In This Review

The Boundaries of Citizenship: Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality in the Liberal State
The Boundaries of Citizenship: Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality in the Liberal State
By Jeff Spinner
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994, 232 pp

Classical liberal political theory contains one great hole: by treating citizens solely as individuals, it ignores the groups, ascriptive and voluntary, into which real populations are divided. This volume, written by a political theorist who draws on empirical data, does an excellent job of coming to grips with this issue in normative terms. The author presents sensible arguments for rejecting the positions both of orthodox liberals, who do not accept forms of group identity, as well as cultural pluralists who believe that a liberal society can be made up of distinct and self-regarding cultural groups. The book argues that liberal citizenship has its own homogenizing requirements that put limits on the degree of multiculturalism. Other forms of cultural particularism are important, however; contrary to communitarian thought, it is not realistic to think that all forms of modern community life can be voluntary. The book gives thoughtful guidelines on how states can steer between these two poles. His examples -- American blacks, Jews, Amish, and the Quebeckers in Canada -- are all North American, but the prescriptions apply across national boundaries.