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Self-determination or rights? : problems for nations, states and international relations

Bradshaw, Cherry (2003) Self-determination or rights? : problems for nations, states and international relations. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94230) (KAR id:94230)

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The subject of this thesis is national self-determination.

Nations claim self-determination when they fear for their culture, their place in the landscape and their survival. This is the romantic impetus, and it is fuelled by fear and grievance. Self-determination is also a political demand made against the sovereignty of the state, and this duality is a source of confusion. States and International Relations are adept at politics, but less sure when it comes to matters of sentiment. This thesis traces the source and development of the duality of the nation in its liberal and romantic aspects.

The modem Weltanschauung is dominant. Although there are states with pre-modern domestic social institutions, the sovereignty game is definitively modem, and played by modem rules, which are essentially liberal. However, rational theories of the state do not entirely explain nations. Ideas, events and contingency are intricately linked in shaping the social reality of nations, and I do not believe that a single explanatory approach can encompass their richness. Accordingly, my methodology is multi-disciplinary and goes some way to revealing the complexity of nations. Nations are political and cultural; only by paying attention to both elements can the nation’s story be understood. There is a gulf in understanding between nations and states, but nations are supplicants, and they must use the discourse of the powerful. My conclusion is that the discourse of rights may provide an avenue for communication.

If nationals were secure in their fundamental rights their grievances may seem less urgent and their claims less pressing. States may resent the limits to their freedom that rights observance would entail, but this might seem a lesser evil than the challenge to their sovereignty that claims to self-determination represent.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94230
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: National culture
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2022 15:24 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2023 08:59 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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