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Testing the national identity argument

  • David Miller (a1) and Sundas Ali (a1)


The national identity argument holds that a shared national identity is necessary to motivate citizens in democratic societies to pursue a number of goals, especially social justice. We review the empirical evidence for and against this claim, looking particularly at how national identities have been measured. We distinguish between studies that aim to compare the relative strength of identities cross-nationally and those that look at individual differences within one nation. We separate four dimensions of national identity: national attachment, national pride, critical vs. uncritical patriotism, and civic vs. cultural conceptions of identity. These are only weakly correlated with each other, and impact differently on support for social justice and the welfare state. Using case studies from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, we suggest that the relationship between national identity and social justice varies between societies, and that a key factor is finding an appropriate balance between the strength of such identities and their inclusiveness.


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European Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 1755-7739
  • EISSN: 1755-7747
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