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A Liberal Theory of International Justice$
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Andrew Altman and Christopher Heath Wellman

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199564415

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199564415.001.0001

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(p.43) 3 Secession
A Liberal Theory of International Justice

Andrew Altman (Contributor Webpage)

Christopher Heath Wellman

Oxford University Press

The account of political self‐determination developed in Chapter 2 leads to the conclusion that separatists may qualify for a right to secede as long as their group is both able and willing to perform the requisite political functions. Although statists recoil from the conclusion that a group may be entitled to secede from a perfectly legitimate state, and nationalists will object that the view advanced in this chapter underestimates the importance to statehood of a group's shared cultural characteristics, the chapter argues that a group's rights to political self‐determination should ultimately hinge strictly upon its political capacities. Many commentators will object that the standard for the right to secede is entirely too lax, but the theory does not entail any commitment favoring secession. Just as one might defend the right to no‐fault divorce without believing that more people should separate, the defense offered in this chapter of the right to secede does not rest on the premise that it would be desirable for the world to be populated with an increasing number of small, more homogeneous states.

Keywords:   secession, self‐determination, nationalism, statehood, cultural characteristics

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