Constitutional Patriotism

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Constitutional Patriotism

By Jan-Werner Müller
Princeton University Press, 2007
186 pp. $19.95
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In the mid-1980s, the German political philosopher Jürgen Habermas popularized the concept of "constitutional patriotism," the idea, as Müller explains it, that political attachment "ought to center on the norms, the values and, more indirectly, the procedures of a liberal democratic constitution." The notion struck a chord in Germany, where even two generations after the Nazi era, many were still uncomfortable with traditional nationalism yet wanted to belong to a political community that was more narrowly defined than humanity as a whole. Müller carefully and fairly examines the history, the advantages, and the drawbacks of the concept and concludes that there is merit in the notion that political attachment can be based on liberal norms rather than blood or faith. Müller's constitutional patriotism does not mean ignoring history or ethnicity in the definition of a political community (as critics of the concept imply it does) but rather means complementing them with the thought that people can be brought together by loyalty to a constitution. The discussion is particularly relevant to the case of the European Union, which, in the absence of a shared history or culture, might find value in alternative concepts of political belonging.

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