Book Review: Collective Equality: Human Rights and Democracy in Ethno-National Conflicts by Y. Limor

Published date01 June 2024
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/10575677231200452
AuthorMatthew C. Kane
Date01 June 2024
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
Limor, Y. (2023).
Collective Equality: Human Rights and Democracy in Ethno-National Conf‌licts. Cambridge University Press. 342 pp.
$125.00. ISBN: 978-1-316-51482-5.
Reviewed by: Matthew C. Kane ,University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, USA
DOI: 10.1177/10575677231200452
Human rights are not limitless. Rather, they are in constant competition with one another, and other
considerations, as various situations requiring different prioritizations. Limor Yehudas thought-
provoking book Collective Equality: Human Rights and Democracy in Ethno-National Conf‌licts
contemplates the proper balance between traditional human rights and related concerns in the
limited context of ethno-national conf‌licts. Per Yehuda, ethno-national conf‌licts are struggles
over dominationover who controls the nation-state, or, more broadly, who will be superior and
dominate the other.When an ethnic group is discriminated against and/or marginalized, whether
politically and economically, there is a greater likelihood for violence. In such circumstances, the
balance between various human rights might well be, and should be, different than what is
favored in a peaceful democratic state.
While the European Court of Human Rights has struck down power-sharing arrangements that
appear to violate the right to non-discrimination in the selection of various political positions,
Yehuda recognizes the limitations of other alternatives, such as partitioning and internal self-
determination (requiring enforcement of human rights obligations by a majority predisposed to con-
f‌lict with minorities within the state). Instead, she proposes a theory of collective equality to justify
power-sharing governmental systemswhere major social groups have designated places in the
states political structuresdespite arguably negative effects on certain traditionally held rights.
So, what is collective equality? Unsurprisingly, given Yehudasdef‌inition of ethno-national con-
f‌lict, it focuses on addressing the central issues def‌ining such situationsdiscrimination, marginal-
ization, and shared economic and political resources. Among other factors, it requires (1) recognition
of competing ethno-national groups as sharing equally viable claims to self-determination, a status
which should be formally recognized by both internal and external parties; (2) a concept of justice
requiring all groups to cooperate on matters of social concern; (3) mutual respect between conf‌licting
groups, including a concept of patriotism which demands due respect to opponent groups; (4) a focus
on institutionalization of equal and interdependent relations among the groups; and (5) reconstruc-
tion of social and political relations between the groups, including commitment to equality in nego-
tiations, distribution of public goods, political representation, linguistic and cultural recognition, and
dual national aspirations.
From a traditional human rights perspective, Yehudas approach might appear controversial, as it
requires, at least to some degree, the limits of a majority vote (and thus an individual vote) for a par-
ticular candidate of choice. However, we have long recognizedthe danger of the tyranny of the major-
ity; thus, most democracies articulate certainfundamental rights that are strongly protected even from
the majority. A quick review of fundamental texts reveals that the right to nondiscrimination, most
Book Reviews
International Criminal Justice Review
2024, Vol. 34(2) 165-171
© 2023 Georgia State University
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