Book chapter

Property and Territorial Rights in Political Philosophy (2019)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Abstract

To have property rights over X is to have rights to determine, in some respect, what shall happen to X, for example a piece of land. To have territorial rights is to have rights to make, enforce, and adjudicate the law within a geographical area. Property and territorial rights thus seem closely related, and philosophical accounts reveal various interesting connections between these bundles of rights—both in their nature and justification. A significant division, which we find in both old and new accounts—of property as well as territory—originates in the diverging political philosophies of John Locke and Immanuel Kant. Lockean accounts regard property and territorial rights as natural. People may acquire both without the prior existence of an adjudicating political authority. Kantian accounts, however, regard property rights as pure legal conventions. Non-existent outside civil society, they must be fully constructed by a state with territorial (jurisdictional) rights. Further divisions exist within Lockean and Kantian theories, and all the most prominent theories—of property as well as territorial rights—face significant unresolved philosophical challenges.