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Max Weber's liberal nationalism

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It is often alleged that liberalism and nationalism are mutually antagonistic in theory and practice. Max Weber is a good example, the dominant interpretation maintains, as his political thought betrays its liberal foundation by embracing an ardent nationalism that was popular in Wilhelmine Germany. Weber was, in short, a nationalist, and thus illiberal, political thinker. Against this conventional wisdom I argue that Weber's liberal nationalism cannot be placed squarely in the authoritarian, ethnic tradition of German nationalism, and its idiosyncrasy becomes evident once Weber's twofold political project of revivifying a robust civil society while imbuing it with the spirit of public citizenship is foregrounded more clearly. Thus recast, Weber's political thought reveals a strong affinity with that of Tocqueville and Mill, especially in their similar concern with moral personality and political maturity in a mass democracy.

Keywords: Alexis de Tocqueville; John Stuart Mill; Max Weber; citizenship; civil society; liberalism; moral personality; nationalism; political maturity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Political Science, Yonsei University, Seoul, 120-749, Korea Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2002


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