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Becoming national: Contextualising the construction of the New Zealand nation-state.

Yong, Benjamin (2008) Becoming national: Contextualising the construction of the New Zealand nation-state. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Much legal literature on constitutional change in New Zealand presumes that the NZ state has been transformed from a dependent British colony into an independent, liberal nation-state. However, this nationalist narrative is a recent development, and is only one of three narratives of constitutional change, the other two being a 'Britannic' (or pan-British) narrative and a Maori narrative. All three suggest and justify a particular form of the NZ state. All three give an incomplete picture of NZ's constitutional history, separating 'law' from its various contexts. This thesis focuses mostly on the nationalist narrative, how it emerged and how the liberal nation-state became the only acceptable form for the NZ state to take. It attempts to provide a more nuanced approach to constitutional history. This is done by a broad examination of a number of subject areas: constitutional historiography, the economy, citizenship, NZ's relationship with the Privy Council, the Crown, and various constitutional developments (in particular, proposals for bills of rights) in the periods 1950-1970 and 1970-2005, and placing legal signposts in economic, historical and political context. Greater contextualisation suggests that asserting that the NZ nation-state is inevitable is a response to the fragility of NZ's present, brought on by the collapse of empire, the emergence of a community of nation-states, and domestic change. The emergence of the liberal constitutional nation-state in NZ is better seen as the contingent product of both various structures (international, British and domestic) and choices made by New Zealanders themselves. To treat this transformation as inevitable ignores that there were other alternatives possible. Moreover, it is wrong to see changes in NZ's constitutional arrangements as a shift from dependency to liberty: rather, there has been a reconfiguration of constraints and enablements.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Political Science, General, Pacific Rim Studies
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Law

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