The state between minority and majority nationalism: Decentralization, symbolic recognition, and secessionist crises in Spain and Canada

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Abstract

This article addresses the debate about the relative utility of accommodative federalism as a method of conflict management in multinational states. Comparative scholarship on this issue assumes that territorial reform translates into political stability or instability through policy substance. This article tests that assumption against processes of institutional accommodation of Catalan and Quebecois demands for autonomy and recognition. The comparison demonstrates the absence of a linear relationship between institutional change and political instability. When autonomy for minority regions is extended without symbolic recognition, subsequent majority response unfolds in the policy arena, mostly through attempts to symmetrize autonomy arrangements (self-amplifying sequence). However, when the extension of territorial autonomy is combined with formal symbolic recognition, it paves the way for majority political backlash (reactive sequence). Open political opposition by a segment of majority political community, in turn, stimulates secessionist sentiment among members of minority community.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-75
Number of pages25
JournalPublius: The Journal of Federalism
Volume48
Issue number1
Early online date2 Sep 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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