Research Seminar

David Miller: Boundaries, Democracy and Territory

Date: 17 June
Time: 10:00–12:00

Professor David Miller, Nuffield College at the University of Oxford.


The paper I will be presenting asks the general question ‘What boundaries between political units ought there to be?’  Rejecting the idea of a world without borders, it begins by examining the view of international lawyers, encapsulated in the principle of uti possedetis, that existing state boundaries must be treated as sacrosanct unless modified by mutual consent. It then considers three normative approaches to boundary-drawing.

• The functional approach seeks to create political units that can best perform the economic and other functions expected of states.
• The democratic approach argues for boundaries that will enclose well-functioning democracies, which depends partly on the constitution of the demos itself, and partly on its likely impact on those outside of the boundaries.
• The territorial approach looks for boundaries that respond to the pre-existing territorial claims of nations and other groups.

Since all three approaches have merit, boundary-drawing must try to accommodate each of them, which in the case of disputed boundaries will mean looking for solutions other than the traditional hard-bordered nation-state.

Read more about David Miller

See an interview with David on global justice, by the United Nations University.

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