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Reframing Sovereignty? Sub-State National Societies and Contemporary Challenges to the Nation-State

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 January 2008


Over the past 30 years, sub-state national societies in a number of developed liberal democracies—particularly Quebec, Catalonia, and Scotland within Canada, Spain, and the United Kingdom respectively—have both reasserted their national distinctiveness and demanded recognition of it in constitutional terms.1 This re-emergence of sub-state national sentiment within industrially advanced States, and the struggle for constitutional change which has accompanied it, are considered by many observers to be strangely incongruous at a time of economic and cultural ‘globalization’ where the power of the nation- State itself seems to be waning.2 Why do sub-state nations, the common refrain asks, seek statehood when the very concept of State sovereignty is losing its meaning? This article will argue, however, that the rise of sub-state nationalism even at a time when the resilience of State sovereignty is itself coming into question, is in fact not as paradoxical as it might at first appear, at least insofar as this process is taking place within developed democracies.3 It will be contended that the elaborate constitutional programmes which are now beingadvanced by sub-state nationalist movements for the reform of their respective host States are inmany respects informed by, and reflective of, wider transformations in the patterns of State sovereignty.

Research Article
Copyright © British Institute of International and Comparative Law 2005

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