Academy of Ideas

Academy 2018: the ideal of the liberal nation state

September 14, 2018

A recording of a lecture by Dr Jim Panton at The Academy 2018, a residential weekend organised by the Academy of Ideas. Find out more here.


Liberalism is generally, and many liberals are in particular, ambivalent about nationalism. On the one hand, early liberal and republican thinkers developed bold attempts to theorise sovereignty as the foundation of state legitimacy and unifying condition of the nation. On the other hand, liberal thinkers have struggled to justify the accidental character of national boundaries and the implications these have for inhabitants of different nations. Further, modern liberals disavow the chauvinism they believe to be inherent in nationalism, proposing instead a cosmopolitan ethics. This lecture considers the development of the liberal ideal of the state in the thought of Locke, Rousseau, and ultimately, Kant, and looks at the extent to which the Kantian model of sovereignty as the foundation of nation-statehood, is increasingly maligned.