The Quest for Self-Determination

The Quest for Self-Determination

The Quest for Self-Determination

The Quest for Self-Determination

Synopsis

Dov Ronen proposes in this interpretive essay that ethnic nationalism is simply the newest form of a basic human drive for self-determination that has been manifested in four other movements since the French Revolution: nineteenth-century nationalism, Marxist-Leninist class self-determination, self-determination for minorities as espoused by Wilson, and decolonization. Ronen's intention in this book is to explain what self-determination is, why people fight for it, and what the implications of the struggle may be. Though Ronen's approach is primarily analytical and philosophical, he uses four cases (the Scots, Biafra, the Palestinians, and South Africa) to illustrate the application of his thesis to current events.

Excerpt

"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men . . . are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness . . . that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government." With these words the representatives of the thirteen colonies of North America acknowledged the fundamental aspiration of human beings to control their own lives, to be the masters of their own destinies for the attainment of "liberty" and "happiness," that is to enjoy self-determination. This very same quest for self-determination that gave birth to the United States of America reemerged in a new geographical and political setting in the French Revolution.

My thesis in this book is that this fundamental human aspiration, this basic drive, the quest for self-determination, which has appeared locally many times in history, has taken root and spread since the French Revolution to other parts of the world, has been formulated at times in apparently conflicting sets of ideas, has appeared in correspondingly different movements, and has been embodied recently in various documents as a legal right. I will propose here that the quest for self-determination has appeared since the French Revolution in five analytically distinguishable forms . . .

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