Jonas Wolff

The Question of Self-Determination in International Democracy Promotion


The paper discusses the norm of self-determination as a core element of and a difficult challenge to international democracy promotion. Collective self-determination is part and parcel of the promise of democracy and, hence, of democracy promotion. Yet, at the same time, the idea that political communities should determine themselves clashes with democracy promotion’s aim to shape political orders from the outside. Given the scarce attention to the question of self-determination in the academic and political debates about democracy promotion, the paper is mainly of a conceptual and theoretical nature: Its aim is to review the literature on self-determination in order to clarify the concept – or, in fact, the competing concepts – of self-determination and discuss its relation with democracy in general and democracy promotion in particular. The paper (1) shows that the claim to collective self-determination constitutes a common normative denominator between contemporary opponents and supporters of democracy promotion; (2) reviews the range of conceptions of collective self-determination from a maximalist notion of liberal-democratic self-rule to a minimalist understanding of self-determination based on a rather broad notion of popular sovereignty; and (3) discusses implications for democracy promotion understood as the promotion of democratic self-determination.

Bibliographische Angaben

Wolff, Jonas (2014): The Question of Self-Determination in International Democracy Promotion, PRIF Working Papers No. 19, Frankfurt/M.

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