Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 8, Issue 1–2, pp 83–103 | Cite as

Reasonable Impartiality and Priority for Compatriots. A Criticism of Liberal Nationalism’s Main flaws

  • Veit Bader


Distinguishing between reasonable partiality and reasonable impartiality makes a difference in resolving the serious clashes between ‘priority for compatriots’ versus cosmopolitan global duties. Defenders of a priority for compatriots have to acknowledge two strong moral constraints: states have to fulfil all their special, domestic and trans-domestic duties, and associative duties are limited by distributive constraints resulting from the moral duty to fight poverty and gross global inequalities. In the recent global context, I see four main problems for liberal-nationalist defenders of priority for compatriots: (i) Reasonable particularists often forget that associative duties for compatriots compete with many sub-national and trans-domestic associative duties. (ii) They tend to forget that associative national duties compete with other, strong special (contractual, reparative) obligations regarding not only citizens and residents inside nation-states but also trans-domestic obligations across state borders. (iii) They do not properly discuss the problem of unallocated duties in addressing global poverty and insecurity. (iv) The design of supra-national and global ‘mediating’ institutions, and the crafting of policies to remedy the misallocation of duties and to coordinate the required state activities is an urgent task neglected by liberal nationalists. In the recent context, reasonable partiality’s bias towards partiality is most unwelcome and morally dubious. Reasonable impartiality’s bias towards cosmopolitanism helps to stimulate a drastic shift in obligations and stimulates productive trans-national institutional design.

Key Words

associative duties communities of culture and fate conflicting general and special duties embedded impartiality global poverty and insecurity national duties and moral constraints obligations policies supra-national institutions 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Veit Bader
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of of AmsterdamAmsterdam

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