Self-determining peoples against the myth of the civic nation




Michaud-Ouellet, Joëlle Alice

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This thesis relies on the idea that members of a culture should be able to secure the survival and flourishing of their own culture, or, in other words, that they should be self-determining. The collective will to take charge of its own destiny is the sign that a political community exists. The development of this subjectivity is made possible by a shared culture. I argue for conceptualizing self-determination in a way that recognizes both the autonomy of cultural groups and the necessity for people-to-people relations between groups. The people-to-people relations are necessary for allowing the coexistence of different peoples with the same right to self-determination. Although the contemporary discourse of liberal multiculturalism is sympathetic to cultural self-determination, it tends to undercut its own commitment by linking itself to the current systems of nation-states and specifically Western liberal ideas about recognition and empowerment. I will argue that the nationalist discourse that is specific to the literature on liberal multiculturalism intends to empower self-determining peoples, but ultimately reinforces a hierarchy of peoples in which minorities’ nationalism is instrumental to the achievement of the myth of an overarching civic nation that is embodied in the liberal state. (T1). The myth of the civic nation has its origins in the liberal principles of individualism and neutrality of the state. In the context of a multinational state, attempts to create an overarching civic nation result in efforts to domesticate and assimilate diversity. My thesis will also argue that the survival and flourishing of cultures requires both questioning the universality of the state model and developing a post-nationalist framework that would acknowledge the legitimacy of a great diversity of political communities, as such diversity is representative of the diverse cultures that sustain these political communities. (T2).



Self-determination, nationalism, minority rights, cultural identity, Will Kymlicka