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Liberal nationalism is a boundary-making project, and a feature of this boundary-making enterprise is the belief that the compatriots have a certain priority over strangers. For this reason it is often thought that liberal nationalism cannot be compatible with the demands of global egalitarianism. In this essay, I examine the sense in which liberal nationalism privileges compatriots, and I argue that, properly understood, the idea of partiality for compatriots in the context of liberal nationalism is not at odds with global equal concern for all persons. In particular, I argue that the three central goals and aspirations of liberal nationalism—promoting individual autonomy and cultural identity, the realization of deliberative democracy, and the aspiration for social justice within the state—do not entail or require a form of compatriot partiality that is inconsistent with the demands of global egalitarian justice.

Keywords: boundary making; cultural identity; equal concern; global equality; global justice; liberal nationalism; liberalism; nation building; partial concern; priority for compatriots

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, 433 Logan Hall, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA , Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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