Geopolitics and Nations: Why Liechtensteiners Exist

35 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2007

See all articles by Michael A. Hass

Michael A. Hass

affiliation not provided to SSRN; Georgetown University Law Center; London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government

Date Written: August 2004


Theories of nationalism cannot account for a Liechtensteiner nation. This tiny nation positioned in the heart of Europe is a medieval relic that has survived through the modern era, and this paper seeks to answer why, against all odds, this nation exists. It also shows how theories of nationalism have neglected certain geopolitical factors in explaining nations, and without these factors, one cannot explain Liechtenstein or Liechtensteiners' existences.

Liechtensteiners exist only because the state of Liechtenstein exists, and the continual maintenance of these state boundaries has forged a nation inside of them. Unfortunately, nationalism theories cannot account for a Liechtensteiner nation because most theories focus on social or domestic forces to explain the essence of nations. While these approaches reveal much about Liechtenstein, they ignore basic geopolitical forces that created and maintained the state, without which, Liechtenstein and Liechtensteiners would not exist.

This paper traces the history of Liechtenstein and Liechtensteiners, using established theories of nationalism and personal interviews to illuminate the basis of the Liechtensteiner nation. It shows the weaknesses of these approaches in explaining why the nation exists and concludes that two important geopolitical factors consolidated the state and nation. First, personal and state interest in the interstate system formed and consolidated Liechtenstein's borders; and second, the limited ascendancy of "right" over "might" in interstate relations maintained them.

Nations have a geopolitical context, and focusing on various social aspects of a nation often ignores this initial context. The all-important boundaries of nations and states are often taken as a given, but these are worth explaining. Only by viewing the boundaries of nations through a purely political lens focused on the relations in the interstate system can we answer why Liechtenstein exists, and only through this approach can we explain a nation's relation to its state.

Keywords: nationalism, nation, nations, Liechtenstein, Vaduz, Austria, Switzerland, geopolitics, Liechtensteiners, Breuilly, Anthony Smith, Benedict Anderson

JEL Classification: Z00, R52, N40, N45, N30, N35, K33, J78, J70, J00

Suggested Citation

Hass, Michael A., Geopolitics and Nations: Why Liechtensteiners Exist (August 2004). Available at SSRN: or

Michael A. Hass (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government ( email )

Northampton NN7 1NE
United Kingdom

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