On the Territorial Rights of States

Noûs 35 (s1):300-326 (2001)
When officials of some political society portray their state as legitimate - and when do they not! - they intend to be laying claim to a large body of rights, the rights in which their state's legitimacy allegedly consists. The rights claimed are minimally those that states must exercise if they are to retain effective control over their territories and populations in a world composed of numerous autonomous states. Often the rights states are trying to claim in asserting their legitimacy go far beyond this minimum. But whether a state's claims are modest or extravagant, the rights claimed invariably fall into three categories. The first category is a set of rights held over or against those persons who fall within the state's claimed legal jurisdiction - what I will call rights over subjects. The second is a set of rights claimed against those persons without the state's jurisdiction - what we can call rights against aliens. And the third category is a set of rights held over a particular geographical territory (whose extent largely determines the scope of the state's jurisdiction) - call these rights over territory. The rights states claim in these three categories jointly define their conception of the sovereignty that they (or their governments or institutions) enjoy, sovereignty that is more extensive (strong, absolute) as the rights asserted in these categories are more numerous and wide-ranging. It is principally on the third of these categories - on the nature and possible moral bases for the claims states make over geographical territories - that I will focus in this essay. The modern state is a territorial entity, and it claims to be legitimately so. Sidgwick was surely correct when he wrote that "it seems essential to the modern conception of a State that its government should exercise supreme dominion over a particular portion of the earth's surface ... Indeed, in modern political thought the connection between a political society and its territory is so close that the two notions almost blend." Common sense seems to view the territoriality of the modern state as natural and unquestionable. That, perhaps, explains why so little has been written, either by contemporary theorists or by the authors of the classics of modern political philosophy, on the moral bases of the modern state's claimed rights over territory. States typically claim not only legal authority over their territories (i.e., that their rights over those territories should be affirmed by international law), but moral authority as well - at the very least insofar as the relevant principles of international law are thought themselves to have moral weight. My concern here, then, will be with the possible moral bases for the kinds of claims made over geographical territories by typical modern states.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/0029-4624.35.s1.12
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,707
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
John Rawls (1993). Political Liberalism. Columbia University Press.
J. Rawls (1995). Political Liberalism. Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.
David Miller (2001). On Nationality. Mind 110 (438):512-516.

View all 22 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Lea Ypi (2014). A Permissive Theory of Territorial Rights. European Journal of Philosophy 22 (2):288-312.
Crispino E. G. Akakpo & Patti T. Lenard (2014). New Challenges in Immigration Theory: An Overview. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 17 (5):493-502.
Lea Ypi (2013). Territorial Rights and Exclusion. Philosophy Compass 8 (3):241-253.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

114 ( #25,380 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

11 ( #61,095 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.