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Land, Conflict, and Justice: A Political…
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Land, Conflict, and Justice: A Political Theory of Territory (edition 2011)

by Avery Kolers (Author)

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Territorial disputes have defined modern politics, but political theorists and philosophers have said little about how to resolve such disputes fairly. Is it even possible to do so? If historical attachments or divine promises are decisive, it may not be. More significant than these largely subjective claims are the ways in which people interact with land over time. Building from this insight, Avery Kolers evaluates existing political theories and develops an attractive alternative. He presents a novel link between political legitimacy and environmental stewardship, and applies these ideas in an extended and balanced discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The result is the first systematic normative theory of territory, and an impressive example of applied philosophy. In addition to political theorists and philosophers, scholars and students of sociology, international relations, and human geography will find this book rewarding, as will anyone with wider interests in territory and justice.… (more)
Member:thcson
Title:Land, Conflict, and Justice: A Political Theory of Territory
Authors:Avery Kolers (Author)
Info:Cambridge University Press (2011), Edition: Reissue, 254 pages
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Tags:political philosophy

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Land, Conflict, and Justice: A Political Theory of Territory by Avery Kolers

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I like to consume political philosophy which is distant from moral philosophy. This book fit the bill quite well since it certainly offers something more than moral theory. As the subtitle advertises, the author constructs a political theory of territory. He builds a theory of land claims made by "ethnogeographic communities" and writes that territorial rights should accrue to such communities rather than to "nations" or "peoples". A second key concept is the "plenitude" (empirical or intentional) that can supposedly be objectively attributed to any land claim that an ethnographic community makes. Plenitude is intended to be a multifaceted concept which allows the land claim of a nomadic pastoralist, for example, to be fairly compared to the claim of a modern industrialist.

Philosophers like to note the "work" that a theoretical construction performs or fails to perform in a given argument. On that note, it is clear that the notion of "plenitude" carries almost the entire workload in this argument. The author builds a list of seven different kinds of land claims and notes for each kind what kind of plenitude must be shown in order for the claim to be valid. This is a reasonably interesting discussion because it highlights different claim varieties from a neutral vantage point. The author argues that traditional cosmopolitan political theory, where nations or peoples are treated as sovereign entities with equal rights, is typically not able to treat such claims in an unequal manner.

That criticism might be true, but it must still be said that it is hopelessly unclear how "plenitude" and the "ethnographic community" could be given any practical content. Stating that plenitude is an objective concept does not make it so, and musing about ecologically informed communities of like-minded folks does not bring them into existence in the real world. A lot more thought would have to be put into explicating these new theoretical concepts than what is presented in this book if they are to have any meaning. Nevertheless, despite falling a bit short on the conceptual front this book still manages to present a reasonably interesting analysis of land claims which should provide food for further thought for those who are interested in this topic.
  thcson | May 20, 2020 |
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