Pluralism of pluralisms [Post 5]

Introduction to dimensions, time and space

A pluralism of pluralisms has a variety of subjects (agents and players) interrelated in the domestic, regional and international contexts. These interrelations may have at least two dimensions: vertical and horizontal.

In basic terms, a vertical dimension of any entity refers to its singularity and its components. For instance, at the level of the individual, a vertical dimension centers on one individual, their characteristics, those elements or components that make them unique. In a similar way, at the level of the state, a vertical dimension has to do with its territory, population and government, those necessary elements that make it into that unique state and not any other.

In turn, a horizontal dimension of the same entity refers to its existence in relation to other entities and the context. Therein, a horizontal dimension at the level of the individual refers to an individual and their relationship with their peers, communities and states. A horizontal dimension at the level of the state sees the states in their relationship with other agents, whether individuals, communities or other states.

For example, in relation to sovereignty, the traditional understanding has to do with a vertical view—i.e. that one who has a superior cannot be a sovereign since sovereignty means supreme, the highest authority on a scale. In that sense, when dealing with international agents, a state is sovereign as long as it has supreme authority over its territory and population. If it does not, it may be something else—e.g. a colony, a member of a federal state, etc., but not a sovereign state. This understanding, although clear at the time of putting together classifications, fails to recognize other interrelations on the horizontal dimension and this results in a partial comprehension.

Someone born in Israel may be a male or female, child or adult, legally able or legally disabled, etc. This is the vertical view at the level of the individual. The same agent can be part of a family and live in Jerusalem but may as well be living in any other place and constitute part of a diaspora, therefore, subject to a different legal jurisdiction. The latter is the horizontal dimension of the same individual. This is of particular importance in territorial disputes because to understand challenger and challenged agents as unified and consolidated claimants fails to capture the many possible different views and interests within.

Moreover, what “pluralism” means and its assessment will differ depending on circumstances such as time and space. Indeed, time and space are of particular importance to concepts such a sovereignty and cosmopolitanism. For instance, sovereignty considered as having factual existence may exist in time and space; considered as having normative existence, it may not necessarily have an actual presence in time and space; and, depending on time and space, it may be valued positively and negatively. Thus, history shows that concepts, assumptions and understandings change. For example, with regard to the concept of “sovereignty” and its relation to time and space:

“Historical events and theoretical constructions are intertwined. A succinct overview of the historical period in question will help to better understand why although two of these thinkers in particular−i.e. Bodin and Hobbes−include the notion of absoluteness in the concept of ‘sovereignty’ they did not mean unlimited, unfettered power. […] Therein, the historical context in which these two theories are presented is the key to see clearly why they use the term ‘absolute’ but both theories as well include limitations to ‘sovereignty.’ That is because both these views have a legal positivist claim: law’s existence depends only on social facts. For both these authors these facts have to do with what the ‘absolute’ sovereign understands as law.”[1]

Therein, any analysis about sovereignty and cosmopolitanism will have to determine its space and time parameters if it seeks to offer a comprehensive and unbiased evaluation of territorial disputes.

Previous post:

Pluralism of pluralisms [Post 4]

Next theme:

Pluralism of pluralisms: agents

Author of:

Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty. International Law and Politics (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020).

Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017).

Saturday 17th April 2021

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @DrJorge_World

[1] Jorge E. Núñez, “About the Impossibility of Absolute State Sovereignty. The Modern Era and the Early Legal Positivist Claim,” in Luca Siliquini-Cinelli, ed., Legal Positivism in a Global and Transnational Age (Switzerland: Springer, 2019), 47-64.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s