National Identity and Support for the Welfare State
37 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 18 Feb 2014
Date Written: 2009
This paper examines the role of national identity in sustaining public support for the welfare state. Liberal nationalist theorists argue that social justice will always be easier to achieve in states with strong national identities which, they contend, can both mitigate opposition to redistribution among high-income earners and reduce any corroding effects of ethnic diversity resulting from immigration. We test these propositions with Canadian data from the Equality, Security and Community survey. We conclude that national identity does increase support for the welfare state among affluent majority Canadians, and that it helps to protect the welfare state from toxic effects of cultural suspicion. However, we also find that identity plays a narrower role than existing theories of liberal nationalism suggest, and that the mechanisms through which it works are different. This leads us to suggest an alternative theory of the relationship between national identity and the welfare state, one that suggests that the relationship is highly contingent, reflecting distinctive features of the history and national narratives of each country. National identity may not have any general tendency to strengthen support for redistribution, but it may do so for those aspects of the welfare state seen as having played a particularly important role in building the nation, or in enabling it to overcome particular challenges or crises.
Keywords: national identity,redistribution
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