Politics in Minutes (2016)

Civic nationalism

Nationalism based on notions of ethnicity can lead to xenophobic attitudes and foster conflict between different ethnic groups. A shared cultural and racial heritage can also be exclusive and intolerant of ‘outsiders’. Liberal political thinkers propose instead a more inclusive form of civic nationalism. In line with the Enlightenment tradition of rationalism, they define a community as comprising all who live in it regardless of their ethnicity. Thus, national identity is not created by accident of birth but is decided upon voluntarily, by moving to or choosing to remain in a country, or civic nation.

Civic nationalism began to gain ground in the 19th century, as an alternative to ethnic nationalism, especially in countries such as the USA, as the young nation asserted its independence with a distinct identity, a strong liberal tradition and an ethnically diverse population. In more recent times, there have been calls for a greater emphasis on civic nationalism to counter the rise of extreme ethnic nationalist movements.