Should progressive politics be nationalist?

In a recent special issue of the open access journal Comparative Migration Studies, Will Kymlicka, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy at Queen’s University wrote an essay on “Solidarity in diverse societies: beyond neoliberal multiculturalism and welfare chauvinism“. He discussed the so called “progressive’s dilemma” and argued that progressives should embrace a multicultural nationalism to overcome it. Several scholars discussed Kymlicka’s thesis in shorter responses, including the special issue editor Rainer Bauböck, Professor of Social and Political Theory at the European University Institute. Buaböck takes issue with Kymlicka’s thesis, being sceptical that liberalism nationalism is the way forward for progressives. In this podcast they discuss what they think is at stake in the “progressive’s dilemma” and whether nationalism is the answer.

If it’s to serve a progressive function, nationhood needs to be configured in a multicultural direction.

Will Kymlicka

Kymlicka’s main thesis is that we need nationalism to foster a sense of social solidarity, but that it needs to be combined with multiculturalism to avoid becoming exclusionary or stir prejudice. Kymlicka is the leading scholar on multiculturalism and has written several seminal books on the topic, see for example here and here. He has also researched the progressive’s dilemma empirically.

What we need in order to get democratic support for these three goals is basically build up democratic support for social solidarity at the national level, for diversity at the local level and for keeping borders relatively open at the supranational level.

Rainer Bauböck

Bauböck is sceptical that promoting the nation can help reconcile social solidarity with support for opennesses and diversity, what he calls “the progressive’s trilemma”. Instead, he argues that we must look for political community across, below and above the nation state. Bauböck has written extensively on democratic citizenship and migration, for example here and here. He has recently edited a volume on immigrant integration.

 

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