Ethnonationalism and Liberal Democracy

66 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2010 Last revised: 3 Jan 2011

Date Written: 2010


Some scholars argue that liberal democracy precludes the state from adopting a particularistic ethnonational identity. In their view, Israel is unique among contemporary nation-states because it allows its particularistic Jewish identity to trump principles of universalism and equality on which liberal democracy supposedly rests. This Article argues that ethnonationalism remains a common and accepted feature of liberal democracy that is consistent with current state practice and international law. Democratic states implement “laws of return” that privilege the immigration and citizenship of particular ethnic groups. Liberal democracies also promote the welfare of their coethnics living abroad and maintain political ties to diasporic ethnonational communities. In fact, such practices are becoming more common as globalization disrupts the coincidence of ethnic demography and political boundaries. International law and practice confirm that a sovereign democratic government may represent a particular ethnonational community. Far from being unique, the experience of Israel exemplifies the character of liberal democracy by highlighting its dependence on particularistic nation-states.

Keywords: ethnonationalism, nationalism, ethnicity, democracy, liberalism, comparative law, international law, Zionism, Hannah Arendt, Pierre Manent, Tony Judt

Suggested Citation

Menashi, Steven, Ethnonationalism and Liberal Democracy (2010). University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, Vol. 32, No. 1, p. 57, 2010 , Available at SSRN:

Steven Menashi (Contact Author)

George Mason University

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics