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Boxing PandoraRethinking Borders, States, and Secession in a Democratic World$
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Timothy William Waters

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780300235890

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300235890.001.0001

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The Boxes We Live in, the Beliefs We Have

The Boxes We Live in, the Beliefs We Have

(p.1) Introduction: The Boxes We Live in, the Beliefs We Have
(p.iii) Boxing Pandora

Timothy William Waters

Yale University Press

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the proposed new right to secession. In this new right to secession, groups of people may form a new state by holding a referendum on part of an existing state's territory. If the group wins the vote, the existing state must negotiate independence in good faith. The group's members do not need to share ethnicity, language, or culture; they just have to live in the same place. One might think this is a terrible idea—a formula for chaos, instability, and violence—and one can already think of many objections. Surely the current rule—a legal and political system of states with fixed borders—is a much safer and better way to organize the planet and the people living on it. This book considers why this intuition about fixed borders—which is the conventional wisdom and the commonest sense, even though borders have only been fixed since 1945—may well be wrong, why the objections to secession prove less obvious than they seem, and why it is actually very hard to be so sure that the rule people have now does what people think it does. The chapter then looks at the international order established at the end of the Second World War, which has confined questions about the shape of states—and changes to their shape—to a very limited space.

Keywords:   secession, referendum, state territory, legal system, political system, states, fixed borders, international order

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