Examining Normative and Applicable Aspects of the Plebiscitary Theory of Secession





secession, ethics, plebiscitary theory, territory


In this article, I rely on the reflective equilibrium methodology in providing a critical overview of the strongest and weakest arguments through which prominent proponents of plebiscitary secession theories defend the right to (unilateral) secession from internationally recognised states; a right that should – in their opinion – be achieved via referendums. By doing so, I demonstrate that the said right – although conceivable in the realm of normative theory – is rarely applicable in practice in a meaningful/justified manner. Instead, more often than not, it is prone to being (mis)used as an excuse for validating interest driven and unethical political conduct, either by separatist/irredentist nationalists or by regional/global powers that support such secessionist causes (as a part of their own geopolitical strategies). In fulfilling the main aim, I therefore argue that plebiscitary theories of secession do not provide answers to questions concerning the likelihood of just implementation of the said right in real-world cases, while their theoretical arguments come across as incomplete when dealing with the relationship between individual and collective rights, but also with issues concerning the nature and motives of contemporary secession movements.


Download data is not yet available.


Aronovitch, H. (2000). Why secession is unlike divorce. Public Affairs Quarterly, 14(1), 30–31.

Beran, H. (1984). A liberal theory of secession. Political Studies, 32(1), 21–31.

Buchanan, A. (1991). Secession: The morality of political givorce from Fort Sumter to Lithua-nia and Quebec. Westview Press.

Buchanan, A. (1998). Democracy and secession. In M. Moore (Ed.), National self-determination and secession (pp. 14–33). Oxford University Press.

Glaser, D. (2003). The right to secession: An antisecessionist defense. Political Studies, 51(2), 369–386.

Miller, D. (1995). On nationality. Oxford University Press.

Philpott, D. (1995). In defense of self-determination. Ethics, 105(2), 352–385.

Stančetić, V. (2015). Smisao secesije u doba globalizacije [The Point of secession in the era of globalisation]. Kultura polisa, 13(29), 59–74.

Wellman, C. (2005). A Theory of secession: The case for political self-determination. Cam-bridge University Press.




How to Cite

Pavlović, J. (2022). Examining Normative and Applicable Aspects of the Plebiscitary Theory of Secession. KULTURA POLISA, 19(3), 93–109. https://doi.org/10.51738/Kpolisa2022.19.3r.93p