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How should liberal democracies respond to claims for self-determination?


We are currently living in an age of claims for self-determination. From Scotland and Catalonia, to Veneto (Italy) and the Chuuk Islands (Micronesia) political movements struggle for self-government and recognition of national and cultural differences. Far from taming regionalism and secessionism, globalization has spurred these political demands by connecting territories to the forces of unpredictable economic flux (Alesina and Spolaore 2005) . At the same time, majority nationalism and populist governments across liberal democracies foster recentralization agendas that often include targeting national minorities and encroaching sub-state powers through political and judicial mechanisms (Kallis 2018) .

Peaceful strategies, including both the ballot box and popular protest, have replaced violence in most self-determination movements in Europe, although several violent conflicts remain active (i.e Ukraine). Votes, nonetheless, do not prove more successful to achieve independence or even strong territorial autonomy. Real chances to achieve external self-determination remain extremely low for these movements (Griffiths and Wasser 2019) . Liberal democracies provide voice to those claiming secession, but at the same time remain extremely protective of their territorial integrity. In fact, several constitutional firewalls prevent exit being a real available political objective and secessionist demands are rarely constitutionally or/and politically accommodated (Weill 2018). How should liberal democracies respond to claims for self-determination?

The study of philosophical, empirical and legal dimensions of secessionism is now an emerging field (Griffiths and Muro 2020; Sanjaume‐Calvet 2019; Dalle Mulle and Serrano 2019) . This panel aims to explore philosophical and institutional approaches to both internal and external self-determination from a broad perspective. Papers on the philosophy of self-determination and applied political theory of self-determination in comparative of case-studies are welcome. We aim to answer questions such as:

  • When are self-determination demands legitimate against liberal-democracies?
  • Does democracy as a concept require agreement on the demos?
  • Are better off regions entitled to self-determination?
  • Are self-determination referendums limited to one generation?
  • Are internal and external self-determination equivalent in terms of legitimacy and
  • How should secession constitutional clauses be designed if necessary?

Alesina, Alberto, and Enrico Spolaore. 2005. The Size of Nations. MIT Press.
Dalle Mulle, Emmanuel, and Ivan Serrano. 2019. ‘Between a Principled and a Consequentialist Logic: Theory and Practice of Secession in Catalonia and Scotland’. Nations and Nationalism 25 (2): 630–51.
Griffiths, Ryan D., and Diego Muro. 2020. Strategies of Secession and Counter-Secession. ECPR Press.
Griffiths, Ryan D., and Louis M. Wasser. 2019. ‘Does Violent Secessionism Work?’ Journal of Conflict Resolution 63 (5): 1310–36.
Kallis, Aristotle. 2018. ‘Populism, Sovereigntism, and the Unlikely Re-Emergence of the Territorial Nation-State’. Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences 11 (3): 285–302.
Sanjaume‐Calvet, Marc. 2019. ‘Moralism in Theories of Secession: A Realist Perspective’. Nations and Nationalism 0 (0).
Weill, Rivka. 2018. ‘Secession and the Prevalence of Both Militant Democracy and Eternity Clauses Worldwide’. Cardozo Law Review 40: 905.