Is There a Liberal Right to Secede from a Liberal State?

TRAMES 10 (4):371-386 (2006)
This paper explores the question of whether there can be a right to secede from a liberal state by examining the concept of a liberal state and the different forms of liberalism that may be appealed to in order to justify secession. It argues that where the foundations of the state’s legitimacy are conceived in terms of a non-derivative right to self-determination, then secession from a liberal state may be a justified form of action for different types of groups including ‘illiberal’ ones. If, however, a broader definition of political legitimacy is adopted – one that is predicated upon the liberal notions of individual moral autonomy and equality – then the right to independent statehood will generally not include a right to secede from a state that already upholds these principles. Consequently, liberal theorists of secession are forced to choose between particularizing a right of independent statehood to groups trapped in illiberal states, or acknowledging that the right to secede includes a right to establish an ‘illiberal’ state that bestows upon its citizens unequal rights and entitlements other than a right of exit.
Keywords Secession  Liberal  Plebiscitary
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