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Switzerland. A Nation-State or a Multi-National State?

English title Switzerland. A Nation-State or a Multi-National State?
Applicant Stojanovic Nenad
Number 131127
Funding scheme Scientific Conferences
Research institution Zentrum für Demokratie Aarau ZDA Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.05.2010 - 31.07.2010
Approved amount 7'500.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Political science
Swiss history

Keywords (4)

multinational states; Switzerland; nationalism; multinational democracies

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
In recent years there has been a growing interest in the virtues of the "multination state" or "multinational democracy". This concept has been used especially in relation to the sub-state nations like Catalonia, Scotland and Quebec. The advocates of multination states argue that traditional liberal theory has taken the concept of nation-state for granted and, thus, cannot cope with the demands for autonomy and recognition advanced by sub-state nations. If we agree that the world should avoid a (new) wave of secessions, then the multination state seems to be the only practicable solution.This research project will critically discuss multinationalist theses. It will argue that normative and empirical implications of the distinction between nation-states and multination states are flawed and unclear. By focusing upon the case of Switzerland - the country which has traditionally been the key counter-example in the theories of nationhood - we will examine four major arguments advanced by the multinationalists: ethnofederalism, asymmetrical federalism, over-representation of the minorities in central institutions, and the importance of recognising the groups as "nations". We will try to demonstrate that on each of these issues the Swiss example does not follow multinationalist receipts. This, in turn, might create a serious tension in multinationalist theory. If Switzerland went in the very opposite direction with regards to the multinationalist recommendations, yet still succeeded in creating "unity in diversity", then it cannot be cited as the case in point in multinationalist theory. But neither can it be ignored, since it might be that precisely the opposite direction undertaken by Switzerland is one of the keys of it success.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
127932 The Acid Test? Competing Models of Nationalism and Democracy and the Swiss Experience 01.06.2009 International short research visits


Is Switzerland a nation-state, that is, a country composed of only one “nation”? Or is it a multinational state? The fact that Switzerland has four languages has led some scholars to consider this country as a multinational state. Others authors argue that there is no reason to believe that Switzerland constitutes a multinational state and that a linguistic group that is territorially concentrated does not automatically constitute a group with a national identity.The idea of this conference is to discuss such questions more intensively and to bring together scholars from various fields - political scientists, sociologists, historians - who have come to different conclusions with regard to the question whether Switzerland is a single nation-state or a multinational state.