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The Dangers and Inanity of (Euro-) Nationalism: From Communitarianism to Cosmopolitanism. Egmont Paper No. 77, April 2015

Heine, Sophie (2015) The Dangers and Inanity of (Euro-) Nationalism: From Communitarianism to Cosmopolitanism. Egmont Paper No. 77, April 2015. [Policy Paper]

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    INTRODUCTION In the current times of multifaceted crisis, nationalism looks, more than ever, like a positive and necessary feeling. It seems both natural and indispensable if we are to have viable political and social institutions that meet the needs and preferences of all citizens. The following paper contests this vision. Its criticism of nationalism is directed not only at its national forms, but also at any defence of collective identity based on the same model, such as the various forms of European nationalism. Furthermore, the same overriding criticism can be made of different kinds of nationalism, regardless of their more or less open and progressive political content. In order to ground our argument theoretically and practically, we will try to show that nationalism is always potentially harmful to individual rights, and unnecessary for the maintenance of a just social and political system. We will thus oppose any acritical defence of the intrinsic value of a specific community and the belief in its artificial homogeneity. The historical construction of a supposedly homogeneous community, and the insistence on its values, which are perceived as superior and binding, facilitate the absorption of the individual into the collective. As we will explain further in more details, this holistic approach is typical of communitarian approaches. In that respect, it does not really matter whether they appeal to passion or to reason, to some irrational binding features of the community or to more rational political aspects of a common identity. The main problem in nationalism is not the emotion it can trigger, it is not even its reliance on particular values. What makes nationalism problematic is, firstly, that it tends to overlook the intrinsically divisive and contradictory nature of individual and collective interests in unjust societies; secondly, that it attributes an intrinsic superiority to a particular community over others; and thirdly, that it sees politics as a means to promote the interests, values or identity of that community. As an alternative, we will very briefly advocate a cosmopolitan approach that grounds political legitimacy in a demanding approach to individual freedom, rather than in a shared collective identity. However, even if only briefly, we will also carefully distinguish our own vision of cosmopolitanism from those commonly put forward. Frequently, cosmopolitan perspectives entangle their identity frameworks with concrete political projects, without clearly explaining how the latter derive from the former. Our approach to cosmopolitanism, on the other hand, is, first and foremost, a critical vision of all communitarian postulates according to which politics should be based on some form of collective identity. Thus, we insist on the conceptual distinction between a general stance on identity issues and the more practical political ideology one stands for. In a subsequent step, we link this cosmopolitan framework with a progressive approach to individual rights. Because of our demanding approach to individual freedom, our cosmopolitanism goes hand in hand with a revival of identity-free sovereignty. It is therefore distinct from the severe condemnation of sovereignty often found in most mainstream cosmopolitan positions. Finally, instead of the frequent confusion found in public discourses and in the literature between ideals and reality, our position acknowledges the deep gulf separating these two dimensions. It therefore sketches out very general strategic principles to bring normative ideals closer to political reality.

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    Item Type: Policy Paper
    Additional Information: D/2015/4804/98
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > political affairs > general
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > Egmont : Royal Institute for International Affairs > Egmont Papers
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2015 09:58
    Number of Pages: 27
    Last Modified: 10 Jun 2015 10:01

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