In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Patriotism

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews, Introductions, and Collections of Papers
  • What Is Patriotism?
  • Constitutional Patriotism

Philosophy Patriotism
Nenad Miscevic
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 December 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 November 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0398


Patriotism, love for or devotion to one’s country, as the dictionary definition has it, is a popular topic in the literature on political theory and philosophy. One reason for its popularity is probably the preponderance of conceptions that see it as moderate, in contrast to nationalism. As George Orwell wrote in his 1945 book Notes on Nationalism, “patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power.” The other contrast, the one between attachment to one’s country (patriotism) versus attachment to one’s people and its traditions (nationalism), has also played a role. Together, they are often taken as the defining features of patriotism. Of course, the actual use of the term in political discourse is much less regimented than the one standard in theoretical writings. In the United States, “patriotism” is often used for attitude(s) that would in the theoretical literature be described as “nationalistic”; see the newspaper debates on Donald Trump’s self-alleged patriotism. The contrast is strengthened by the need of theoreticians to have a concept-term that could be used for moderate attachment to one’s country. The other problem, right around the corner, so to speak, is that love for a country is not really just love of a piece of land; normally it involves attachment to the community of its inhabitants, and this introduces “nation” into the conception of patriotism. After a brief discussion of anthologies and general overviews of the area, this article focuses on particular topics. It starts with writings dedicated to the very concept of patriotism, and to the descriptive-explanatory issues—the central one being, “What is patriotism?” Next come normative issues, focusing on the morality of patriotism; it presents moderate and more radical defenses, and then passes to the relations of patriotism to its “relatives.” This section begins with relation between patriotism and cosmopolitanism, followed by the relation between patriotism and communitarianism, and ends with the one between patriotism and multiculturalism. The article concludes with two “hot topics,” first, populism, and second, migration.

General Overviews, Introductions, and Collections of Papers

This section contains the most useful overviews and collections. Nussbaum and Cohen 2002 collects now-classical papers on patriotism, some of which are also cited in this section. Barber 2002 offers a rationale for constitutional patriotism. Canovan 1996 and Canovan 2000 problematize the status of patriotism. Primoratz 2002 is a fine anthology of papers, Oldenquist 1982 offers a typology of patriotisms, and Viroli 1995 formulates a framework of republican patriotism. Primoratz and Pavković 2016 collects recent work on patriotism, Kronenberg 2013 offers a defense of patriotism from a specific German political tradition, and Sardoč 2020 is an encyclopedic anthology of most recent papers on patriotism. Healy 2020 talks about loyalty in patriotism, and Baron and Rogers 2020 defends the view that patriotism is compatible with impartiality.

  • Barber, Benjamin R. “Constitutional Faith.” In For Love of Country? Debating the Limits of Patriotism. Edited by Martha Nussbaum and Joshua Cohen, 30–37. Boston: Beacon, 2002.

    Notes that patriotism and nationalism should be made safe, rather than being rejected; the author argues that American tradition offers the attachment to the particular, in the form of a constitutional patriotism, as the way of gradually approaching the universal.

  • Baron, Marcia, and Taylor Rogers. “Patriotism and Impartiality.” In Handbook of Patriotism. Edited by Mitja Sardoč. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2020.

    Patriotism is compatible with impartiality. Patriotism is not loyalty to but love of one’s country. There is no need to demand impartiality at the level of individual actions, and when applied to a higher level, one of moral principles, impartiality is compatible with moderate patriotism. Impartiality consists in treating people fairly, and this does not require that we act literally in the same way toward everybody, just that our conduct be justifiable by principles applying to everyone.

  • Canovan, Margaret. Nationhood and Political Theory. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 1996.

    Patriotism normally means the political loyalty of citizens to the free polity they share, whereas nationalism is a matter of ethnicity and culture. This makes it very attractive. However, such a low-profile patriotism is incapable of fulfilling the statist promise: offering a kind of attachment that would ground a viable state. The tension between universalism and particularist loyalty remains, and makes patriotism unusable for its lofty function.

  • Canovan, Margaret. “Patriotism is Not Enough.” British Journal of Political Science 30.3 (July 2000): 413–432.

    DOI: 10.1017/S000712340000017X

    Recent proposals in favor of constitutional patriotism are more a rhetorical response to embarrassing historical heritage, than persuasive proposals on their own. Perhaps there is a way out, but it is not visible in the canonical texts of such patriotism. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Healy, Mary. “Patriotism and Loyalty.” In Handbook of Patriotism. Edited by Mitja Sardoč. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2020.

    Traditionally the loyalty of patriotism is directed toward one’s state; this is nowadays being challenged on several fronts, in particular by the problems caused by global migration (coexisting patriotic loyalties to country of origin and the country of work), the rejection of national borders, and the development of supranational loyalties (from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] to anarchists).

  • Kronenberg, Volker. Patriotismus in Deutschland: Perspektiven für eine weltoffene Nation. 3d ed. Wiesbaden, Germany: Springer VS, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-531-19869-9

    As the title suggests (in English, Patriotism in Germany: Perspectives for a nation open to the world) the author defends patriotism, in its morally open variety, close to cosmopolitan attitudes. Such patriotism would characterize a community that is tolerant, open to the world, and enlightened.

  • Nathanson, Stephen. Patriotism, Morality and Peace. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1993.

    A now classical work on morality of patriotism.

  • Nussbaum, Martha, and Joshua Cohen, eds. For Love of Country? Debating the Limits of Patriotism. Boston: Beacon, 2002.

    Many chapters in this book have become classics in the patriotism debates.

  • Oldenquist, Andrew. “Loyalties.” Journal of Philosophy 79 (1982): 173–193.

    DOI: 10.2307/2026219

    There are three types of patriotism: first, impartial patriotism, appealing only to universal principles; second, sports patriotism, similarly affirming universal principles, valid for each “particular team”; and third, loyalty patriotism. The first arises from the demands of wider loyalties, the second from pressure to universalize patriotic judgements, and only the third is the real patriotism. It is similar to loyalty to one’s family. Nation is a moral community whose members are bound together by a common good that is not instrumental.

  • Primoratz, Igor, ed. Patriotism. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2002.

    The book brings together very useful articles on patriotism, some of them now famous as pioneering and successful works. Primoratz in his introduction notes that patriotism is often brought up as an instance of the importance of non-universalist considerations, like the moral force of local loyalties and identities. He distinguishes the value-based and egocentric reasons for patriotic special concern for one’s country; both together constitute the rationale of this concern. He then critically discusses particular contributions to the volume, and states his own preferences.

  • Primoratz, Igor, and Aleksandar Pavković. Patriotism: Philosophical and Political Perspectives. London and New York: Routledge, 2016.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315599724

    In their introduction, the editors contrast universalism and particularism, and place patriotism within the dichotomy. In his chapter Primoratz offers a fine and detailed analysis of kinds of patriotism and the relation between it and nationalism. He distinguishes (1) extreme patriotism that allegedly trumps moral considerations that conflict with it, (2) extreme patriotism understood as the central moral virtue, (3) moderate patriotism, (4) patriotism as a morally indifferent preference, and (5) a distinctively ethical version of patriotism.

  • Sardoč, Mitja, ed. Handbook of Patriotism. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2020.

    A truly encyclopedic anthology of high-quality papers, presenting the present-day view of patriotism. In his preface and introduction, Mitja Sardoč stresses the centrality of patriotism in the pantheon of political ideals of our time, gives an overview of theoretical discussions, and explores the descriptive-conceptual and normative difficulties emerging from it.

  • Viroli, Maurizio. For Love of Country: An Essay on Patriotism and Nationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

    DOI: 10.1093/0198293585.001.0001

    Patriotism is the love for the republic, whereas nationalism is attachment to the spiritual and cultural unity of one’s people. The republican love, patriotism, is a charitable and generous love, and in its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. The language of republican patriotism could serve as a powerful antidote to nationalism (p. 8).

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