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Political Philosophy on Self-Determination - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 259
Self-determination/Political Philosophy/Kukathas: in the nineteenth century, nationalism was allied with
Gaus I 260
liberalism as the principle of nationality was invoked as a principle of freedom - and against
alien rule.
Mazzini: the liberalism of Mazzini, for example, advocated the unification of Italy as a national
republic from which French, Austrian and Papal power was expelled.
Mill: and John Stuart Mill saw a common nationality as a prerequisite for (liberal) representative government.
Liberalism/non-liberalism: in this light, national self-determination might seem unproblematic, as an ideal both liberals and non-liberals alike might readily accept: liberals because they favour self-determination, and non- liberals because they favour national community. Yet matters are not so straightforward. In the first instance, what is always, and inescapably, controversial is the issue of who is the 'self' that is entitled to self-determination. Even if people within a boundary are entitled to govern themselves, how is the boundary to be drawn: who is to be included and who is to be excluded (Barry, 1991(1); 2001(2): 137)?
Culture/group membership: theorists such as Raz and Margalit (1990)(3) look to resolve the problem by tying group membership to culture, suggesting that 'encompassing groups' have a number of characteristics that give them a unity which enables them to mount claims to self-hood and therefore self-determination. Central to such groups is a common culture, but no less impor-
tant is the fact that people within them recognize each other as members and regard their membership as important for their own self-identification. It is also important to recognize, however, that the right of self-determination can be enjoyed only by a group that is a majority in a territory (1990(3): 441).
VsIndividualism: what Raz and Margalit reject, as an undesirable illusion, is the individualist principle of consent: 'It is undesirable since the more important human groupings need to be based on shared history, and on criteria of nonvoluntaristic (or at least not wholly contractarian) membership to have the value they have' (1990(3): 456).
Consent/KukathasVsRaz/KukathasVsMargalit: yet it is difficult to see how consent can fail to
play a significant role in any account of self- determination if self-determination is to mean some-
thing more than the determination of the lives of some by the will of others. And many other theories of self-determination give a substantial role to consent as central to any account of political legitimacy. >Consent.
Beran: among the most sustained defences of the importance of consent is that offered in the writings of Harry Beran, particularly in his defence of the right of secession s central to the legitimacy of the liberal state (Beran, 1984(4); 1987(5); but see also Green, 1988(6); and Simmons, 2001(7)) (...). >Political Secession.


1. Barry, Brian (1991) 'Self-government revisited'. Democracy and Power. Oxford: Clarendon, 156-86.
2. Barry, Brian (2001) Cultuæ and Equality: An Egalitarian Critique of Multiculturalism. Oxford: Polity. 3.Raz and Margalit 1990
4. Beran, Harry (1984) 'A liberal theory of secession'. Political Studies, 32:21-31.
5. Beran, Harry (1987) The Consent Theory of Political Obligation. London: Croom Helm.
6. Green, Leslie (1988) The Authority of the State. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
7. Simmons, A. John (2001) Justification and Legitimacy: Essays on Rights and Obligations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kukathas, Chandran 2004. „Nationalism and Multiculturalism“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Political Philosophy
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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