Pluralism of pluralisms [Post 36]

Cosmopolitanism and sovereignty, different contexts and realms

“Cosmopolitanism” and “sovereignty” are complex concepts. Part of that complexity has to do with the multi-contextual nature and plurality of realms in which the phenomena they refer are present.

To recapitulate, by “context” this blog series means the physical space in which agents (individuals, communities and state) interact with each other. The nature of these interactions may me legal, political, factual or of any other kind. Spatially, there are three contexts: local or domestic, regional and international.

Because “sovereignty” and “cosmopolitanism” are conceptual constructions, like any concept, they may refer to the phenomena of reference in different ways; for example, actual facts or ideal elements with or without empirical existence. Any definition of sovereignty includes the idea of the highest, supreme, absolute authority in a territory and over a population. Within a territory, it means that lawmakers—i.e. the government—have the exclusive prerogative to create laws for these people. Externally, any other agent has the obligation not to interfere. From this very brief characterization, it is self-evident that sovereignty refers to normative elements such as national legal order and international legal agreements as well as factual ones such as territory and population. In the same vein, unsurprisingly, scholarly literature uses the word “cosmopolitanism” very loosely. Therein, we find epistemological, economic or commercial, legal, moral, ethico-theological, political and cultural cosmopolitanism.

As the rest of this blog series about the pluralism of pluralisms present in both sovereignty and cosmopolitanism, we will refer to territorial disputes in order to illustrate what “contexts” and “realms” mean, to characterize them and to comprehend their relevance.

There are several issues at stake in any territorial dispute and some are constant or, arguably, more relevant than others depending on each case and the context of reference—i.e. domestic, regional and international. They may center on any of the elements that characterize a political community—i.e.  territory, population, government and law. Indeed, territorial disputes may be characterized by reference to territorial sub-elements such as strategic location, territorial integrity and natural resources, to name a few. Yet, territorial disputes may be as well based on population—e.g. bordering minorities, refugee’s crisis, common ethnicity, etc. —government and law—e.g. political unification, leader’s prestige, legal entitlement.

As any academic classification, legal and political theories present, conceptualize and consider these issues at stake independently. In the real world, any given territorial dispute is a combination of two or more of these issues. Similarly, legal and political sciences explore these disputes by reference to the either the domestic, regional or international contexts. However, it is when the study about a territorial dispute embraces all the issues at stake and takes into account the several contexts involved that a more accurate view results. Consequently, it is important to think of territorial disputes as multilayer and multi-contextual phenomena with different reasons behind them that have to do with cultural, legal, historical, sociological, geographical, financial, and many other elements present locally, regionally and internationally.

In law, there are empirical as well as logical issues. In political sciences, there are ideal and noni-ideal issues.[1] Current studies in legal and political sciences about territorial disputes center only on the logical (law) and ideal (politics) side or on the empirical (law) and non-ideal (politics) side. However, it is because these studies are partial to purely conceptual analysis or factual exploration of a segment of the respective territorial dispute under analysis—i.e. either territory, population, government or law—in a particular context—i.e. domestic, regional or international—that these studies are incomplete.

Any territorial dispute is a combination of several issues at stake—i.e. in terms of territory, population, government and law—in different contexts—i.e. domestic, regional and international. These issues work in synergy for the initiation and continuation of territorial disputes and may escalate into conflict or settle in a peaceful and permanent agreement. That is to say, synergy implies a particular relationship amongst the members, components or objects of the given whole entity. The individual members, components or objects can work better when working together towards a common goal. Contrarily, the individual members, components or objects can work individually or together against the whole.   In other words, the individual components of the whole can exist on their own, autonomously and independently; however, working together in a synergetic manner may improve their performance in terms of the whole entity (positive synergy) or may work against it (negative synergy).

That is exactly the situation in territorial disputes. Issues at stake can be assessed in their individuality or together, in one or several contexts. However, it is only when a territorial dispute is explored in synergy that it becomes meaningful. To be more precise, the traditional scholarly studies in legal and political sciences center on the same question, the question of territorial disputes. However, legal and political sciences fasten on only one aspect of legal or political reality: on the existential; or an idealistic legal or political aspect, on the essential. The former views only the certainty, the factual power; the latter sees territorial disputes only from the angle of justice and fairness.

It is not that one view or segment in these views is more important than the others. Different studies have simply suppressed one member of the relation in favor of the other. Instead, a more comprehensive analysis should think of an ideal or non-ideal, and empirical or theoretical view of territorial disputes as neither antagonistic nor identifiable, but somehow related as different individual members, components or objects of that whole that may stand in a fruitful exchange with one another provided they are assessed in positive synergy.

Previous post:

Next theme:

Dimensions, views, time and space(available from September 2021).

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).

Monday 28th June 2021

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @DrJorge_World

[1] In law, Alchourrón and Bulygin clearly state that in legal science there are empirical as well as logical issues. In political science, there is an existent and evolving tension between ideal and non-ideal theory. See C. E. Alchourrón and E. Bulygin, Normative Systems, Library of Exact Philosophy, Springer-Verlag Wien., 1971, 53; A. John Simmons, “Ideal and Nonideal Theory,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 38:1 (2010): 5-36.

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