Leitkultur debates as civic integration in North-Western Europe: The nationalism of ‘values’ and ‘good citizenship’

Per Mouritsen, Daniel Faas, Nasar Meer, Nynke De Witte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Political responses to ethno-religious diversity often include the idea of a common culture or (core) values, e.g., the German Leitkultur and comparable concepts in Denmark and the Netherlands. These intellectual debates underlie and inform different types of civic integration policies. Their structure demonstrates the discursive connection between the ostensibly liberal and universal components of the latter – which are often heralded as signs of waning nationalism – with strong emphases on identity and cultural identity. Hence, each debate concerns (1) forms of societal integration, oriented towards (2) forms of civicness, which are nonetheless (3) also cultural, and (4) national. Within this common structure, variation exists as to what should be ‘common,’ what it takes to share it, and the very point of doing so. Advocacy of Leitkultur as so many attempts to civilise newcomers – or exclude those who are unamenable to such efforts – reflects the continuing core of nationalistic ambition despite novel semantic content. This ambition, which equivocates between dubious ‘manifest’ functions – educating minorities, reminding majorities of forgotten heritage – fails also to serve ‘latent’ functions of trust and solidarity building.
Original languageEnglish
Article number146879681984353
Early online date1 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 May 2019


  • Leitkultur
  • civic integration
  • nationalism
  • consitiutional patriotism
  • citizenship
  • Germany
  • Denmark
  • the Netherlands


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