ethnic conflicts between groups who throughout recent history had lived side by side in apparent harmony. The ferocious civil war that has raged in Bosnia- Herzegovina during the time I have been writing this book has been taken by many observers to foreshadow the fate of several territories that once formed part of the Soviet empire. Meanwhile, in the West long-established nation-states are confronted by a variety of groups claiming that their identities are violated and their legitimate demands ignored by current national politics.

People of liberal disposition are left unsure how they should react to such events. They are likely to sympathize with the idea that separate nationalities should be able to govern themselves in the way that they prefer; but they are repulsed by the strident, sometimes almost racist, form that nationalism often takes in practice, and they will throw up their hands in despair when asked to resolve the practical problems that arise when populations are intermingled, or when two nationalities make claim to the same territory, as for instance in . . .

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