Security threats, linguistic homogeneity, and the necessary conditions for political unification

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2 Scopus citations


The proposition that security threats can drive states to pool their sovereignty has been around for some time. The existence of these threats, according to William Riker, is a necessary condition for political unification. A less common argument centers on linguistic homogeneity; it asserts that states must be sufficiently similar and speak the same language before they can successfully imagine a common state. This paper tests both hypotheses in a large-. N analysis that identifies all instances of voluntary political unification between 1816 and 2001. It takes the form of a falsification probe and examines whether any unification happened in the absence of either an external security threat or a common language. It finds that political unification has occurred in relatively tranquil settings, but that all unifying dyads have shared a common language. Security threats are not a necessary condition, but a common language may well be.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-188
Number of pages20
JournalNations and Nationalism
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Language
  • Nationalism
  • Riker
  • Secession
  • Security threats
  • Unification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Political Science and International Relations


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