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Theories of Secession - Buchanan.docx

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Philosophy 2810F/G
Jennifer Epp

THEORIES OF SECESSION – BUCHANAN  There has been no systematic account of the types of normative theories of secession THE INSTITUTIONAL QUESTION  Depend upon whether the attractive features of non-institutional theories remain attractive when attempts are made to institutionalize them. I shall argue that they do not: otherwise appealing accounts of the right to secede are seen to be poor guides to institutional reform  It is appreciated that attempts to incorporate them into international institutions would create perverse incentives  Unless institutional considerations are taken into account from the beginning in developing a normative theory of secession, the result is unlikely to be of much value for the task of providing moral guidance for institutional reform  Because secessionist attempts are usually resisted with deadly force by the state, human rights violations are common in secession  Their theories are only intended to provide general guidance – but provide no clues as to how the gap might be bridged  Remedial right theories are superior TWO TYPES OF NORMATIVE THEORIES OF SECESSION  Remedial right only or also recognize a primary right to secede meant a general not a special right  Remedial right only theories assert that a group has a general right to secede if and only if it has suffered certain injustices for which secession is the appropriate remedy of last resort  Revolution – people have the right to overthrow the government if and only if their fundamental rights are violated and more peaceful means have been to no avail  Locke tends to focus on cases where the government perpetrates injustices against the people, not a particular group within the state  When the people suffer prolonged and serious injustices the people will rise  Remedial right Only theories hold that the general right to secession exists only where the group in question has suffered injustices  Special rights to secede if the state grants a right to secede, and if the constitution of the state includes a right to secede, also if the agreement by which the state was initially created out of previously independent political units included the implicit or explicit assumption that secession at a later point was permissible  They do not limit permissible secession to cases where the seceding group has suffered injustices. They do restrict the general right to secede to such cases  Group has a right to secede only if 1. The physical survival of its members is threatened by actions of the state – or it suffers violations of other basic human rights 2. Its previously sovereign territory was unjustly taken by the state  Corporate in the project of securing other just terms of secession  Ascriptive Group Theories: groups whose memberships are defined by what are sometimes called ascriptive characteristics that have the right to secede – independently of any actual political association  Associative Group Theories: do not require that a group have any ascriptive characteristics in common such as ethnicity or an encompassing culture  Group need not even believe that they other than the desire to have their own state – voluntary political choice  There is a right to secede that is, or is an instance of the right of political association  Plebiscite theory – there is a primary right of political association or as of political self determination  Form its own state if that group constitutes a majority in that territory or if the state it forms will be able to carry out effectively what was referred to earlier as the legitimating functions of a state  Or if its severing the territory from the existing state will not impair the latter’s ability to carry out effectively those same legitimating functions  There can also be a right to secede grounded in the need to remedy injustices  A group can have a right to secede even if it suffers no injustices  Just must be understood in what might be called the uncontroversial or standard or theory neutral sense  One that does not violate relatively uncontroversial individual moral rights  Does not engage in uncontroversial discriminatory policies toward minorities CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING PROPOSALS FOR LEGAL RIGHTS TO SECEDE  First theories of the moral right to secede that might intitially appear reasonable are seen to be seriously deficient when viewed as elements of an institutional morality articulated in a system of international law  Second some current theories of the right to secede are much more promising candidates for providing guidance for international law than others – fail to take into account some of the most critical considerations relevant to the project  Minimal realism – a proposal for morally progressive legal rights to secede. A reasonable degree of secession would better serve basic values than the status quo  Minimal realism is not slavish deference to current political feasibility  A theory is morally progressive and minimally realistic if and only if its implementation would better serve basic values than the status quo  Consistency with well entrenched morally progressive principles of international law – a proposal should build upon the more morally acceptable principles of existing international law  Absence of perverse incentives: a proposal should not create perverse incentives  The chief way in which acceptance as a principle of international law creates incentives is by conferring legitimacy on certain types of actions  Conferring legitimacy on a certain type of action, international law gives those who have an interest in preventing those who have an interest in preventing those actions from occurring an incentive to act strategically to prevent the conditions for performing the actions from coming into existence  For if the state remains centralized then it will not face the possibility of a secessionist plebiscite  The incentive is perverse, insofar as it disposes states to act in ways that preclude potentially beneficial decentralization  Some cases, federalization rather than secession may be the best response to legitimate demands for autonomy by groups within the state  Moral Accessibility: a proposal for reforming international law should be morally accessible to a broad international audience  International law dep
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