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Nationalism, self-determination and secession
Nationalism, self-determination and secession

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7 Conclusion

We have explored nations, national self-determination and secession as living political ideas. Perhaps the key points to emerge from the discussion are that:

  • the nation-state is the basic political community in the contemporary world, despite regional and global challenges;

  • subjective approaches to defining nations, prioritising awareness of belonging to a national group, have advantages over efforts to construct objective definitions;

  • the symbolic, imagined, aspects of nations can be as important as historical or other cultural ‘facts’ about the nation;

  • nationalism is a many-sided and potent political ideology, though we can pinpoint some general characteristics shared by all nationalist movements;

  • political theorists have offered imaginative responses to dilemmas of secession and national self-determination, such as the democratic and remedial approaches;

  • all theoretical ‘solutions’ to issues of secession are vulnerable to objections;

  • our assessments of political theories can depend on (sometimes unspoken) assumptions that we make about political realities and specific cases.