Ethical Perspectives 21 (1):199-224 (2014)

Hsin-Wen Lee
University of Delaware
The principle of national self-determination holds that a national community, simply by virtue of being a national community, has a prima facie right to create its own sovereign state. While many support this principle, not as many agree that it should be formally recognized by political institutions. One of the main concerns is that implementing this principle may lead to certain types of inequalities—between nations with and without their own states, members inside and outside the border, and members and nonmembers inside the same nation state. While these inequalities may arise, I shall argue that they are not unjust. These worries are partly the results of confusing two types of interests that a national group may have—in cultural affairs and in political affairs. While a national community should enjoy rights over their cultural affairs, this does not grant them authority over other non-cultural, political affairs. Once the distinction is drawn, we can see that there are constraints on the implementation of this principle. Consequently, these inequalities justify setting limits to a group’s right of self-government, although they do not conclusively refute the right itself.
Keywords national culture  identity  sovereignty  self-determination  self-government  nationalism
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2014
DOI 10.2143/EP.21.2.3030697
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 62,618
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Identity Argument for National Self-Determination.Hsin-wen Lee - 2012 - Public Affairs Quarterly 26 (2):123-139.
The Ethics of Nationalism.Margaret Moore - 2001 - Oxford University Press.
Beyond the Cultural Argument for Liberal Nationalism.Margaret Moore - 1999 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 2 (3):26-47.
Nations Beyond Nationalism.Helder7 De Schutter - 2007 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 50 (4):378 – 394.
Nationalism, Patriotism, and New Subjects of Ideological Hegemony.John Murray - 2011 - Journal of Philosophy: A Cross-Disciplinary Inquiry 6 (14):30-43.
On the Demos and its Kin: Nationalism, Democracy, and the Boundary Problem.Arash Abizadeh - 2012 - American Political Science Review 106 (4):867-882.
National Identity: Belonging to a Cultural Group? Belonging to a Polity.Monika Kirloskar-Steinbach - 2004 - Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 3 (8):31-42.
Homage to Ruritania: Nationalism, Identity, and Diversity.Martin Tyrrell - 2007 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 19 (4):511-522.
Nationalism and Immigration.Chaim Gans - 1998 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 1 (2):159-180.
What Rough Beast?Eugen Weber - 1996 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 10 (2):285-298.


Added to PP index

Total views
43 ( #247,464 of 2,446,658 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #231,778 of 2,446,658 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes