Dogmas of difference: Culture and nationalism in theories of international politics

Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 1 (4):62-92 (1998)
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A feature of recent social science theorizing has been a revival of interest in the concept of culture. While always fundamental to the discipline of anthropology, the culture concept is now commonly employed in other fields as well. Since the end of the Cold War in particular, theories of international politics have been in search of fresh explanatory categories and the culture concept has been adopted in some influential approaches to serve this purpose. As with other social science concepts, however, culture may serve various causes: liberal, socialist, conservative, and so on. Among its uses is the construction of political community in narrow and exclusionary terms, thereby reinforcing, among other things, atavistic forms of nationalism. Such exercises depend very heavily on the idea of cultural difference as constituting the ?natural? political and moral boundaries between communities. This article critically reviews some of these ideas about culture and nationalism and their implications for normative theories of international politics.



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