Natural and artificial non-territorial groups: Part I

One of the things I have been looking at recently is the concept of ‘non-territoriality’ in governance.

The idea bears some relation to the political philosophy of panarchy:

PANARCHY (pan-archy: many chiefs; multi-government) is a system of competing, co-existing governments which conduct their operations within the same geographical territories without making any claims to those territories, and whose only powers derive from the consent of those they govern, i.e., those who voluntarily agree to submit to a particular government. These voluntary governments are constituted and operate on the basis of contractual personal law rather than the coercive territorial law of the Nation-State.

David Taylor (1989), For Panarchy

Non-territoriality also crops up in the (small) literatures on functional federalism (FOCJ) by Bruno Frey and multi-level governance by Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks. Not to mention to concept of extraterritorial jurisdiction that dates back to medieval merchants and modern(-ish) colonial practices.

Two questions stick out: (1) has non-territorial governance ever came to be?; and if so (2) when, where, and why?

It would seem that historical and contemporary examples of non-territorial governance can be categorised according to the following distinctions:

(1) historical cases tend to be about ‘natural’ groups that are pre-existing within a larger polity, that may have been marginalised or homogenised, and seek to establish some degree of autonomy or self-governance (i.e., re-emergence of extant groups);

(2) more contemporary cases tend to be about ‘artificial’ groups that have not yet coalesced within a larger polity, that is assumed to be homogeneous, and could be constructed or discovered with entrepreneurial action (i.e., emergence of latent groups).

These are not absolute or mutually exclusive categories, but there does seem to be something in the ‘natural-artificial’ and ‘extant-latent’ distinctions. The first category is about when pre-existing groups are ‘trapped’ within the larger polity and seek to re-establish autonomy. The second category, however, is about when there are mechanisms for new groups to emerge from within the larger polity and are then afforded some degree of autonomy.

 Natural (extant) groups:

  1. heterogeneity is infused from without;
  2. homogeneity is imposed;
  3. heterogeneity is then demanded (and because of mixing, a non-territorial mechanism is used to re-enable heterogeneity).

The main point is that the extant groups are identified, so the solution can be targeted to give autonomy to specific groups (the target is visible, the opportunity is apparent, constituency is formed, etc.)

Artificial (latent) groups:

  1. heterogeneity is effused from within;
  2. homogeneity is assumed;
  3. heterogeneity is then supplied (and because of innate entanglement/overlap, a non-territorial mechanism is used to enable heterogeneity).

The key point is that latent groups are unknown, so the solution must be general to allow  discovery of new groups (the target is not yet visible, the opportunity is uncertain, constituency must be constructed, etc.)

But this distinction is purely theoretical (and kind of dry to say the least). For examples and discussion of natural groups, see part II.

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2 thoughts on “Natural and artificial non-territorial groups: Part I

  1. Pingback: Natural and artificial non-territorial groups: Part II | THE DEGENERATE STATE

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