Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

Moments of self-determination: the concept of 'self-determination' and the idea of freedom in 20th- and 21st century international discourse

Augestad Knudsen, Rita (2013) Moments of self-determination: the concept of 'self-determination' and the idea of freedom in 20th- and 21st century international discourse. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

PDF - Submitted Version
Download (1MB) | Preview


This thesis examines how the concept of 'self-determination' has featured in high-level international discourse at key moments in the 20th and 21st centuries. The exact language of 'self-determination' was internationalised in 1918 by Woodrow Wilson in the political context of the First World War, and in reaction to Lenin’s earlier references to the concept, which he had developed between 1903 and 1917. Subsequently, 'self-determination' has been cited in important international legal settings, as in the League of Nations’ Aaland Islands case (1920–1921), in the UN Charter (1945), during the UN discussions on General Assembly Resolution 1514 (1960) and the International Covenants on Human Rights (1966), and at the International Court of Justice proceedings on Kosovo (2008–2010). Together, these uses of 'self-determination' constitute the 'self-determination moments' of my thesis. Taking a hitherto unexplored approach to 'self-determination', this thesis builds on previous scholarship on the concept – produced primarily within the fields of international law and international relations – and examines it from the perspective of intellectual and international history. Applying the methodology of Quentin Skinner, the thesis shows that the significant international mentions of 'self-determination' have sought legitimation. Specifically, the thesis argues that the central international references to 'self-determination' over the past hundred years have sought legitimation by invoking two different ideas of freedom: a 'radical' idea of freedom, and a 'liberal conservative' one. Based on a wide-ranging analysis of archival materials, published primary sources, original interviews, and relevant secondary works, the thesis finds that the liberal-conservative idea of freedom has dominated the international appearances of 'self-determination' at the selected 'self-determination moments'. However, it is the radical idea of freedom that has repeatedly triggered the re-emergence of ‘self- determination’ as a meaningful concept in international discourse, and kept its potency alive.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Rita Augestad Knudsen
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International History
Supervisor: Spohr, Kristina

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics