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Forced to be free: from liberalism to nationalism

Hadžidedić, Zlatko (2005) Forced to be free: from liberalism to nationalism. MPhil thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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As a doctrine of political legitimacy, liberalism introduced nations as the only legitimate units through which liberty was to be articulated. In historical reality, liberalism has affirmed the concept of liberty through the self-legitimising acts of national liberation, thereby generating nationalism as its historical by-product. My thesis focuses on their common conceptual core, through textual analyses of several classical liberal authors, each of whom represents one century and is granted one chapter. Algernon Sidney (17th century) was the first author who defined nations as the sole, self-referential source of political legitimacy, whose liberty was to be achieved through establishment of their own legislative institutions, by which they self referentially legitimised themselves as ‘nations’. Rousseau (18th century)defined liberty as identification of man’s individual will with the presumed will of the entire society, which provided nationalism with a sociopsychological mechanism and philosophical rationale for its subsequent emergence and functioning on the societal level. Rawls’s concept of justice (20th century) develops this mechanism further, as a perpetual reciprocal recognition between the nation’s individual members. This ritual recognition of one another as free and equal is reciprocally extended only between co-nationals but non-reciprocally denied to all non-members: as members of other nations, they are to be discriminated against, as un-free and un-equal. In John Stuart Mill’s theory of nationality (19th century), only in the nation-state can the individual be free, and 'the greatest happiness for the greatest number' can only be achieved through the collectivist enterprise of nation-building. Mill thus established the ultimate conceptual convergence between the ostensibly opposed doctrines of liberal individualism and national collectivism. Through these paradigmatic cases, my thesis shows that the mainstream liberalism has always shared nationalist principles with the nationalism-proper, and that the former non-accidentally merges with, and eventually dissolves in, the latter.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil)
Additional Information: © 2005 Zlatko Hadžidedić
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JC Political theory
Sets: Departments > Government
Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

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