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The challenge of self-determination and emerging nationalism: the evolution of the international community’s normative responses to state fragmentation

By James Robert Mills


How does the international community understand and apply the right of self-determination? Who holds this right: individuals, peoples, nations, states, ethnicities, minorities, majorities? What limits are there to the exercise of this right and which claims are ‘valid’ and which are not? This thesis addresses these issues as it seeks, above all, to answer the question of when, why and in what ways the international community’s understanding of and normative responses to self-determination have evolved. To do so, Part I explores critically the theories and history of nationalism, human rights, sovereignty and self-determination to explain the challenges of ‘emerging nationalism’ (defined herein as nationalism within established multi-national states aimed at altering the constitutional and/or social standing of the nation vis-à-vis the larger political entity). This part identifies the genesis of the interconnected ideas of identity, human rights, and sovereignty and begins to trace the evolution of the norm of self-determination over time as it has been conceived and employed by international society. It suggests new approaches to these concepts based within the liberal democratic tradition, which are, arguably, more philosophically coherent than other explanations for self-determination. Part II assesses international normative responses to state fragmentation and national liberation prior to the end of the Cold War to determine how much they have resembled the interpretation of national self-determination suggested in Part I, contending that the conceptual evolution of selfdetermination can only be interpreted accurately by understanding the parallel evolution and development of international society. Part III examines the evolution of self-determination and emerging nationalism in the post-Cold War era, asking whether the norms generated by the present-day society of states are consistent with the theoretical and historical observations made earlier. The recent case of Kosovo is examined in detail as it best suggests the present trajectory of international norms and responses to emerging nationalism

Topics: JZ International relations
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Theses Online

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