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Research Webinar | Risky Business: Private Enterprise, Social Power, and Secession Referenda

Monday April 26, 2021, from 13:15 to 14:45
Research seminar

Karlo Basta (University of Edinburgh)
DiscussantAdam Holesch (IBEI)

Available in video:

Why do secessionists win overwhelming support in referenda nearly everywhere except in the most economically prosperous regions? This project shows that the key reason is the presence or absence of private big business, a unique social actor with the incentive, the power, and the legitimacy to oppose secession. Where big business is present, it makes the debate about the economic consequences of secession less one-sided, resulting in split electorates. In the absence of private enterprise, public debate is far more one-sided, favouring the secessionists. While the theme of this project is secession, it has important implications for our understanding of democracy. By exploring the role of social power in shaping opinion over highly contentious issues, it shows that democracy requires more than just fair institutional rules. Genuine political competition is predicated on the existence of multiple poles of social power.

Karlo Basta is Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of Edinburgh. Dr.  Basta works on the comparative politics of nationalism, with a focus on multinational states. He has written on institutional formation and change in multinational systems, the consequence of that change for political stability, and the politics of nationalist conflict and secession. His work has been published in Comparative Political StudiesPolitical PsychologyPubliusNations and Nationalism, and other scholarly journals. His book The Symbolic State: Minority Recognition, Majority Backlash, and Secession in Multinational Countries (McGill-Queen’s University Press) is forthcoming in October of 2021.