Territory and Justice: a research network

October 31, 2009

Other blogs and a request

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris Bertram @ 12:38 pm

I just came across the ImmigrationProf Blog, which I’ll add to the blogroll. Their top item at the moment is a link to an article on a day in the life of a border sherrif in Texas, which makes for some interesting reading, both on the human interest side, but also about the way in which local officials spin stories to the media and local politicians in order to get resources. Please send us further suggestions for links in our blogroll to sites dealine with territory and justice issues.


October 23, 2009

Is territorial justice univocal?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Avery Kolers @ 5:58 pm

In his comment on my earlier post, Len objected that my proposal was excessively prescriptive.

This makes me wonder whether territorial justice is univocal or multivocal.

First, is it the case that there is no single global territorial regime that is uniquely compatible with justice? That is, are there at least two regime-types A and B such that territorial justice does not require that there be states of type A rather than states of type B; and that no one has a right that there be A-states rather than B-states?

Second, given a regime-type, is it the case that there is no single correct way of dividing up the world’s territory? That is, for each location L are there at least two states under whose jurisdiction it would be just to place L?

Third, given a regime-type and a particular state’s jurisdiction, is it the case that there is no single, uniquely just domestic territorial regime — mechanism for dividing, developing, and constructing places? That is, are there at least two regime-types X and Y, say, property-owning democracy and market socialism, to use Rawls’s two — such that domestic justice does not require X rather than Y?

It’s very possible that these questions are ill-formed or under-specified, but it strikes me that it makes sense to try to answer them. If my previous suggestion (the Aristotelian idea) makes sense, then the answer to 3 would be no. If that’s correct, then the answer to 3 would be univocal rather than multivocal about territorial justice.

Interesting Borders

Filed under: Uncategorized — caranine @ 1:25 pm

The Dutch/Belgian border is a super-border for those of us thinking about these things.  One small community is divided- in weird ways- into two different countries. (link thanks to Adina Preda.)

Interesting Burial Site Example

Filed under: Uncategorized — caranine @ 1:15 pm

The tag line for this article is: Can Bahrain protect the heaviest concentration of graves dating from the Bronze Age found anywhere in the world and still meet the contemporary needs of its people? For those looking for interesting examples of cultural land use see this piece in the New York Times.

October 22, 2009

Secession in the news

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris Bertram @ 8:45 am

A few disputes related to secession are in the news at the moment. First, in Sudan, there is disagreement about the criteria that need to be met if secession by the south is to be legitimate, with the southern government rejecting a deal requiring a 66 per cent turnout and a 50 per cent plus 1 vote. In the United States, there is a distinct rise in chatter about secession following remarks by Texas Governor Rick Perry. Three EU States—Spain, Romania, and Cyprus—are backing Serbia’s case against the independence of Kosovo in the International Court of Justice, but the official EU line remains pro-secession. Finally, an interesting piece in a Turkish paper arguing, on the basis of recent Spanish history, against the idea that the provision of democratic rights to minorities creates a pro-secessionist dynamic.

October 16, 2009

Following up an Aristotelian idea on land and politics

Filed under: Uncategorized — Avery Kolers @ 4:51 am

This is my first post to this blog. I want to thank Cara and Chris for inviting me to be a part of it. My first post is not immediately on territory and justice, but it is on land and politics. At the bottom I’ll make a link to territory and justice. It’s kind of speculative and open-ended. Do let me know if this is stupid, but please be nice about it.

Aristotle says that a polis needs to be self-sufficient. Plato in effect says the same thing, as does Rousseau: the state has to have enough that it doesn’t start wars to get stuff from others, but not so much that others start wars to get stuff from it.

Kant says the opposite: that a state needs to be engaged in trade with others because this is how Nature executes her plan to bring about perpetual peace. This divergence is interesting in itself, to me at least, inasmuch as I think of Rousseau and Kant as basically aligned on most things (and where they’re not aligned it’s typically not because of Kant’s greater interest in the machinations of Mother Nature). Or so I think, in a broad-brushstroke and probably historically naive way. So this divergence between Kant and Rousseau is interesting in itself. Kant’s line, of course, has become the touchstone of neoliberalism and cosmopolitanism, whereas the Plato/Aristotle/Rousseau line has been taken up by agrarians, which is another way of saying it has been all but ignored in mainstream political philosophy. (Though Tami Meisels makes interesting use of Rousseau’s line.)

I’m somewhat sympathetic to the P/A/R line, and in light of the current economic and environmental situation it may be worth developing in some form as an alternative to globalization.

Part of Aristotle’s reasoning is the linked but independent idea that citizens should have property in both the city and the countryside in order that their own interests be linked to the long-term interests of the polis. I believe Jefferson says the same. My understanding is that this democratization of the country plot is today most fully developed in the Netherlands, which is also interesting, because you’d think of the Netherlands as not having enough space for this. Yet another instance of how the Netherlands proves wrong all our assumptions about the material basis of national wealth.

What could be said in favor of the state’s adopting a policy of encouraging everyone to have a foot in the countryside as well as a foot in the city? Would such a shift in the direction of two pieds-à-terre per household undermine community in each place? If your neighbors are around only on weekdays when you’re working, and disappear on weekends when you have some leisure time, you don’t get to know them.

On the other hand, it might tend to break down one of the most persistent social divisions, that between the city and the countryside – typically, each is dependent on the other but neither really gets the other, and mutual contempt is not uncommon. It might also give city-dwellers a stake in the land and in sustainability that they would lack if they were just in the city. It would value and foster meaningful work, insofar as working the land is meaningful work, as well as leisure and perhaps time away from cell phones. If the countryside plots were too small for ride-on lawnmowers, then people would also be working with their hands, and they might become reconnected with working animals if they raised chickens or something. As for the city plots of country folk, I worry that anything I say will reflect the social division I mentioned above, but having a flat in the city would seem to involve access to diversity and political & cultural opportunities that are not easily available in the countryside. If such a policy would have such virtues, arguably it should be supported.

And now for a last thought on it. If this is indeed a worthwhile policy goal, oughtn’t we to build it into a global theory of territorial rights that each people/nation/state/polis ought to have enough space that each of its citizens can have two pieds-à-terre, one of which is a plot of productive land – or better, is modeled on the lifestyle of their country-dwelling compatriots – and the other of which is a place in the city, modeled on the lifestyle of their urban compatriots? If so, this would seem to constitute a minimum-quantity and perhaps a minimum-quality claim that each state would have in any theory of the just distribution of territory. How would such a criterion of territorial justice sit with other, independent, criteria that we might endorse, such as special attachments between national groups and particular places, or territorial stability despite population fluctuations?

October 15, 2009

Parag Khanna talks about borders at TED

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris Bertram @ 8:57 pm

A nice – if somewhat breathless – talk by Parag Khanna about borders and infrastructure.

October 14, 2009

Territory and jurisdiction, a puzzling argument

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris Bertram @ 4:48 pm

Just to get us started, I thought I’d share my puzzlement at an argument about territory and jurisdiction that is often trotted out as if it were a knock-down move establishing that territory is a different kind of thing from property, but looks inconclusive to me. The argument is due to Lea Brilmayer in her “Consent, Contract, and Territory”, Minnesota Law Review 74:1 (October 1989), pp. 1-35, but lots of people use it. Here’s the version from Christopher W. Morris, An Essay on the Modern State, just because I have Morris’s book on my desk and not Brilmayer’s paper:

It is the state’s authority that is territorial, and it is not possible to understand this in terms of property rights. The problem …. is that the state’s authority is not an ownership relation; it is jurisdictional.  When Connecticut acquires property in land is Massachusetts, it does not enlarge its territory or diminish that of its neighbour. The land remains under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, subject to its laws. Similarly, if Canada acquired a large piece of land in Florida (or a wealthy Canadian willed his Florida estate to the Canadian state), it would not thereby come to be part of Canada. Property rights, as legal systems currently understand them, do not include full jurisdictional powers. That is, in acquiring property in land, one is not ordinarily understood to acquire the sorts of powers over it that states claim over their territory. (262-3)

Now it may be that a lot here hangs on phrases like “as legal systems currently understand them”, but the supporting example, at least seems unpersuasive. There’s nothing unusual about unpicking the various incidents that property is made up of, having partial ownership rights in land or property, etc. If Mr A owns the freehold on a building, and sells a 99 year lease on a part of it to Mr B, whilst requiring B to pay various service charges and ground rents, get permission for structural alterations etc, it is true that A and B both have property rights in (part of) the building. True, the rights they have differ, but no-one would deny that the right that each has is a form of property.  Of course this analogy doesn’t establish that territory is a form of property, but it does, I think, show that the example of states buying land within one another’s territory is not sufficient to establish that it is not.

October 13, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — caranine @ 5:16 pm

We are happy to launch our new blog, populated with political philosophers and other experts on the joint topic of territory and justice.

Territorial rights–and the closely related issues of immigration, resource rights, and self-determination– are central to fundamental themes in political philosophy: political authority, the just distribution of goods, and the alleviation of the world’s greatest suffering. Nevertheless, theoretical discussion on these topics is wanting and long overdue!

We look forward to the undoubtedly insightful and lively discussions that will usher in a new era of depth and understanding on these topics.

Let’s get started!

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