At First Sight it Might Appear Somewhat Curious to be studying the efficacy of the liberal democratic state just at that historic moment when liberal democracy seems to have triumphed on a global scale. Yet within contemporary Europe, the nature of political community and sovereign power have been thrown into question by the resurgence of ethnic nationalism, the intensification of regional integration and global turbulence. Taken together, these forces appear to deliver a fundamental challenge to the democratic ideals which underpin liberal democratic states. This article seeks to evaluate the nature of this challenge. It invites specific consideration of the consequences of these ‘threats from above’ and ‘threats from below’ for the character of the modern state.