A pluri-national state? Possibilities and limits of the nation state model ...
Revista Catalana de Dret Públic, Issue 57, 2018 144
The basic objective of this paper is a re-examination of classic pluri-national as well as value-pluralist theories
from this Hegelian perspective. This requires us not only to go beyond the traditional liberal approach, but
to the liberal paradigm. The problem of pluri-nationalism has also been addressed by thinkers within the
Marxist tradition. Their main reference is “Austro-Marxist” Otto Bauer, who concentrated on a Marxist
theorizing of the nation (Arzoz Santisteban, 2015: XIII) in his search for a balance between social democracy
the nation into social models of Marxism (Arzoz Santisteban, 2015: XXXVIII). By addressing the imminent
nationality question, their most prominent advocate widely referred to the thoughts of his less known fellow
campaigner Karl Renner. But in contrast to Bauer, Renner’s basic aim consisted in the juridical articulation
of his theory of national autonomy (Arzoz Santisteban, 2015: XIII). By focusing on the juridical idea of the
settled beyond the socialist models. This is why we have to understand the ideas of Karl Renner within
their proper historical context, i.e. the evolution of the constitutional state in Austria and the intentions of
compromise with Marxism becomes secondary. In effect, the essence of Karl Renner’s ideas is found in
Renner and other social-democratic authors federalism meant liberty – for individuals as well as for nations,
and for humankind in general (Arzoz Santisteban, 2015: XLII).
ideas. The partial emancipation of Karl Renner from his Marxist tradition allows us to also combine his
thoughts of pluri-national federalism with more liberal approaches on pluri-national society, especially the
value-pluralist theory of Isaiah Berlin. Berlin’s value-pluralist liberalism has already been used to address
alternative to the monist national determination of liberal state theory. Nevertheless, as Karl Renner pointed
out, juridical recognition might have an effect on how national identity understands itself. Thus, Requejo’s
emphasis on value-pluralist premises for federal theory must be completed by Karl Renner’s approach,
which stressed the primary juridical nature of the state and its possible effect on national identity. This is
in line with the abstract legitimation of the Hegelian state and its democratic reinterpretation by Jürgen
Habermas in his theory of rational discourse.
public institution defending constitutional rights, while at the same time it is founded on a common identity
from which its institutions emanate. Thus, the nation state turns out to be an ambiguous concept, if we take
into account the premise of the liberal state: a free community of equal subjects of law, which is based on
the principle of individual self-determination. This contradiction requires us to examine further the relation
1 In his
accentuation of the sentimental component of nationalism, Isaiah Berlin has worked out the normative
relation between self-determination understood in terms of liberal theory and the proclaimed right of national
the nation is seen as an expression of individual liberty on a collective level. Turning back to the liberal state
particular identity. As demonstrated by Isaiah Berlin and Karl Renner, when founding its institution on the
freedom and rights of its citizens, a state has to rely on both.
However, this relation is far from being unproblematic. Nationality, when considered as an identity, has
to be envisaged into a wider focus on human beings’ search for social identity. Here, insights from the
its defender Lenin considered national self-determination as a mere strategical tool to gain support for his further political goals. At
the same time, other prominent Marxists like Rosa Luxemburg clearly rejected the secession of nations in homogeneous territories.
(2015: XLIV, XLVIII–XLIX).