Where Nationalism is a reaction against experience of foreign domination or occupation, or colonial rule, it tends to be a liberating force, and is invariably linked with the goals of liberty, justice and democracy. Where Nationalism is a product of social dislocation and demographic change, it often has an insular and exclusive character, and can then become a vehicle for racism and xenophobia, is thus destructive, and may also be expansionist. There are obvious overlaps between Cultural and Political Nationalism, though the latter is generally regarded as having four basic and recognisable forms - liberal, conservative, expansionist and anti-colonial.
Liberal Nationalism asserts that states have rights, and especially the right to self-determination; in this sense, all nations are equal. This is the classic form of European Nationalism, and lay behind Woodrow Wilson's ‘Fourteen Points’ in 1918 and the blueprint for the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. There is a critical link between the nation and popular sovereignty; aristocratic or repressive empires must be resisted and over-turned. The goal is the construction of the (independent) nation-state, where the boundaries of government coincide with those of nationality; all nations have an equal right to independence and non-interference. The intended outcome is the enlargement of political freedom, while and Liberal Nationalism provides the framework for securing a peaceful world order, fortified by international law, and supervised by supranational bodies. Liberal Nationalism cannot therefore be described as either expansionist or destructive.