Self-Determination without Nationalism

Self-Determination without Nationalism: A Theory of Postnational Sovereignty

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 278
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  • Book Info
    Self-Determination without Nationalism
    Book Description:

    How do groups-be they religious or ethnic-achieve sovereignty in a postnationalist world? InSelf-Determination without Nationalism, noted philosopher Omar Dahbour insists that the existing ethics of international relations, dominated by the rival notions of liberal nationalism and political cosmopolitanism, no longer suffice.

    Dahbour notes that political communities are an ethically desirable and historically inevitable feature of collective life. The ethical principles that govern them, however-especially self-determination and sovereignty-require reformulation in light of globalization and the economic and environmental challenges of the twenty-first century.Arguing that nation-states violate the principle of self-determination, Dahbour then develops a detailed new theory of self-determination that he calls "ecosovereignty." Ecosovereignty defines political community in a way that can protect and further the rights of indigenous peoples as well as the needs of ecological regions for a sustainable form of development and security from environmental destruction.In the series Global Ethics and Politics, edited by Carol Gould.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0076-5
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    Consider the following instances of contemporary political conflict. The people of Egypt mass by the thousands in the heart of Cairo, forcing the abdication of the virtual dictator of the country for the last generation. An unknown political movement in Mexico, named after a historical revolutionary, stages a series of spectacular media-oriented events to publicize its demands for local autonomy in the southern part of the country. Acts of sabotage begin against pipelines, drilling platforms, and other sites in the oilfields of southern Nigeria, close to where the local population has been losing farm- and forestlands to increasing pollution from...

  5. 1 Distinguishing Peoples from Nations
    (pp. 18-41)

    The nation-state is one of the most widely used, and least examined, concepts in political discourse today. It is implicit in the idea of national self-determination—that nations ought to have their own states. But there is a conceptual difference between nations and states, and they are also usually empirically distinct. It turns out that the nation-state and the claim to self-determination that legitimates it depend on a prior definition ofnation. This is where controversy starts. Without defining nations in a certain way, advocates of national self-determination risk losing the strong link between nations and states that underlies their...

  6. 2 Self-Determination and Minority Rights
    (pp. 42-70)

    Contemporary political theory has been strongly affected by the concept of rights, which nationalists have not been reluctant to use for their own purposes. This chapter examines the idea that ethnonational groups can claim a right of self-determination in order to establish independent nation-states. By comparing this idea with the related but quite distinct notion that minorities (often but not always national minorities) may claim a right of self-determination if they are oppressed, it can be shown that national rights exist in only a very limited sense. An examination of two historical instances—the competing claims to self-determination invoked to...

  7. 3 Self-Determination and Plebiscitary Democracy
    (pp. 71-90)

    Contrary to the dominant—and quasi-nationalist—strand of thought on self-determination in political theory, it is the argument of Chapter 2 that self-determination does not have an intrinsic and justifiable connection to minority rights. It is only in theabsenceof rights for disadvantaged or oppressed minorities that self-determination as a sovereignty right becomes justifiable. This is a conditional and contingent matter, not a matter of entitlement for national groups. However, those who believe in the political significance and legitimacy of national identities may still seek to invoke rights-claims in terms of a desideratum of choice, consent, or democratic entitlement...

  8. 4 Ethical Communities without Nations
    (pp. 91-114)

    It is time to specify the proper claimants of political self-determination—peoples. But there is still some work to be done before we can define the concept of peoples because it has often been confused with that of nations. In the view argued here, the two are distinct. To define peoples, the notion of an ethical community is employed. Peoples are ethical communities, but nations are not. This is not the common understanding, however, so ethical community must itself be defined, and then it must be shown in what sense nations are deficient (as) ethical communities. Among other things, this...

  9. 5 The Illusion of Global Community
    (pp. 115-145)

    In the first four chapters of this book, I argue that nation-states are not a legitimate form of political community because they violate principles of both natural and complex social justice. In making this case, I maintain, first, that the problem lies not with the state per se but with the idea that states should seek their legitimacy through congruence with national groups. Nationalities are groups of persons defined by perceived or imputed ethnic characteristics or practices, and these should not be understood as pertinent to considerations of political right or social good. Nevertheless, the principle of self-determination, which is...

  10. 6 The Contemporary Revival of Sovereignty
    (pp. 146-172)

    In 1991, just after the definitive end of the Cold War, Charles Beitz wrote, “The idea of internal sovereignty plays no substantial role in contemporary political theory. So it is a striking fact that in the study of international relations, and in international political theory as well, the idea of external sovereignty is still with us.”¹ It is also pretty clearly a regrettable fact from Beitz’s point of view. Yet seven years later, in 1998, Christopher Morris, no friend of the sovereignty concept, had to admit that Beitz’s claim for the absence of discussions of sovereignty in political theory was...

  11. 7 The Legitimacy of Sovereignty Claims
    (pp. 173-205)

    In establishing appropriate criteria for sovereignty claims today, it is important to recall that sovereignty is not an institution or power (though it may be instantiated in such things) but is best understood as a norm or idea. Thus, it is important to be clear about what sort of norm it is. In particular, external sovereignty is primarily a norm of recognition—a claim to authority over a territory coupled with an acknowledgment of the legitimacy of others’ claims to authority over other limited territories. It is a claim for the recognition by others of this authority and an offer...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 206-224)

    As this study of self-determination and sovereignty draws to a close, it is worth highlighting both the advantages and the disadvantages of reaffirming these concepts. The advantages result in particular from developing a concept of ecosovereignty out of a principle of popular self-determination. These new concepts of self-determination and sovereignty should help us move beyond the impasse between theories of nationalism and internationalism that has dominated international ethics now for a generation. The disadvantages of using these concepts result from difficulties with enacting them in the current international environment. Finally, it is worth asking to what degree acting to realize...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 225-250)
  14. Index
    (pp. 251-258)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-259)