Bergson's Two Sources Revisited: The Moral Possibility of Nationalism

Contemporary Political Theory 2 (3):271-288 (2003)
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Beyond borrowing the terms ‘open’ and ‘closed’ societies, political theorists have not had much time for Henri Bergson's book The Two Sources of Morality and Religion . However, the recent flowering of interest in liberal nationalism provides a context for understanding what the book has to contribute. For it takes up the relationship between the nation-state and ‘special ties’ on the one hand and ‘cosmopolitan’ obligations on the other. From a political point of view, it should be read as a critique of the too-easy assimilation of cosmopolitan claims by republican ideology, and as a warning that the state cannot be seen as only contingently exclusive. Although both nationalists and cosmopolitans will find things to welcome in Bergson's book, its most original contribution may be its claim that nationalists cannot consistently resist the demands of cosmopolitan morality, for the nation-state already draws upon its for its legitimation



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