Irish Journal of Sociology 20 (2):91-110 (2012)

Cara Nine
University College, Cork
Territorial rights come with both costs (war, inequality and oppression) and benefits (political participation, coordinated use of resources). The immense importance of these normative aspects of territorial rights solidifies our need for a principled theory of territory. With globalisation and transnational interactions, a cosmopolitan account of territorial rights is required – it should justify territorial authority generally. This generalised justification must also provide an account of the special, normative relationship that certain groups have with certain lands and resources, providing groups with special claims to particular lands. Since democratic theory values territoriality for its necessary relationship to equality and individual autonomy, a comprehensive democratic account of territorial rights presents a real possibility for explaining territorial claims from cosmopolitan ideals. Unfortunately, democratic accounts of territoriality suffer a serious drawback; they cannot give a comprehensive account of self-determination rights over particular land and resources. On the contrary, democratic theory addresses only persons – how they should be treated and how their associations should be organised. The first half of this article explains how democratic accounts of self-determination are wanting in specific ways. The second half presents an alternative account of the right of self-determination and territorial rights as a feature of compromise. Because compromise is an essential element of democracy and an important element of justice, it can be used to explain the unique connection that democracies have with a particular territory. Through this theory of compromise, we can explain the scope, longevity and breadth of a democracy's territorial rights from cosmopolitan ideals. However, this account has acute limitations. As merely an initial sketch of theoretical connections between democracy and territory, it does not yet offer an account of the complicated territorial issues of transnational democratic associations. In fact, the theory from compromise reveals a vital obstacle for the establishment of borders, especially in cases of possible secession.
Keywords territory  rights  democracy  justice,  cosmopolitanism  self-determination
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