Historical truth, national myths and liberal democracy: On the coherence of liberal nationalism

Journal of Political Philosophy 12 (3):291–313 (2004)
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The claim that liberal democratic normative commitments are compatible with nationalism is challenged by the widely acknowledged fact that national identities invariably depend on historical myths: the nationalist defence of such publicly shared myths is in tension with liberal democratic theory’s commitment to norms of publicity, public justification, and freedom of expression. Recent liberal nationalist efforts to meet this challenge by justifying national myths on liberal democratic grounds fail to distinguish adequately between different senses of myth. Once this is done (drawing on Arthur Danto’s analytical philosophy of history), it becomes apparent that historical narratives cannot be justifiably shielded from criteria of truth and significance, and that genuinely historical myths are incompatible with liberal democratic political philosophy.



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Arash Abizadeh
McGill University

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