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Why stay together? A pluralist approach to secession and federation

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Bauböck, Rainer

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Corporate Editor Institut für Höhere Studien (IHS), Wien
Abstract "As a political doctrine nationalism has four distinctive features which make it unattractive from a liberal perspective. It promotes revisions of external state borders by secession and unification in order to create homogeneous nation-states; it militates against national and ethnic diversity within the given borders of a state; it regards national obligations as overriding other interests and identities of the nation's members; and it attributes a moral priority to compatriots which overrides obligations towards foreigners or foreign countries. The paper briefly examines each of these 'four ugly faces' of nationalism. Although liberal political theory may claim to have most consistently opposed these nationalist propositions, I argue that traditional liberalism is ill-equipped to reply to questions which involve the legitimacy of boundaries of political communities. This claim is substantiated by a more thorough examination of the question how state borders ought to be drawn. Consequentialist, deontological and liberal nationalist approaches are each divided against themselves on the question about whether and how to defend or reject a right to secession. The paper derives an alternative response from linking the legitimacy of secession to a theory of federation. In this view, secession may not only be justified in cases of persistent discrimination and inequality of individual citizenship, but also when fair terms of federation are violated. In multinational states, the claims of territorially concentrated groups to self-government can be generally satisfied by guaranteeing them collective rights to regional autonomy and special representation at the federal level. If, and as long as, the terms of federation are fair, minorities incur an obligation to maintain the unity of the federation in which they participate both as individual citizens and as distinct political communities within the larger polity." [author's abstract]
Keywords nationalism; federation; secession; society; pluralism; nation state; ethnic group; legitimacy; theory of the state; exclusion; liberalism; sovereignty
Classification Basic Research, General Concepts and History of Political Science
Document language English
Publication Year 1997
City Wien
Page/Pages 50 p.
Series Reihe Politikwissenschaft / Institut für Höhere Studien, Abt. Politikwissenschaft, 51
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications