Between Kin and Cosmopolis

An Ethic of the Nation


The nation-state is here to stay. Thirty years ago it was fashionable to predict its imminent demise, but the sudden break-up of the Soviet Union in the 1990s unshackled long-repressed nationalisms and generated a host of new states. The closer integration of the European Union has given intra-national nationalisms a new lease of life, confirming the viability of small nation-states under a supra-national umbrella – after all, if Ireland and Iceland, then why not Quebec and Catalonia? What’s more, the world stage has seen new and powerful national players moving from the wings to the centre: China, India, and Brazil are full of a sense of growing into their own national destinies and are in no mood either to dissolve into, or to defer to, some larger body. And yet, closer to home, the recent Scottish referendum has illustrated all too clearly the downsides of the lust for independence, leaving in its wake a trail of sharpened divisions and unappeased nationalist sentiments.

Nations, nationalisms, and nation-states are evidently persistent facts, but what should we think of them morally? Surely humanity, not a nation, should claim our loyalty? How can it be right to exclude foreigners by policing borders? Can a liberal nation-state thrive without a cohering public orthodoxy? Does national sovereignty confer immunity? Is national separatism always justified? These are urgent questions. Between Kin and Cosmopolis offers timely Christian answers.


‘The debate about immigration has become the most toxic issue in politics. We have lacked a framework for considered discussion and populism has stepped in. In this well-researched and articulate hundred pages on national identity and independence, Nigel Biggar gives us just such a framework, demonstrating yet again the value of public theology. He makes an outstanding contribution.’

Iain R. Torrance, University of Aberdeen

A hugely impressive achievement. … Between Kin and Cosmopolis is a textbook example of how to do public theology in a way that should engage even those who dismiss the concept altogether. … Agree or disagree with Between Kin and Cosmopolisyou cannot fail to benefit from it.

Nick Spencer, Theos