Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 165–179 | Cite as

What can Examining the Psychology of Nationalism Tell Us About Our Prospects for Aiming at the Cosmopolitan Vision?

  • Gillian Brock
  • Quentin D. Atkinson


Opponents of cosmopolitanism often dismiss the position on the grounds that cosmopolitan proposals are completely unrealistic and that they fly in the face of our human nature. We have deep psychological needs that are satisfied by national identification and so all cosmopolitan projects are doomed, or so it is argued. In this essay we examine the psychological grounds claimed to support the importance of nationalism to our wellbeing. We argue that the alleged human needs that nationalism is said to satisfy are: (i) either more complex than initially one might think or (ii) do not necessarily provide very strong grounds for the theses advocated by nationalists or (iii) can be well met in alternate ways than through national identification. Moreover, commitment to cosmopolitanism is not antithetical to meeting these needs: rather, more cosmopolitan worldviews can do quite well in meeting the needs of interest. Moreover, we argue that since nationalism is a fluid and socially constructed phenomenon, quite open to the influence of other factors, the current evidence suggests that central aspects of cosmopolitanism are quite feasible and realistic.


Psychology of nationalism Nationalism Cosmopolitanism Psychology Ethnocentrism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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