The Evils of Self-Determination

Foreign Policy, No. 89, pp. 21-35, Winter 1992-93

16 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2009 Last revised: 8 Sep 2009

See all articles by Amitai Etzioni

Amitai Etzioni

The George Washington University

Date Written: July 21, 2009


The author argues that self-determination, long lauded as an essential tool used to cast off the chains of empire and build responsive, democratic societies, now serves to undermine democracy by encouraging ethnic fragmentation. Recognizing that every ethnic group cannot feasibly have its own nation-state, the author encourages the incorporation of many ethnic groups into governments and allows for the necessity of according such groups different levels of autonomy. Pluralism’s moderating effect on political leadership and public policy is enhanced in diverse societies that embrace rather than shun different ethnic groups. The author recommends that the United States and the international community stop lending its moral support to movements for ethnic self-determination.

Keywords: democracy, inclusion, fragmentation, ethnic diversity, unity

Suggested Citation

Etzioni, Amitai, The Evils of Self-Determination (July 21, 2009). Foreign Policy, No. 89, pp. 21-35, Winter 1992-93 . Available at SSRN:

Amitai Etzioni (Contact Author)

The George Washington University ( email )

2100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Suite 4058
Washington, DC 20037
United States

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics