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Secession: The ethics of self-determination of peoples from American Declaration of Independence to the Crimea

Type: Mago-Lego
When: 3 module
Open to: students of all HSE University campuses
Instructors: Boris Kashnikov
Language: English
ECTS credits: 3

Course Syllabus


The course offers a substantive study of the normative aspects of self-determination and secession. The students are supposed to learn about the major theories and fact of the subject matter. The course is interdisciplinary. The students will study the historical aspects of self-determination, philosophical and normative issues. This course is based on knowledge and competences which were provided by the following disciplines: ● Philosophy. ● Political Science ● General Sociology ● History The following knowledge and competences are needed to study the discipline: ● The basic skills of philosophical analysis of international relations ● The basic knowledge of the normative theories ● The knowledge of the basics definitions in social sciences
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • The major learning objectives are comprised of factual knowledge of the development of the processes of self-determination of peoples and the normative theories stemming from philosophy, ethics and international law. The students are supposed to develop adequate skills of normative analysis of the processes of secession and self-determination to be able to take part in the practical discourse on secession and to provide philosophical analysis of the ongoing conflict, war or some other outbreak of substantial violence related to self-determination.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • The clarification of the relationship between ethics and self-determination
  • Self-determination is related to some other values
  • We follow the emergence of the idea of self-determination at the early stages of modernity
  • The first two post war movements of self-determination. At this state we have to understand the logic and normative value of implementation
  • The meaning of secession since early 1990th
  • The general idea of nationalism and its varieties
  • Three theories of secession
  • Understanding of the concept of people and the concept of rights
  • The controversy of the subject and object of self-determination
  • The analysis of the recent cases of self-determinatnion
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • 2. Self-determination, self-rule, autonomy, sovereignty and social choice.
    The problem of social choice. Rational choice theory. What makes rationality? The prerequisites of rational choice. Collective choice What makes collective choice reasonable? What makes collective choice rational? The impediments of social choice and the instruments of implementation. Arrow Theorem. Sovereignty. The original idea of sovereignty. Hobbesian approach to sovereignty. Rousseau on sovereignty. Popular sovereignty The contemporary diffusion of sovereignty. The ideal of human rights and international responsibility. Rawls on the law of peoples. Humanitarian intervention Autonomy, self-rule and secession. Autonomy. Self-rule and relevance to Secession. Individual autonomy and collective autonomy. Democracy and Self-Determination. Self-determination and democracy. Rivalry of democracy and self-determination. Liberalism and self-determination.
  • 5. Secession, war and terrorism
    Secession and independent statehood. The problem of secession in the 20th century. Secession and the crisis of legitimation. The major secessionist movements. Self-determination short of independent statehood. Autonomy. Other forms of self-determination short of secession. The problems of internal self-determination. The impossibility of universal implementation. Self-determination and armed violence. War of self-determination. Self-determination and terrorism. François Fanon and Sartre on the struggle for independence.
  • 4. Self-determination in two movements
    The first movement Woodrow Wilson and fourteen points. The fourteen points and the League of Nations. The problems of implementation. Aaland islands settlement. The political rational of the first movement. The limits of the first movement. The second movement. Decolonization The major documents of decolonization. The salt water test. Inviolability of artificial borders. The process of decolonization. The war of decolonization. Self-determination and inviolability of borders. Self-determination and sovereignty The contemporary problems The problem of redundancy of self-determination. Self-determination inside self-determination. Self-determination and inviolability of borders. ISIS and self-determination. Terrorism and self-determination.
  • 1. Ethics, justice and self-determination
    Morals and its role in international relations Three systems of normativity. Customs, Law and Morals. The specificity of moral value and its social role. Justice. Domestic, international and global Just War Theory. Justice of global order and international relations. The contemporary situation. The expansion of moral dimension. The idea of human rights. The idea of collective human right. The ideal of humanitarian intervention in the name of human rights Ethics in international relations. The role of ethical theory. Justification. Generation. Universalization Metaethics. Major theories. Cognitivism and non-cognitivism. Naturalism and non-naturalism. Descriptivism and natural law Normative ethics. Major approaches. Deontological theories. Teleological theories. Relativism, subjectivism, amoralism and moralism in ethics. Relativism. Amoralism. Moral Man, Immoral Society. Political realism and political idealism. Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes. Niebuhr Morgenthau and contemporary developments The ethical dimension of self-determination. Self-determination as an individual moral value. Kant and liberalism. The critique of liberal stance. Self-determination as a collective moral value Modernity and the myth of self-determination. The trap of collective self-determination
  • 3. The early historical cases of self-determination
    Self-determination, nationalism and modernity. The first indications of the rights of peoples. Revolutionary movements of the late 18th –early 19th century. The general idea of Modernity. American declaration of independence and self-determination. Declaration of independence. Ethical background of the Declaration. American civil war. Secession and self-determination. The contradictory nature of self-determination The early arguments against secession. French revolution and the idea of self-determination The idea of self-determination and the suppression of self-determination. Self-determination and suppression of other peoples Self-determination and revolutionary war. Anarchism and self-determination. Anarchism on universal self-determination. Bakunin on self-determination Lenin on self-determination. Globalization and self-determination. The inevitability of war of everyone against everyone in case of universal self-determination.
  • 8. The critique of the right of self-determination
    Who are the people? People as a nation. People as administrative body. People as any collection of individuals People as a product of self-determination. The impossibility to outline people as a subject of self-determination. The critique of the language of rights. The communitarian critique of the language of rights. The limits of the language of rights. Duty and self-determination. The contradictions of the right of self-determination.
  • 6. Nationalism.
    Modernity and the birth of nation. Modernity and the creation of states. Unification. What is a nation? Nation as an artificial creation. Nationalism and liberalism. Nationalism and democracy. The idea of nationalism. The objective prerequisites. The subjective criteria of nation. Territory and nationhood. The recent scholarship of nationalism. Gellner of nationality. Anderson on Nationality Smith on nationality. The problem of nationalistic demands. Nationalistic movements. Civic nationalism. Ethnic nationalism. The contemporary nationalistic mobilizations
  • 7. The three theories of secession
    The overview of the theories. The overall idea of secession. Internal and external self-determination. The internal and external conditions of secession. The problem of normativity. Nationalistic theory. The overview of the theories. David Miller. The character traits of nationalistic demand. The special characteristic of an encompassing community. Tamir on liberal nationalism. Ethnic and civic nationalism and secession. Democratic theory. The overview of the theories. Secession as a democratic right. Secession as a democratic right. Critique Just cause theory. The overview of the theories. Buchanan and Norman on just cause to secession. The problem of implementation. Critique.
  • 9. The subject and agent of self-determination.
    The limits of identity politics The subjectivity of peoplehood. The manipulations of identity. “People do not decide anything before someone decides who the people are”. The return of the great power rule Who decides the cases self-determination and secession? The future of self-determination and secession political settlements.
  • 10. The recent cases.
    Kosovo Historical background. Development and implementation. The Crimea Historical background. Development and implementation. Chechnya Historical background. Development and implementation Bangladesh Historical background. Development and implementation Catalonia Historical background. Development and implementation
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Current control
  • non-blocking Research paper
  • non-blocking Oral examination
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (3 module)


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Bossacoma Busquets, P. V. aut. (2020). Morality and Legality of Secession A Theory of National Self-Determination by Pau Bossacoma Busquets.
  • Buchanan, A. E. (2004). Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-Determination : Moral Foundations for International Law. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=215591
  • Gellner, E. (1979). Nations and States: An Inquiry into the Origins of Nations and the Politics of Nationalism (Book). Political Studies, 27(2), 312–313.
  • Juan Francisco Escudero Espinosa. (2018). Self-Determination and Humanitarian Secession in International Law of a Globalized World : Kosovo V. Crimea. Springer.
  • Kohen, M. G. (2006). Secession : International Law Perspectives. Cambridge University Press.
  • Margaret Moore. (1998). National Self-Determination and Secession. OUP Oxford.
  • Martini, C. (2011). Group agency: the possibility, design, and status of corporate agents. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy & Economics, 4(2), 117–122. https://doi.org/10.23941/ejpe.v4i2.88
  • Milena Sterio. (2012). The Right to Self-determination Under International Law : “Selfistans,” Secession, and the Rule of the Great Powers. Routledge.
  • Thorsen, N. (1995). National Self-Determination: Woodrow Wilson and His Legacy. By Derek Heater. (New York: St. Martin’s, 1994. ix, 225 pp. $59.95, ISBN 0-312-12396-5.). https://doi.org/10.2307/2945231

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Anderson, B. R. O. (2006). Imagined Communities : Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=1694834
  • Christian Walter, Antje von Ungern-Sternberg, & Kavus Abushov. (2014). Self-Determination and Secession in International Law: Vol. First edition. OUP Oxford.
  • Don H. Doyle. (2010). Secession As an International Phenomenon : From America’s Civil War to Contemporary Separatist Movements. University of Georgia Press.
  • Etzioni, A. (1993). A227 - The Evils of Self-Determination.
  • Faizullah Jan. (2015). The Muslim Extremist Discourse : Constructing Us Versus Them. Lexington Books.
  • Felice, W. F. (2009). The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anti-Colonial Nationalism. Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, 32(2), 447.
  • French, D. (2013). Statehood and Self-Determination : Reconciling Tradition and Modernity in International Law. Cambridge University Press.
  • fullinwider, robert k. (2008). A Theory of Secession: The Case for Political Self-Determination - By Christopher Heath Wellman. Philosophical Books, 49(1), 83–85. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0149.2008.456_19.x
  • G. N. Devy. (2020). Indigeneity and Nation. Routledge India.
  • Gat, A., & Yakobson, A. (2013). Nations : The Long History and Deep Roots of Political Ethnicity and Nationalism. Cambridge University Press.
  • Hardin, R. (1993). Secession: The Morality of Political Divorce from Fort Sumter to Lithuania and Quebec. By Allen Buchanan. Boulder: Westview, 1991. 174p. $38.50 cloth, $14.95 paper. American Political Science Review, 03, 761.
  • International political theory after Hobbes analysis, interpretation and orientation ed. by Raia Prokhovnik, Gabriella Slomp. (2011).
  • McCorquodale, R. (2007). The Creation of States in International Law. https://doi.org/10.1093/ejil/chm041
  • Miller, D. V. (DE-588)129529508, (DE-627)471013692, (DE-576)216532272, aut. (2020). Is self-determination a dangerous illusion? David Miller.
  • National self-determination and secession ed. by Margaret Moore. (1998).
  • Robert McKim, & Jeff McMahan. (1997). The Morality of Nationalism. Oxford University Press.
  • Saul, M. (2011). The Normative Status of Self-Determination in International Law: A Formula for Uncertainty in the Scope and Content of the Right? https://doi.org/10.1093/hrlr/ngr025
  • Silverstein, J. (1979). Secession: The Legitimacy of Self-Determination. By Buchheit Lee C.. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978. Pp. xi + 260. $17.50.). American Political Science Review, 04, 1205.