Self-Determination, Non-Domination, and Federalism

Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy

30 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2007

See all articles by Jacob T. Levy

Jacob T. Levy

McGill University - Department of Political Science


Beginning with Inclusion and Democracy, and running through several articles including the last article she published before her death, Iris Marion Young turned a part of her scholarly attention to the topic of federalism, one much neglected in normative political theory. She was particularly interested in federalism as it applied to multiethnic states, including settler states with indigenous minorities, and as potentially applied to ethno-national conflict across state boundaries, as in Israel and Palestine. She was concerned to build a theory of federalism around, as Philip Pettit has it, non-domination rather than non-interference. Drawing on her understandings of injustice and social connectedness, she argued that respect for each community's ability to govern itself would require more active redressing of power imbalances than mere mutual noninterference could allow.

This article attempts to synthesize, as Young did not have the chance to do, the theory of federalism she had been developing in disparate writings over the past several years, and to suggest what was original and interesting about that theory. It also poses an objection to that theory - that nondomination is an idea in the wrong register to fully fit a theory of federalism's foundations, because it defers decisions about jurisdiction until after deciding the merits of particular disputes. By contrast, noninterference, even if it is inferior to nondomination as a general account of freedom, is superior to it as a jurisdictional decision rule. The article concludes with an attempt to give Young the last word, to develop a response to the objection in the spirit of the theory as she had developed it.

Keywords: Iris Marion Young, federalism, self-determination, non-domination, liberalism, republicanism

Suggested Citation

Levy, Jacob T., Self-Determination, Non-Domination, and Federalism. Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, Available at SSRN:

Jacob T. Levy (Contact Author)

McGill University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Montreal, Quebec H3A 1G5

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