Freemasonry as a playground for civic nationalism

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This article explores correspondences between the ideals of 'civic nationalism' (hereafter CN) and the practices of Freemasonry, a worldwide male fraternity. Freemasons practice an elitist stance of civilizing the self, translated into a collective mission of society-building. Though not a national movement, Freemasonry shares conceptual similarities with CN and was implicated in civic-national revolutions in the Americas and the Middle East. Drawing on ethnographic research on Israeli Freemasonry, the study explores Masonic sociability as a playgound for practicing civic friendship and negotiating the inherent tensions of CN. Freemasons straddle between particularist and universalist understandings of fraternity, virtue and charity, which carry over to questions of citizenship, patriotism and nationalism. This boundary work over collective attachments represents a pragmatic attempt, not to resolve universalist and particularist preferences, but to contain and incorporate both within exclusivist Masonic practices. Far from marking the failure of CN, Masonic sociability illustrates its political significance, envisioning the nation as a social club of chosen friends.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-435
Number of pages21
JournalNations and Nationalism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Civic friendship
  • Civic nation
  • Freemasonry
  • Israel
  • Patriotism
  • Social club


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