The Self-Determination of Peoples: Community, Nation, and State in an Interdependent World

The Self-Determination of Peoples: Community, Nation, and State in an Interdependent World

The Self-Determination of Peoples: Community, Nation, and State in an Interdependent World

The Self-Determination of Peoples: Community, Nation, and State in an Interdependent World

Synopsis

With contentious issues of sovereignty and self-determination a focus of current world affairs, this comprehensive analysis is especially timely. The authors explore the conceptual, political, legal, cultural, economic, and strategic aspects of self-determination—encompassing both theory and practice—in the context of the evolving international system. Wide-ranging case studies enrich the collection.

The book serves as an excellent introduction to a central set of issues in international politics.

Excerpt

Coming from a very small state and having grown up at a time when the prevailing wisdom was “the bigger the better,” I invested quite some time in exploring what factors influenced the size of states throughout history. The results of this effort are somewhat speculative. Nevertheless, there is good evidence that changes in technology, especially in the military sector, influence the size of states.

When military technology favored the defender, small states or very decentralized large states prevailed. A small number of soldiers behind high walls were able to defend a city or a castle quite effectively against a larger army, especially when transportation was difficult and expensive. When military technology favored the aggressor, larger armies and therefore larger and more centralized states prevailed.

But war is an expensive business, and over a longer period of time economic factors became more important than military technology. In the past, small states could keep their independence only if they were able to pay for their military defense (the Principality of Liechtenstein, having excellent relations over the centuries with its two neighbors, Switzerland and Austria, is the exception rather than the rule). Historically, small states could compete economically with large states only when they were able to rely on international trade. Small states have to import what they cannot produce locally, whereas a large state typically can rely much more on internal resources: a bad harvest in one province can be balanced by a good harvest in another. To pay for all the necessary imports, a small state has to export a much larger portion of its national product.

If we look at the economic and military disadvantages of a small state compared to a large one, it is surprising that any small states have survived. Yet, many reasons for their survival can be found: for example, small states, like small companies, are easier to manage, more flexible, and often more open to innovation. The small city-states in ancient . . .

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