Inward and Outward Patriotism

Article excerpt


Much current philosophical discourse on patriotism either adopts an apologetic approach to patriotic sentiment or rejects it wholesale. When this discourse clings on some notion of patriotism it differentiates it from nationalism and tries to avoid the ideological baggage and socio-theoretical cost that accompanies the love of a specific collectivity: it responds to criticisms of nationalism by turning to what can be called 'inward' patriotism. However, in doing so, it typically dispenses with 'outward' patriotism. The latter is then totally conceded to aggressive and regressive nationalism. This move is accompanied with a related shift from ethnic to civic patriotism. The present article aims to expose the problems of such moves and to defend the need for more conceptual work. It retrieves a cautious outward patriotism for the sake of a fully-fledged patriotism that is compatible with, and even conducive to, cosmopolitanism. Nothing blocks this fully-fledged patriotism from being self-critical to the collectivity's treatment of outsiders. On the contrary, it is argued, outward patriotism can make patriots more aware of how their collectivity has treated otherness and more determined to pressure their collectivity to mend its ways.

Keywords: patriotism, nation, ethnos, cosmopolitanism, constitutional patriotism, communitarianism, global justice, anti-nationalism

1. Introduction

A relatively recent revival of debates on patriotism has influenced political philosophy to such an extent that concessions to patriotic discourse come even from the most unexpected sources. Thinkers known for their adherence to egalitarian cosmopolitanism and for their emphasis on global rather than social justice accommodate some sense of acceptable, particularist and localized affect. For instance, T. Pogge, following C. R. Beitz (Note 1), concedes two 'respects in which patriotic allegiance to political units may be desirable: it supports a sense of shared loyalty; and it allows one to see oneself as a significant contributor to a common cultural project' (Pogge, 1992, p. 58, fn 18). The patriotism of this statement is civic because it concerns allegiance to political units rather than to ethnic communities; and cultural because the focal point of one's contribution is a common cultural project. I suggest that this civic-cultural patriotism should be termed 'inward' since it does not specify how citizens react to relations with the political or national otherness that lies outside the unit.

The above citation reflects a more general tendency to avoid the older, ethnic sense of patriotism. The latter was typically construed as allegiance to a specific belonging in virtue of descent and/or culture regardless of the relation to a political configuration. Theorists of ethnic patriotism (Van den Berghe, 1987; Shaw and Wong, 1989) used to derive specific political conclusions from such allegiance and to draw much of its theoretical significance outwardly, i.e., from a relation of a national/ethnic 'We' to national/ethnic others. Yet, the bond between ethnic consociates was not thought of as inherently political but rather as biological or cultural. Thus, ethnic-cultural/biologistic patriotism was largely outward-oriented.

In this article I begin with a brief interpretation of the philosophical shift from ethnic to civic patriotism and from the outward to the inward perspective. From this springboard I criticize the lopsided current emphasis on inward patriotism and the reluctance to revisit outward patriotism and to couch it in a non-chauvinist framework. Forcing the current emphases up against their own limits confirms the need for more conceptual work on patriotism. Within a framework that is philosophical rather than sociological or historical in its epistemic grounding and operations, I suggest that patriotism should be understood in both, its inward and outward dimensions.

Yet, a preliminary disclaimer is necessary here. …


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