Political Settlement and the New Logic of Hybrid Self-determination


Political Settlement and the New Logic of Hybrid Self-determination


Bell, C. (2016). Political Settlement and the New Logic of Hybrid Self-determination. In P. H. Glenn (Ed.), Law and the New Logics (pp. 129–161). Cambridge University Press.

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Summary: This chapter examines how a form of ‘fuzzy logic’ is assisting in managing and even resolving self-determination disputes, by enabling parties to break away from a binary logic of ‘unity versus secession’ so as to reach a new political settlement. The chapter contributes to understandings developed by Patrick Glenn in his book the COSMOPOLITAN STATE (2013) that lie at the heart of this collection, by showing how more multivalent understandings of the binaries at the heart of the self-determination norm, are providing a resource from which to create a zone of compromise in which fundamental differences at to the nature and legitimacy of the state can continue to be worked out. I suggest that these new approaches to self-determination are possible because they tap into the multivalence inherent in the formulation of a norm that itself responds to competing values that are necessary to stable statehood.

To set out my argument in summary, I suggest that a new law of ‘hybrid self-determination’ is emerging as a legalised technique of conflict resolution. Self-determination law appears to hold out binary either/or options of unity or secession which create an ‘excluded middle’ – that is, a middle that is impossible because each option logically precludes the other. In contrast, the more ‘multivalent’ approach of the new law of hybrid self-determination conceives of the ‘excluded middle’ as a required space of conflict resolution. In contrast to binary logic’s exclusion of this middle, the idea of re-inventing or creating space for the excluded middle speaks to a project of deliberately creating a conceptual space and a real-world political and legal institutions which can at once be both (and therefore neither) of the binary opposites in a new form of fuzzy statehood.

The idea of re-introducing ‘the excluded middle’ attempts to capture, both as metaphor and as a practical political project, efforts to create political and legal spaces of transition from conflict that enable parties to move towards peaceful co-existence while fundamentally disagreeing as to the nature of the state in ways that were hitherto understood to be so irreconcilable as to prompt violence. The attempt to create a formerly ‘excluded middle’ is an attempt to square a circle or engage in ‘fuzzy logic’ by moving from a discourse of impossible polarised binary choices, to a discourse of accommodation.

Keywords: Concepts; Hybridity; Self-Determination

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