Contextualizing Secession: Normative Studies in Comparative Perspective

Contextualizing Secession: Normative Studies in Comparative Perspective

Contextualizing Secession: Normative Studies in Comparative Perspective

Contextualizing Secession: Normative Studies in Comparative Perspective


In a world where the traditional territorial organisation of the state is coming under increasing challenge from pressures from above (globalisation) and from below (struggles for federalisation and secession), the theoretical and practical questions concerning secessionist struggles becomeever more acute. It is these questions that this volume addresses. Why do some struggles for autonomy take acute forms, above all violent struggles for secession (for example, Chechnya), while others remain within the framework of constitutional politics (for example, Tatarstan and Quebec)? Underwhat conditions does a distinct political community have the right to secede from another, and how should this process be managed? Our ten case studies seek to answer these questions on the basis of the application of just war theory to the normative and practical issues concerning the secessionstruggles in these regions. The Introduction sets out the theoretical issues, and then each case study provides a rich mix of theoretical and empirical material, and some of the broader issues are then drawn together in the concluding chapter. The book focuses on four key themes that are central tothe ethics of secession. The first examines normative issues, in particular the tension between 'choice' theories and those based on remedial 'just cause' arguments. The second discusses the problem of violence in secessionist struggles and the ensuing relationship between just war theory and theethics of secession. The third problem is the relationship between nationhood and citizenship, and in particular the problem of applying what has now become a conventional distinction between ethnic and civic representations of the political community. Finally, the contentious issue of sovereigntyand the way that it frames debates about self-determination. With each of these themes, the application of general moral principles to particular historical contexts opens up new avenues of research. This book is essential reading for those who wish to understand both the theoretical and practicalissues concerning secession struggles in the world today.


Corsica has been the scene of separatist violence for decades. Assassinations and bomb attacks seem to be an ingredient of everyday politics on this island. a comparison with Northern Ireland or the Basque Country is never far away. But in the long run the Matignon Agreement of 2000, negotiated between the French government and the local political élite, could well represent a first decisive step towards a lasting peace on the island. This compromise has met some of the main demands put forward by the Corsican nationalists in pursuit of their ultimate goal: self-determination for the Corsican people.

The aim of this chapter is to examine whether Corsicans have a moral right to self-determination and, if so, to determine whether they are entitled to autonomy or even independence as a consequence of this right. in the first section, I will give a short historical overview of Corsican secessionism. the second part deals with the legal interpretations of the right to self-determination, and its relationship with the right to autonomy and the right to secession. a third section gives an overview of the moral interpretations of the right to self-determination in contemporary political theory, making a distinction between two different schools of thought in this respect: the 'just cause' versus 'choice' theories. the subsequent and final sections consist of an application of these normative theories to Corsican nationalism, with an overview of the situation since the acceptance of the Matignon Agreement by the National Assembly of the French Republic.

The corsican question

The emergence of the Corsican demand for independence dates back to the mid-1970s. Until that time, nationalist Corsicans did not seek independent statehood but merely political autonomy within France. However, violent street clashes and the fact that this demand for autonomy was not given due consideration led to a radicalization of the movement. Several

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