The Monist 95 (1):86-102 (2012)

Authors
Cindy Holder
University of Victoria
Abstract
We live in a world of states: a world in which the dominant form of “persisting structure” for the wielding of political power is characterized by territorially concentrated power exercised through political institutions that exert sovereign control in the sense of being able to exclusively command compliance. Within such a world, calls for reorganization of the way these institutions are organized so as to devolve power to groups oppressed or marginalized within existing structures are inevitable. However, for proponents of liberal states, such calls for devolving power pose a problem. When substate groups call for a reorganization in which power is devolved rather than reformed, they imply that within some portions of the state’s territory, or for certain of the state’s inhabitants, state-level political institutions cannot rightfully command compliance, or at least, cannot do so exclusively. Proponents of liberal states might respond to this problem by letting go of the need for exclusive command. However, for many proponents of liberal states, the prospect of a competing source of rightful command that may assert priority over decision making that applies to the entire territory is impractical, and conceptually difficult to sustain. An alternative response, one that preserves the pre-eminent position of institutions that encompass the state’s entire territory and population, is to insist that such institutions have a vital role in ensuring that the decision making of sub-state groups meets minimal conditions of moral equality and respect for human rights. Emphasizing the role of institutions that encompass the entire territory in guaranteeing minimal conditions of moral equality and respect for human rights seems promising, but it cannot provide a satisfactory account of the desirability of empowering state officials to exercise powers of oversight, and so it cannot justify reserving such powers in the face of calls for power to be devolved. This is most obvious in relation to oppressed an marginalized groups, as state officials recognize cannot reasonably expect members of such groups to accept officials as credible guarantors of moral equality or human rights. This problem aside, there is a basic problem with the way decision making is conceived of in arguments for the importance of reserving powers of oversight as groups calling for devolution of power are not susceptible to the kind of characterization that state officials would have to engage in to effectively gauge whether to intervene to secure moral equality and human rights.
Keywords minorities  minority rights  group rights  multiculturalism  human rights  social ontology
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Reprint years 2014
ISBN(s) 0026-9662
DOI monist20129517
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Group Rights.Peter Jones - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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