Better Off Alone? A Distributive Justice Theory of Self-Determination

25 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2019

Date Written: March 31, 2019


If de-colonization and American independence were justified, then it must be that there are certain cases in which secessionist groups have a valid claim to territory. The present paper is a novel attempt at devising a theoretical framework that can successfully make sense of these. Building on Primary Right Theories (Ascriptivist and Plebiscitary) as well as Just Cause Theories (Two-Conditions and Less- Limited), I find their main lacunae to be twofold: an excessively minimal consideration of distributive justice issues in secession cases, and a systemic vulnerability in theory to the threat of secession on economic grounds. To begin filling these gaps in the literature, I propose an original theory on the broader principle of self-determination that goes beyond the secessionist context, grounding my views in a liberal theory of territorial jurisdiction and group rights. What emerges is a nuanced account that can better grapple with the complex and controversial cases of secession that exist in the world today.

Keywords: secession, distributive justice, self-determination, territorial rights, political theory

Suggested Citation

Hayes Meizoso, Beatriz, Better Off Alone? A Distributive Justice Theory of Self-Determination (March 31, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Beatriz Hayes Meizoso (Contact Author)

Princeton University ( email )

Princeton, NJ
United States

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