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Secession in the 21st century: the right to secede in liberal-democratic contexts. Legitimacy and new perspectives.

Marc Sanjaume-Calvet
Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Marc Sanjaume-Calvet
Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Open Panel

Abstract

The objective of this article is two-fold. Firstly, I criticize the common view on secessionist demands often seen as posed by single issue political agenda movements oriented to ethnic, violent and homogenization policies. On one hand, I claim that this picture has contributed to a misunderstanding of secessionist demands in liberal democratic contexts. On the other hand, I claim that it has also contributed to an extremely reluctant position of philosophers on democratic theory to rethink how secession could be included in the core of these theories. Secondly, I offer a different picture of secessionist movements in liberal democracies of 21st century through the minority nation’s examples of Quebec (Canada), Scotland (UK) and Catalonia (Spain); as moderate and institutionally oriented collective aspirations expressed in a wide range of legitimization discourses rather than a full-blown nationalist perspective. According to this view, I claim that a proper theory of secession in liberal democratic contexts should be included in a more complex theory of democracy rather than in single theory of secession. Although I agree with contextual approaches I consider that some principles can be included to current theories of democracy in order to face secessionist claims. Challenging the main arguments against secession, I propose that a theory of democracy should envisage at least three main points: the duty of recognition, the intrastate pacts and the legitimacy of the people.