News and Political Commentary

Secession and political capacity

Research Article

by Kim Angell and Robert Huseby, University of Oslo, Norway


We argue that plebiscitary theories of secession have more permissive implications than has thus far been recognized, by proponents and critics alike. The plebiscitary theory aims to devise a principle for the moral right to secede. This principle implies, we claim, that the view under many circumstances is unable to distinguish between secession of collectives and individuals. Thus, not only large groups like the Catalans and the Scots, but also various much smaller groups, and even individuals, may have a right to secede. The result is an extremely permissive theory. For some, having the plebiscitary theory’s full implications clarified may only strengthen their opposition to it. However, we argue that a significant upside to the plebiscitary theory’s permissive stance on secession is the toleration and respect it implies for an array of small-scale ways of organizing oneself politically.

Democratic Secession from a Multinational State

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