The contradiction between the principles of state sovereignty and national self-determination has been a constant theme in international law. Here we see several approaches to this theme. First, we engage with the underlying questions of self-determination in the context of state-minority relations. Second, we address the relationship between international law and minority rights. In particular, the essay reviews the changing nature of self-determination as we move away from the post-colonial period. Finally, we review the relationship between self-determination and state sovereignty. This relationship between the two principles is further complicated since self-determination both leads to and violates state sovereignty. The essay finds that often the role of international law is over-estimated in its consideration of legal enforcement. Specifically, the essay concludes that we must maintain a firm grasp on the international 'politics' of self-determination in order to truly understand the changing nature of the international system and its impact on minority rights.