Does Liberal Democracy Presuppose a Cultural Nation? Four Arguments

American Political Science Review 96 (3):495-509 (2002)
Abstract
This paper subjects to critical analysis four common arguments in the sociopolitical theory literature supporting the cultural nationalist thesis that liberal democracy is viable only against the background of a single national public culture: the arguments that (1) social integration in a liberal democracy requires shared norms and beliefs (Schnapper); (2) the levels of trust that democratic politics requires can be attained only among conationals (Miller); (3) democratic deliberation requires communicational transparency, possible in turn only within a shared national public culture (Miller, Barry); and (4) the economic viability of specifically industrialized liberal democracies requires a single national culture (Gellner). I argue that all four arguments fail: At best, a shared cultural nation may reduce some of the costs liberal democratic societies must incur; at worst, cultural nationalist policies ironically undermine social integration. The failure of these cultural nationalist arguments clears the way for a normative theory of liberal democracy in multinational and postnational contexts.
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