Secession as defence of a political liberty: A liberal answer to a nationalist demand

Aleksandar Pavković*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


Unilateral secession breaches the principle of majority rule and the principle of equal rights to which liberal democratic states adhere. How can one justify such a breach in a case in which the seceding state also aspires to be a liberal democratic state? If the government of the parent state, following a pro-secession referendum, refuses to negotiate with the secessionists over their secession, it thereby denies them the liberty of pursuing a politically satisfying life. A unilateral secession in pursuit of such a liberty could be justified within a Rawlsian framework, which ranks liberties higher than economic interests. But within the same framework a unilateral secession is unjustified if, as its consequence, the parent state can no longer protect those citizen rights which it protected before. While useful in assessing some cases of secession, the Rawlsian ranking does not provide universal criteria for assessment of all secessions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-713
Number of pages19
JournalCanadian Journal of Political Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2004

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2004 Cambridge University Press. Reprinted from Canadian journal of political science.


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