From liberal to multiculturalist nationalism: Confronting autocratic nationalism

Eric Cheng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper reconsiders liberal nationalism in light of the current autocratic nationalist threat. I argue that liberal nationalism cannot redress the social ailments which acclimatize people to the sorts of no-holds-barred political contestation favoured by autocratic nationalists – excessive polarization. I then argue that liberal nationalists do not recognize the degree to which ‘in-group’ racial solidarity motivates members of the racial/ethnic majority to preserve their status, and that the liberal nationalist approach to defending minorities’ rights therefore risks either emboldening the majority to embrace autocracy or consolidating social hierarchies between the majority and minorities. On these bases, I show that democrats must seek to not only detach race/ethnicity from nationality but also redress those problematic racial/ethnic hierarchies. This suggests the need to develop liberal nationalism into multiculturalist nationalism. Multiculturalist nationalism, however, promises a sort of bounded solidarity that does not include all citizens: it makes use of targeted political antagonism against anti-democrats like White supremacists and Identitarians to help diffuse any social antagonism that might exist among minorities, inclusive members of the majority, and cultural conservatives.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophy and Social Criticism
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • autocracy
  • democracy
  • democratic backsliding
  • liberal nationalism
  • nationalism
  • polarization
  • populism
  • race and ethnicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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