This paper is interested in a line of critique (of liberal nationalism) that questions the project of grounding a liberal political order on the idea of a nation.  The criticism is that the liberal nationalist concept of a nation, which makes reference to the idea of a culture, is essentialist and so potentially either exclusionary or, more rarely, wrongly impositional, and so is deeply problematic for liberals to endorse.  In this paper, I will examine this criticism as it applies to two dominant, but quite different conceptions of ‘culture’: the first is a family resemblance conception; the second relies on the idea of social lineage.  The paper will ask whether these ways of conceiving of ‘culture’ are vulnerable to the essentialist critique, although it will also consider which concept is more plausible, where plausibility is cashed out in terms of its coherence with the main examples of what we think, in ordinary language, to be cultures. I will also consider whether it can perform most of the functions that we expect of an adequate concept of culture, specifically that it can (i) individuate cultures (the individuation condition); (ii) explain cultural loss; and (iii) distinguish cultural loss from the same culture undergoing significant change (both of which are aspects of the persistence condition) (Patten 2014:40-50 ).