The Dynamic Of Secession, by Viva Ona Bartkus
One thing this book does very well is to point out the conditions that are required for secession movements to happen and how it is that they have shifted in recent decades to lower the benefits that a region gets from being part of a nation and makes it easier for regions to go on their own, including being part of larger supranational institutions like the European Union (to give but one example). In looking at the relative commonality of secession movements, it is worthwhile to ponder the factors that make them more or less common. International institutions may not necessarily appreciate the proliferation of small countries, but there are conditions that make such things more common and there are a great many regions that can take advantage of either opportune moments to pursue their own claims for independence or examine the rising cost of membership in realms that make high demands without providing a lot in exchange. Even if one is not particularly fond of secession or rebellion in the abstract, it is easy to justify it in particular cases because of the abuse and neglect that are all too common in any sort of institution in this contemporary age.
This book is a bit more than 200 pages long and is divided into three parts. After acknowledgements the author begins with an introduction (I) that discusses his scope of work (1) as well as a theoretical approach for the analysis of secession movements (2). After that the author discusses various costs and benefits (II), including the benefits of membership in a larger nation (3), the costs of secession (4), the costs of membership (5), and the benefits of succession (6). In doing so the author seeks to provide a cost-benefits analysis that shows when it is easier for a smaller region to be a part of a larger nation and when it is easier to be on its own. The third and last part of the book then discusses the dynamic of secession (III), with chapters on last resorts that show the rising costs of membership (7), opportune moments that decrease the cost of secession (8), the reduction in the benefits of membership that have occurred over the past few decades (9), and a rise in the benefits of secession when it includes membership in supranational organizations and trade deals (10). After that there is a conclusion (11) as well as a bibliography and index.
When one thinks about either secession or divorce, it is rare when quarreling elites think about the well-being of the people. It is easy to see how in a world like our own that it may be greatly preferable for someone to be the ruler of a small country than to be the governor of a province within a larger country. We are constantly hearing that the bankrupt state of California would be among world’s biggest economies, despite the fact that it would not be nearly as wealthy without having access and being supported by the larger United States as a whole. Likewise, it is not difficult to see that elites who disagree with the national culture and federal authorities may think that it would be easier for them to lead their own smaller nation, not necessarily realizing that they in turn will then be the federal authorities that their own minorities will quarrel against and perhaps even try to split from. So it was, for example, that Georgia left the Soviet Union and found that Abkhazia and South Ossetia refused to accept its own authority over them. Secession is not the solution when it is a divided realm that is taken out of a larger nation, as is often the case.