Diversity and Unity: The Problem with 'Constitutional Patriotism'



Baumeister A (2007) Diversity and Unity: The Problem with 'Constitutional Patriotism'. European Journal of Political Theory, 6 (4), pp. 483-503.

Although Habermas’ sophisticated conception of constitutional patriotism successfully avoids the charge of trying to ground patriotism in a set of principles that is too thin and abstract to sustain a real sense of solidarity and belonging, his optimism regarding the prospect in modern pluralist societies of building a genuinely shared political culture is misplaced. The march of modernisation as rationalisation is neither as relentless nor as inevitable as Habermas assumes. Hence the rational consensus on liberal constitutional principles that is to provide the basis for a shared political culture remains elusive. However, while Habermas’ solution to the ‘solidarity gap’ that confronts many contemporary liberal democracies remains problematic, he is right to point to the importance of a shared identity that is strong enough to turn strangers into fellow citizens. The challenges that cultural diversity and value pluralism pose for contemporary states cannot be resolved via a procedural approach that focuses solely on political legitimacy. Yet the difficulties that surround Habermas’ conception of ‘constitutional patriotism’ suggest modern states will struggle to build a collective political identity that can generate a genuine sense of solidarity. If this is so, modern pluralist states face a more profound challenge than writers such as Habermas assume.

citizenship; constitutional patriotism; cultural diversity; Habermas; Cultural diversity; Pluralism; Liberalism; Civilization, Western Philosophy; Habermas, Jürgen.

European Journal of Political Theory: Volume 6, Issue 4

Publication date31/10/2007
Publication date online10/2007
PublisherSage Publications

People (1)


Dr Andrea Baumeister
Dr Andrea Baumeister

Senior Lecturer, Politics