As evidenced by the reactions to Martha Nussbaum’s famous essay of 1996, patriotism is a contested notion in moral debate. This paper explores the suggestion made by Stephen Nathanson that patriotism might be understood as “love of one’s country”, and suggests that this phrase is misleading. It suggests that patriotism, like love, is not rational, and it fails to distinguish two kinds of object for that love: one’s cultural community and one’s political community. Accordingly, this phrase can lead to a kind of nationalism which involves chauvinism and militarism and that is, therefore, morally objectionable. The problem arises from ambiguities in the notion of “country” which is said to be the object of such love. Moreover, “love” is not the appropriate term for a relationship whose central psychological function is that of establishing an individual’s identity as a citizen. I suggest that the proper mode of attachment involved in patriotism is identification with one’s political community, and that the proper object of a patriot’s allegiance is the political community thought of without the emotional, nationalistic and moralistic connotations that often accompany the concept of community. The “political patriotism” that arises from such an attitude is sceptical of “the national interest” and does not accept that our moral responsibilities to others stop at national borders. In this way political patriotism is consistent with a cosmopolitan stance towards human rights and global justice.
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