I noted in my previous post that the entry on liberalism in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy does include some principled criticisms of liberalism, of the kind we need to develop.
There was one final criticism of liberalism made in the Oxford Companion that I left out. It's an important, albeit lengthy, one. The issue is whether a liberal society can remain stable in the long run if it rejects preliberal forms of social solidarity:
A similar question has been raised about the long-term political stability of a liberal society. Non-liberal societies are typically held together by shared conceptions of the good, such as a common religion, or by common ethnicity. Members of these societies are willing to make sacrifices for each other because of their commonalities. But what holds a society together when its members come from different ethnic and racial backgrounds and do not share a common conception of the good life?
Some liberals suggest that the tie that binds the citizens of a liberal society is simply a shared commitment to liberal principles of freedom and equality. It is debatable whether this is a 'thick' enough bond to keep a multicultural society together. After all, a liberal society makes many demands on its members: they must be willing to accept considerable sacrifices (e.g. military service), to take an interest in public affairs, and to exercise self-restraint in their personal actions and political demands. Liberals have tended to focus on the rights of citizenship but a liberal society would stop functioning if its citizens did not also accept certain duties and exercise certain virtues. It seems likely that a sense of commonality is needed for individuals to accept these sorts of duties.
Conservative critics have argued that the stability of liberal societies is based on a pre-liberal sense of shared identity. Citizens of England, for example, do not see each other primarily as individual rights-holders, but as fellow members of the English nation, with a shared history and culture. This gives rise to a sense of solidarity which is prior to, and deeper than, a shared commitment to liberalism. It is this national solidarity which explains why the English work together, and make sacrifices for each other. Conservatives worry that this sense of being members of the same 'people' or culture or community is gradually being eroded by the individualism of liberal rights, which treats people in abstraction from their communal ties and responsibilities.
Interestingly, many nineteenth century liberals agreed that liberalism is viable only in countries with a sense of common nationhood, a view shared by some recent theorists of 'liberal nationalism'. Most post-war liberal theorists, however, have rejected the idea that liberalism should ally itself with nationalism, and have instead asserted that a common commitment to liberal principles is a sufficient basis for social unity even in multicultural countries. Habermas's idea of 'constitutional patriotism' is one example of this view, explicitly offered as an alternative to nationalist theories of social cohesion.
One difficulty with this view is that it provides no guidance on how the boundaries of distinct political communities should be drawn. Indeed, it provides no explanation for why there should be distinct political communities at all. Why shouldn't all societies that share liberal values merge into a single state, aiming ultimately to create a single world state? If we reject the nationalist belief that states have the right and responsibility to express particular national identities, languages and cultures, why shouldn't liberals favour abolishing existing nation-states and replacing them with a thoroughgoing cosmopolitanism of open borders within a single global state?
Few liberal theorists are willing to take this step towards an unqualified liberal cosmopolitanism and most believe that nation states remain the only viable forum for the implementation of liberal-democratic values. Yet equally few liberals are willing to acknowledge that these liberal nation states depend for their viability not only on adherence to liberal values, but also on the inculcation of deeper feelings of national identity.
Whether the cohesion of a liberal society depends on some prior sense of identity remains an important topic for debate.
That's a very good summary. My one quibble is that I think the writer underestimates the degree to which liberals are willing to move away from the nation state. In Europe there has been a steady drift of sovereignty away from the nation state and toward the European Union. The Australian political class has also toyed with the idea of moving toward a regional system. First, it was the idea of a Pacific Community, followed by Kevin Rudd's more grandiose vision of an Asia-Pacific Community. If the Asian leaders had been more receptive, the plans might have gone further than they have.