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European Discourses on Rights

The Quest for Statehood in Europe: The Case of Slovakia

Series:

Lubica Ucnik

By tracing the theoretical genealogy of such ideas as reason, natural and historical rights, the individual, nation, and the state, Lubica Učník argues that we need to come to terms with the conceptual framework of the Enlightenment in order to understand the relationship between nationalism and liberalism.
The author claims that the foundation of our knowledge is embedded in the modern concept of the individual. She argues that there are two different models of individualism. One is predicated on the mechanistic universe of causation and defined by the idea of negative liberty; the other theorises the individual as relational and hence social. These two conceptions of the individual are tied to different concepts of rights. The idea of nation is likewise contained in the notion of the individual. Once again, there are two possible approaches.
Using the example of the splitting of Czecho-Slovakia, the concept of historical right theorised by the German Historical School of Recht is elaborated. After the First World War, the idea of natural right, as advanced by the Treaty of Versailles promised a sense of legality to all nations living in Central Eastern Europe. Now two concepts – natural right and historical right – provide a basis for the claim of each nation to its own state.
The complexity of the political situation in Europe after 1989 thus has to be interpreted differently.
Contents: The book aims to explain the theoretical heritage of the Enlightenment in the context of liberalism and nationalism. It presents clear conceptual accounts of the individual, rights, the nation, the state, as well as the relationship between the individual and the state, sensus communis, rational and irrational nations. This discussion enables a change of focus in current debates about nationalism versus liberalism and draws upon the splitting of Czecho-Slovakia as an example.