Territory and Justice: a research network

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.



  1. Avery

    what an intriguing conception of the justice of territory, or are you actually talking about the justice of property rights? Please forgive the following note if you refer only to state territory, and not the internal property right regimes. But see next para for an example of city/country policy advocated in your earlier post.

    For me, the most intriguing thought is that your way of putting the points forces a prior question:do we have a plausible theory of a just domestic territorial regime. I mean neither to go along with Grey’s disintegration of property thesis, nor do I suggest a Proudhonian line. I just wondered why you thought there was even one theory of domestic territorial justice, given a starting point of the world as it is? With the last assumption (world as it is) I’m not meaning to be anti-ideal theory here. However, I am a weary of political philosophy assuming away difficulties with consent and legitimacy that a redistribution of property rights would entail e.g. Dworkin internalising all externalities in two sentences at the start of his piece on the auction.

    On a lighter note, I give you an example of the policies suggested by your earlier post: my home town, Christchurch, New Zealand was colonised on the basis of (or should I say, the property owning individuals bought) 10 acres in the country for every 1 acre bought in town. A ‘Canterbury Association’ with shareholders and a patron organised all this from London, using the ideas of Herman Merivale and EG Wakefield on making colonisation pay for itself. I imagine many other settlements did the same at that period given the interest the political economy of colonisation (Merivale was Prof of Pol Economy at Oxford from 1837). By way of making my point above more stark. The land came from a government purchase of 20 million acres of the New Zealand’s South Island (much of the land area) for 2000 pounds (See Waitangi Tribunal’s Ngai Tahu Report for details). That is, the ability to give country and city allotments was based on the ability of the colonial administration to get cheap land, which in turn was based on a myriad of historical contingencies.

    Comment by Lindsey MacDonald — October 26, 2009 @ 10:19 am | Reply

  2. But couldn’t there be types of regime X and Y, both of which could provide for joint loyalty to city and country? One might offer tax breaks to large rural landowners who offer long-term leases to city dwellers, the other might go ahead and break those holdings up and redistribute them to small collectives of city dwellers. Either way, the pieds get two terres.

    Comment by TheBrucolac — October 29, 2009 @ 4:34 am | Reply

  3. It seems to me that “univocal” may be a confusing term for what you’re getting at, at least if I understand you right. I would think that “univocal” refers to one voice. You’re not actually asking if there are one or multiple voices. You’re asking if there are one or multiple just solutions. Rawls’ theory of justice may not choose between, say, socialism and welfare state capitalism; however, this does not mean the theory is not univocal. A theory who defined justice (or legitimacy) in terms of the outcome of a dialogue or the input of multiple voices would be more properly said to be non-univocal. Or maybe that’s just my terminological preference. However, I do think it points to the question of whether we can look at territorial justice without considering how different actors in the equation would approach the issue. Is the fact that there are multiple “voices” important at all here? In your question, it does seem like it is so. The only multiple voices that show up above are the multiple voices of theorists (or at least of different theories), not the voices of different actors in the real world.

    Comment by Tim w — October 30, 2009 @ 3:25 am | Reply

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