The relatively recent emergence of the state as the exclusive focus of political authority and sovereignty has encouraged a collapse of the distinction between nations and states and an obliteration of the moral and political rights of nations. To restore some balance to our political perspective, much contemporary liberalism emphasises the rights of individuals and the limits of the powers of states. But the special claims of nations, as such - of distinctive national, ethnic and cultural groups - seem to have been forgotten. The final decades of the 20th century, however, show that nations have not disappeared. In every continent, there are unambiguous signs of conflict where the current boundaries of states fail to coincide with the geographic distribution of nations. From the Francophones of Quebec to the Catalans in Spain, distinctive national groups are reassessing the political, legal and moral claims of those with whom they currently share a state. The historical experience raises a number of fundamental questions about what defines a nation, and about the rights which national groups may legitimately claim. For example, has each nation a right to be a sovereign state, and in what circumstances may a nation secede from an established state? Alternatively, are there political structures short of sovereign statehood, such as those currently developing in the European Union, which could satisfy the legitimate claims to autonomy of nations? These and related questions have been the object of important new academic research in recent years. In this book, some of the world's leading social and political thinkers, including David Archard, Brian Barry, Michael Freeman, Will Kymlicka, Neil MacCormick and Anthony D. Smith provide specially written contributions to these debates. The Rights of Nations will be required reading for students of politics, international relations, current affairs, political philosophy, and peace and conflict studies.
Edited by Desmond M. Clarke, Professor of Philosophy at University College, Cork and Charles Jones, University of Ontario