Self-Determination: How a German Enlightenment Idea became the Slogan of National Liberation and a Human Right

ERIC D. WEITZ
AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW 120.2 (2015): 462-496

In its origins self-determination was an Enlightenment concept relating to individuals but by the end of World War I it had evolved into a collectivist doctrine. The author tracks this dramatic transformation , untangling the diverse meanings of self-determination to examine the dilemmas intrinsic to the history of human rights, notably the tension between individual and collective rights. As self-determination became a doctrine related to national or racial belonging, it lost much of its Enlightenment meaning as a concept fundamental to individual self-constitution and emancipation.