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Self-Determination without Nationalism

A Theory of Postnational Sovereignty

Omar Dahbour

Publication Year: 2012

This book constitutes a critique of the illusions of globalists and cosmopolitans, especially the idea that a new world order based on universal principles of justice and rights, and devoid of nations, states, and power struggles, is possible. It presents the argument that particular political communities are an ethically desirable and historically inevitable feature of collective life (Chs. 4-5). However, the ethical principles that govern them, especially self-determination and sovereignty, require reformulation. The book presents an argument that nation-states violate the principle of self-determination, an idea best understood as justifying minority rights and patriotic attachments, not nationalism (Chs. 1-3). Self-determination is also understood as entailing a new concept of ecosovereignty. This idea is meant to capture the need for a new understanding of political community that can protect and further the rights of indigenous peoples, and the needs of ecological regions for a sustainable form of development and security from environmental destruction (Chs. 6-8).

Published by: Temple University Press

Series: Global Ethics and Politics (GEP)

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v

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pp. vii-ix

This book has been written within and about three different debates or discussions that have occurred in political theory and international ethics in the last generation. First, there is the nationalism debate beginning in the 1980s, which has involved philosophers, historians, social theorists, and...

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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...

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1. Distinguishing Peoples from Nations

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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...

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2. Self-Determination and Minority Rights

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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...

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3. Self-Determination and Plebiscitary Democracy

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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 the absence of rights for disadvantaged or oppressed minorities that self-determination as a sovereignty right becomes...

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4. Ethical Communities without Nations

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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...

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5. The Illusion of Global Community

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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...

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6. The Contemporary Revival of Sovereignty

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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...

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7. The Legitimacy of Sovereignty Claims

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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...

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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-...


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pp. 225-250


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pp. 251-258

E-ISBN-13: 9781439900765
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439900758

Page Count: 278
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Global Ethics and Politics (GEP)