Gal Ariely, Ph.D., visiting scholar, Nanovic Institute for European Studies
The distinction between civic and ethnic nationalism is one of the most widely employed conceptual building blocks within the study of nationalism. The differentiation between Western civic/liberal/inclusive nationalism and Eastern ethnic/illiberal/exclusive nationalism has inspired the work of many scholars, including those who have discussed civic and ethnic identities across Europe. This study critically examines the longstanding claim that Western Europe embodies the idea of civic national identity, while Eastern Europe is characterized by an ethnic model of nationalism. Employing new data (the Citizenship Policy Index) regarding the various ways in which European countries define membership, together with a cross-national survey of national identity across 16 countries, the results indicate that, while Western and Eastern Europe differ to some extent in their citizenship policies, the distinction between inclusive civic and exclusive ethnic forms of national identity is not supported by the data. The claim that contemporary Western Europe exemplifies a civic pattern in contrast to the ethnic model prevalent in Eastern Europe, thus, requires reassessment.