Secession and distributive justice

Catala, Amandine


The philosophical debate on secession has hitherto revolved primarily around the question of self-determination rather than that of distributive justice. Normative theorists of secession have approached the question of secession mostly in terms of the right that the secessionist group has to secede. Much less attention has been paid to the extent and the nature of obligations or duties that the seceding group might have toward the group it is leaving behind. At best, secession theorists have introduced clauses to the effect that secession should not undermine the remainder state’s viability nor violate prior arrangements of reciprocal cooperation. While these clauses certainly reflect a certain concern for distributive justice, I argue that they are insufficient in two respects: (i) they are problematically minimal in what they require, and (ii) the justification given for these clauses accounts only for part of the normative picture. In this paper, I address these two shortcomings by arguing that (i) the seceding group might have significant duties of distributive justice toward the remainder group, and that (ii) these duties are associative in nature and stem from a concern to secure non-domination within the pre-secession polity. What is gained from my non-domination account, then, is that it is analytically more comprehensive and normatively more accurate. In arguing for claims (i) and (ii), the paper contributes both to the debate on secession as well as to the conceptualization of associative duties and of non-domination.


Catala, A. (2017). «Secession and Distributive Justice», Philosophical Studies, vol. 174, no 2, p. 529-552.

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