British Journal of Canadian Studies

Between Freedom and Belonging: Ignatieff and Berlin on Nationalism

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2009), 22, (2), 155–175.


This article aims to make sense of the apparent incoherencies in Michael Ignatieff's theory of nationalism by first considering how he interprets his mentor's theory of nationalism. Ignatieff was greatly influenced by Isaiah Berlin in his writings on liberalism and nationalism, to the point of mirroring some of his inconsistencies. The resulting discrepancies in the two men's theories arise from a certain tension between liberalism and nationalism that has induced them both to define the latter in terms reflecting the integrity of the former. Understanding Ignatieff's interpretation of Berlin's ideas makes apparent that, in his own work, he draws on Berlin's use of empathy as a method, and on his rejection of violence as a criterion, in distinguishing between fundamental types of nationalism.

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Author details

Ipperciel, Donald

Woo, Jennifer