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What is a Nation? Show more Show less

Are nations ancient or modern? Are they natural or artificial? Are they a tool of liberation or coercion? Despite many predicting globalisation would make them obsolete, nations are now back in fashion in a world where leaders tout America First, the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese People, and Hindutva. Understanding the nation now seems more important than ever.

Nations mean coercion Show more Show less

Nations are a tool for elites to control the population.
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Nationalism is illiberalism

Nationalism means illiberal anti-democratic politics.

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Political figures like Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Viktor Orban, and Naredna Modi call themselves nationalists. Those who oppose their politics, seeing them as dictatorial and anti-democratic, now fear that nationalism, and perhaps even the idea of the nation, promoted illiberal anti-democratic politics.

The Argument

Nationalism is inherently majoritarian. Whatever the majority decides goes, even if it is 50.1% to 49.9%. This means illiberalism as the rights of the minority are not recognised in any way and they are given no right to protest. Those that do protest are cast as speaking against "the will of the people" and portrayed as traitors to the nation. Signs of difference are persecuted. As there is rarely if ever, a single united people all sharing the same characteristics and views, demagogues who pretend to speak for "the people" take control and persecute any who disagree with. This ends up destroying democracy itself.

Counter arguments

The nation is in fact the foundation of democracy. Nations are based on the idea of self-determination and the idea that political legitimacy comes from the people. This means that all nations at least pretend to be democratic, and citizens can always attack their government for failing to live up to its democratic claims. A counter-counter argument is that liberalism does not accept pure democracy rejecting pure majoritarianism by providing protections to individuals and minority groups through rule of law to stop unjust persecution. Rejecting nationalism doesn't mean rejecting the nation. Many critics of nationalist in fact feel that the so-called nationalists are the ones betraying the nation by oppressing large parts of the population and enriching themselves at the costs of the nation. Most believe that it is possible to love one's nation while rejecting dangerous nationalism.


[P1] Nations suffer from nationalism. [P2] Nationalism is illiberal. [P3] Illiberalism means the end of democracy.

Rejecting the premises

[P1] The nation is the foundation of democracy. [P2] Most liberals who reject nationalism don't reject the nation.


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This page was last edited on Tuesday, 3 Dec 2019 at 15:33 UTC