National Identities and the Future of Democracy

Wendy M. Rahn, Thomas J. Rudolph

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Even though the essays in this volume focus on the future of democracy, we begin our chapter from a rather old-fashioned perspective, namely that democratic nation-states require some modicum of citizen loyalty and affection in order to induce compliance without costly and inefficient enforcement mechanisms. This is as true for policies, such as military service (Levi 1997), that may involve enormous self-sacrifice as it is for more mundane acts of obedience, such as paying one's taxes (Scholz and Lubell 1998; see also Tyler 1990).

Our chapter also begins with the assumption that the future of democracy, as it is embodied in the form of the modern nation-state, can be glimpsed by studying its youngest members. It is their attitudes and orientations that will come to dominate institutions and infuse politics as older generations quietly or not so quietly leave the population. Drawing on a wide range of national survey data collected in the mid-1990s, we examine the attachments of younger citizens to their national political communities, focusing primarily on the United States and the countries of the European Union. We find that without exception younger citizens are less likely to be committed to a national identity. In some polities, particularly in the United States, these weaker attachments are accompanied by less positive feelings about the “way democracy works.” We then try to assess empirically a variety of potential explanations for these patterns.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMediated Politics
Subtitle of host publicationCommunication in the Future of Democracy
EditorsW. Lance Bennett, Robert M. Entman
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Print)9780511613852
StatePublished - 2000


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