Gian Piero de Bellis
Polyarchy : a Paradigm
(2002 - 2013)
From closed territorialism to open spatialism
The analysis of the physical world by scientists in the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, geology, etc.) has progressed tremendously in the last few centuries, moving from unsubstantiated concepts (e.g. the phlogiston) to testable hypotheses, and leading to an incredible array of technological devices and breakthroughs in knowledge.
However, the same cannot be said with reference to physical space as analyzed, represented and planned by social scientists. Up to now, the way the space (the habitat) is viewed and organized has practically nothing to do with a scientific approach but is almost entirely concerned with the cultivation of cherished myths (democracy as power of the people, the state as the indispensable provider of security and welfare, etc.) and the preservation of existing power mechanisms (political, economic, cultural).
It is therefore appropriate and helpful to present a different view that tries to disentangle the current cultural conception concerning the environment in which we live (especially land or territory) from unnecessary physical restrictions and plain mental distortions.
The analysis will focus essentially on the following aspects:
Particularly, what is territory, or territoriality or territorialism? What have they become? And what should be made of them once they are no longer attached to or subjugated by any form of monopolistic and exploitative power.
The term territory comes from the Latin terra that refers either to the earth or to a specific part of it, a region, or to the material of which the land is composed, the soil.
A territory is, first of all, a natural-physical reality, namely a piece of land inhabited/occupied by some animate or inanimate entity. When people settle on a specific territory, that piece of land becomes also a social reality.
This means that a territory is either a existing natural environment, a human-built environment or a variable mixture of both.
To call a specific tract of land a territory relates to the fact that, usually, it contains some homogenous natural or man-made features that differentiate it from other pieces of land. In this respect a town, a forest, the estuary of a river can be called territories and examined on the basis of their distinctive characteristics.
All territories seen as homogenous spaces are not only delimited and distinguished by specific features, but also linked or linkable to other territories, in many cases through the effort and ingenuity of individuals that have overcome physical barriers such as mountains, rivers and seas. The search for and discovery of new territories beyond the Pillars of Hercules (the Strait of Gibraltar) or in the American Far West or in the South Pacific seas has been one of the distinctive traits of human beings.
Moreover a territory is something transformable by humans within very large limits, for instance from desert to cultivated land and from forest to arid soil.
Human Being’s reliance on a specific piece of land as a place to live and a means of sustenance (stationary cultivation instead of recurrent migrations) has produced the social trait called territoriality.
It seems that prehistoric human beings moved from place to place in search of food (plants, animals). It was only at a later stage that the cultivation of plants and the raising of animals were discovered and practised by a growing number of people.
These new techniques of food production transformed, in many cases, what were non-territorial migratory hunters or groups of hunters into settled territorial farmers or communities of farmers.
The development of territoriality was the logical and rational outcome of the continual reliance on the same specific territory for all or most of the necessities of life, both material and psychological.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives, among others, these two definitions of territoriality:
“2a: persistent attachment to a specific territory
2b: the pattern of behavior associated with the defense of a territory.”
Territoriality can then be seen as an historical outcome of the protracted use and care of a specific territory that generates a sense of belongingness and a will to defend it from intruders.
The fact that territoriality was alien to the prehistoric human being means that:
- Territoriality is not part of the genetic endowment of the individual but is a quite sensible attitude that emerges once specific agricultural practices are put in place;
- Territoriality is an attitude learned and displayed only in the presence of those practices (farming, breeding) that are based on the continuous use of a certain territory.
That territoriality is not a universal human instinct but a learned attitude in response to specific situations is very apparent if we take into account the historical reality of millions of people that migrated from one place to another, or the existence of nomadic populations and individuals with no fixed abode (see the exemplary case of the mathematician Paul Erdös).
For stationary people, territoriality is a quite appropriate way of dealing with problems of ownership and management of territories. Unfortunately, by exercising irrational passions and developing absurd pretensions, some power-hungry individuals have developed a pathological urge to tamper with the concept of territoriality that has resulted in the development of what is known as territorialism, a conviction accepted nowadays by most people without giving it much thought.
Throughout history the control of large expanses of territory has been synonymous with power, since control of a given territory equates to control of that territory’s exploitable resources, including people (labour) and raw materials (cultivable soil, minerals, timber, etc.).
The first brute who, having enclosed a piece of land, declared it to be his own, without basing his assertion on having worked and improved the land, and nevertheless found people afraid to challenge him and gullible enough to believe and accept his claim, he is the real originator of territorialism.
Over the course of centuries, all who have shown an addiction to power (ambitious kings in the past and arrogant politicians in the present) have developed an urge to seek territorialism.
Territorialism is the claim to monopolistic sovereignty over a very large territory or territories including all of its inhabitants and resources.
This claim, put forward by certain power-hungry individuals, often in exchange for the promise (real or illusory) of protection against aggression from external forces, has been reiterated with such constancy that, to many timid and credulous minds, it has become, in the course of time, a fully legitimate and seemingly quite proper demand. The claim to territorialism remains, nevertheless, even now, an invented (made up) and imposed (forced upon) pretension, never accepted by the totality of people living in a certain territory. It has therefore resulted in violent struggles, forced displacements and personal tragedies.
Three main aspects characterize territorialism:
- Monopoly of power: there is only one superior power - thus an exclusive power - for each specific territory;
- Submission of people: everybody living within that territory is subject to the laws of the territorial superior power and cannot enter or exit the territory without his authorization in the form of a passport or visa;
- Exaction of resources: personal resources are appropriated by the superior power through taxation and monetary policy, and all natural resources of significant economic value (e.g. gas, minerals, etc.) are appropriated by the superior power and legal rights to their commercial exploitation are granted to supporters in return for a fee.
Territorialism has assumed in history two main forms: micro-territorialism and macro-territorialism. Setting aside the micro-territorialism of the Greek city state and the macro-territorialism of the Roman Empire, we focus briefly on two realities closer to us in time: the micro-territorialism of the Middle Ages and the macro-territorialism of the modern world.
Micro-territorialism (feudalism) (^)
The importance of territory as the most substantial and direct source of power appears very clearly in Europe during the Middle Ages when, usually, the one who controlled the largest extent of territories was the king and he recompensed obedience and services of other men by assigning to them large pieces of land. In the course of time those large pieces of territory were transformed into hereditary fiefdoms.
The local feudal master became then, eventually, the unique owner of a territory and of its inhabitants, who were in turn reduced to the condition of serfs. The only way for them to be free was to abandon that territory and run away. If not, they would be subject to a series of work and payment obligations and other rules characterizing their position as servile appendages to the land.
The expression: Nulle terre sans seigneur (No land without a lord) that was meant to indicate that all concession of land was in relation to services provided to the king, might be also interpreted as the desire, by those in power, that all tracts of land be under a master. The fulfilment of this desire would have represented the universalisation of territorialism in the medieval age.
Fortunately, there were tracts of land where the rising class of merchants and artisans congregated, that were outside the sphere of control of the feudal masters. These spaces became the nuclei of the free towns that attracted all those who wanted to lead a life free from the shackles of territorialism (i.e. the subjection to a territorial ruler). In order to free themselves, many serfs abandoned the feudal dominions and started again from scratch in a new urban environment.
However, in the course of time, the flourishing cities became the new centres of territorial power, first stretching out their control to the surrounding rural areas, and then, as capital cities, extending their territorial pretensions to lands further and further away. Eventually, the rulers living in some capital cities (Madrid, Amsterdam, Lisbon, London, Paris, Berlin) started to entertain the idea that the entire earth was up for grabs.
Within this new scenario, any expressions of micro-territorialism - be it the ancient feudal master transformed into a countryside aristocrat or the local ruler of small principalities - would become impotent remnants of the past, superseded by the new reality of national macro-territorialism under the rule of the central state.
Macro-territorialism (statism) (^)
The emergence of the modern territorial state can be seen as the fulfilment of the ambition of the strongest feudal lord who succeeded in conquering, annexing or associating vast new territories and their inhabitants.
Territorial statism has been viewed as a direct continuation and extension of territorial feudalism. Henry Sumner Maine remarked:
“Territorial sovereignty - the view which connects sovereignty with the possession of a limited portion of the earth’s surface, was distinctly an offshoot, though a tardy one, of feudalism. This might have been expected a priori, for it was feudalism which for the first time linked personal duties, and by consequence personal rights, to the ownership of land.” (Ancient Law, Chapter IV)
In other words, statism is feudalism writ large.
In the transition from feudalism to statism, some feudal vassals at the service of the king became high-ranking state bureaucrats, while all the feudal servants became state subjects. In addition, there were also a number of other significant changes that strengthened territorialism and which we will examine.
The Peace of Westphalia (1648) that ended the Thirty Years' War and the ensuing treaties are credited with having set up the conditions suitable for the rise of the system of territorial states, each one sovereign in a specific territory and over all of its inhabitants.
This is a significant departure from the Middle Ages conception when the king, albeit controlling vast tracts of land, was essentially the ruler of his people. As pointed out by Henry Sumner Maine, even while occupying the land that is now known as France “the Merovingian line of chieftains, the descendants of Clovis, were not Kings of France, they were Kings of the Francs.” (Ancient Law, Chapter IV). Confirming this notion is the fact that the power and jurisdiction of the medieval kings did not apply to foreigners; for instance, to the travelling merchants who had their own lex mercatoria.
Under the type of territorialism imposed by the modern state, national and democratic, there are no more bounded-men (the country people) and free-men (the merchants, the artisans and the city dwellers) but all are or become state subjects (i.e. subservient to the territorial state rulers), even the foreigners living in that specific territory.
The major impulse towards state territorialism was provided, later on, when the concept of nation came to be associated with the reality of territory. Until the formation of the idea of nation and the ideology of nationalism, the pretension of monopolistic territorial sovereignty by a king over a vast extent of land rested always on very shaky foundations and could be very well dismissed by a powerful rival or questioned by the authority of the Church. It was when the masses, as nations, came to the scene that modern territorialism was born. Nationalism and territorialism are then the two sides of the same coin, and nationalism is a truly territorial ideology.
After the middle of the XIX century, with the unification of Italy (1861) and of Germany (1871), the idea that every nation (national group) had a right to own a specific territory (homeland) became, at least in the Western world, an entrenched creed, unquestioned and unquestionable.
The First World War and its aftermath sanctioned state territorialism in the most compelling ways as the absolute and exclusive right of the state rulers to dominate a specific territory and whatever it included, without any external interference or the presence, internally, of any other autonomous entity. In other words, full and unlimited sovereignty within the borders of the state.
The distinctive characteristics of state macro-territorialism are then:
- The monopoly of territorial sovereignty: the territorial state is, first of all, a monopolist. For the territorial state rulers and their followers, a state within a state is an inconceivable idea. This is because they see the state as a territory at their exclusive disposal and not as a social organization at the service of voluntary members and free customers. Only some extraterritorial rights are given to foreign state representatives through the reciprocal fiction that locates each diplomatic mission on a piece of land granted to the other state.
- The fixing of territorial boundaries: the territorial state is based on restricted access and exit. Boundaries are essential elements for the existence of the territorial state. Even nowadays, the suppression of border posts between two European states means only that a certain freedom of movement has been allowed over a larger area. It does not mean that state boundaries have been abolished.
- The imposition of territorial identities: the territorial state can survive only by perpetuating the fiction of a homogeneous culture, officially imposed on everybody by the dominant national group. For this reason the territorial state is fully determined on dictating/cultivating a mono-culture (the same cultural identity for all those living on a territory) and rejecting any substantial cultural variety.
These three interrelated aspects of territorialism have generated a series of appalling deeds that are the criminal traits of territorial statism and that we will now briefly analyze.
The wrongs/faults of territorialism (monopolizing territories) (^)
Territorialism, that is: one huge territory - one almighty master, has been the exclusive form of social ruling in modern times because, in its apparent simplicity and straightforwardness, it could plausibly be presented and accepted as the one most suitable to grant (or to impose) order.
However, if we take even a superficial glance at the events of the last century, when state territorialism was fully dominant, we cannot fail to notice levels of disorder (for instance, repeated massacres of human beings made under the order of the territorial state rulers) on a scale rarely witnessed in history. This cannot be simplistically ascribed to the introduction of more efficient means of extermination. Knives and clubs, as shown for example in 1994 in Rwanda, have also been effective tools to perform genocide in an attempt to affirm exclusive territorial dominance.
Given that, the current appeal and acceptance of territorialism can be explained only by the existence of a massive propaganda machine orchestrated by the rulers and their intellectual servants that have succeeded in making people believe that territorialism has scientific unquestionable underpinnings. The cultural bases of territorialism are, on the contrary, total fabrications in the form of:
- Inexistent instinct. The territorial instinct, put forward for example by Robert Ardrey in The Territorial Imperative, is no instinct at all being absent in many humans and even in many animals; otherwise we could not make sense, for example, of confirmed travellers, wanderers, hobos and migrant workers, or individuals that do not own or are not particularly attached to any specific piece of land (like those living all their lives in rented accommodation or mobile homes). The territorial instinct is perhaps confused with the rational expectations of somebody who does not want intruders disturbing the peace of his home (owned or rented) or a farmer who cultivates an area of peacefully acquired land and declares that specific piece of land and the fruits of his work to be his own. But this has to do with basic rationality, basic decency and not with any basic instinct.
- Invented myth. The widely diffused idea that each nation has a territory of its own is a powerful but nevertheless invented myth based on the association of two made up realities, that of a national group and that of a mother country. In reality, we are first of all distinctive individuals and not creatures of a national herd; furthermore, almost every person on earth is the result of mass migrations and extensive genetic crosses. Out of this comes the true reality of cultural affinities that are a product of human development. It leads individuals to the formation of and choice amongst a multiplicity of social groups (like personal clubs) that have less and less to do with territorial rooting and certainly nothing to do with the fanciful tales of Volksgeist and Fatherland. The myth is now breaking down because, with current communication technology, one can be in constant touch and associate with many individuals without the necessity of territorial physical proximity. This fact opens up a new world of virtual intentional communities and affinity groups, beyond the territorial state.
- Inaccurate story. The feudal idea that every piece of land must have a master has been reaffirmed in quite recent times through a fable called The Tragedy of the Commons in which the author, Garrett Hardin, advocates universal territorialism (one territory - one master) for fear that otherwise the land will be overexploited by everybody. However, Hardin’s tale, as it will be pointed out shortly, is a very inaccurate way, to say the least, of presenting the historical reality of the commons and it leads to a totally illusory/deceitful proposal to solve problems of territorial management.
Because these fabrications have found fertile ground with people who have vested interests or those with gullible minds, we are all stuck with a system of territorial organization (state territorialism) that has produced, as previously said, an abominable series of disasters on all fronts (moral, social, cultural, ecological, economic, etc.).
The wrongs/faults of statism are the inevitable by-product of its distinctive characteristics arising out of territorialism:
- The monopoly of territorial sovereignty: wars and imperialisms. In a world characterized by territorial monopolistic powers, the scrambling for territories to annex and dominate has been the recurrent preoccupation of every state ruler, compatible with his military strength. Hitler’s Lebensraum (a living space) or Mussolini’s un posto al sole (a place in the sun) have been only the most crass expressions of the way of thinking and acting of every territorial power. Wars and imperialisms are then intrinsic urges of territorial state rulers, manifested either by occupying territories (as in Africa, Asia and the Americas) or by vying for spheres of political influence (as during the period of the Cold War and afterwards). For those who abide by the reality and conception of territorial monopolistic sovereignty, there is a kind of "horror vacui" (fear of empty spaces) so that, within a system of territorial states, the rulers feel obliged, by right, to occupy a place before others arrive and do the same. This policy is nowadays applied mainly within each territorial state, given the practical disappearance of stateless territories, with the looting of local resources by the national robber rulers via taxes and the spoils system. In the most appalling instances this predatory behaviour leads to more or less violent "civil wars" that are quite often the ghastly identity card of the territorial state (see the cases of Palestine, the ex-Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Sierra Leone, Somalia, East Timor, Darfur, and so many others).
- The fixing of territorial boundaries: partitions and segregations. These territorial states are obsessed with the tracing of boundaries that, in many cases (as in Africa) are invented lines of demarcation drawn for the convenience of the occupying power. The fixing of boundaries generated by state territorialism has led to tragedies of appalling horror, like for instance the mass migration and massacres following the partition of India. The existence of territorial states has been directly responsible for the extermination of six millions of Jews that had nowhere to go because the borders of all territorial states were closed to them (except for limited cases of individuals and small groups). Internally, the fixing of territorial boundaries resulted also in Native Americans being confined in the reserves, some sections of the black population (for instance in South Africa) being shunted into the shantytowns and the Jews, or other "undesirable" people like the immigrants, into ghettoes. One of the most appalling signs of territorialism have been the Berlin Wall and the Barbed Wire running along the border of Hungary and dividing Europe into two blocks, Eastern and Western. Nowadays, some of the same Europeans that vehemently opposed the illiberal practices of state communism have built Fortress Europe whose military forces, patrolling land and sea, are re-enacting the same policies with the same immoral insouciance and idiotic arrogance.
- The imposition of territorial identities: ethnocentrism and homogenization. State territorialism can survive only through the manipulation of minds and the imposition of idiotic territorial identities, that is the perpetuation of phoney ideas of artificial differentiations instilled in the minds of individuals from infancy. This means the manufacturing of serial mass-morons (identical national marionettes) on a scale never attained in the past. One of the most heinous moral crimes committed by state territorial masters is the destruction of local cultures (the real variety) and the invention of national cultures (the fake diversity), all this leading to the end of cosmopolitanism. The gentle a-territorial Jews exterminated in the concentration camps are here again an indication of what we have lost because of territorialism. In their place we have now the ultra-territorialist Israeli state rulers and their followers, prepared to bomb, torture and confine in ghettoes men, women and children in the process of granting to themselves the exclusive control and use of a specific territory.
It is then not an exaggeration to say that the ideology and practice of territorialism has created monsters (the criminal bosses of the territorial states) that have committed monstrous acts that they are continuously replicating. They feel legitimized to do this, as long as territorialism will remain the commonly accepted method of political and social governance.
For all these reasons, we must recognize that territorialism is indeed a nefarious mode for social groups to regulate, organize and manage themselves and is totally inadequate for dealing with territorial problems. Clearly, the existence of a territorial reality requires theoretical and practical tools to deal with that reality but not in the simplistic and abominable way put forward and implemented by the advocates and actors of state territorialism.
Let us then examine what are the requirements and the instruments that could be used for managing territories instead of monopolizing them.
The rights/functions of territoriality (managing territories) (^)
Living in a certain territory, feeling attached to it, drawing from it the means of sustenance, all this and more are at the source of what is called here territoriality. As previously pointed out, territoriality is not an inborn instinct but a learnt or taught trait, coming out of some specific life experiences in relation to some specific territory. Territorial attitudes rightly intended should lead to the management of territories concerning their use, enjoyment and care, fairly, pleasurably and efficiently.
To this end, property rights relating to the access and use of land have been developed and refined over the centuries; arising, as in the case of social norms, from recurrent practices accepted and shared by individuals and communities. Only very naive and ignorant people can still believe that property rights have been first invented/implemented by the state or by any superior power.
As a matter of fact, the state, like any monopolistic power appearing on the scene, has only codified in laws the property rights of the dominant social group and, first of all, has granted property rights to itself (via annexations, expropriations, requisitions, forfeitures acts, etc.) and to its cronies (e.g. the enclosure of common land) making possible a huge concentration of land ownership. In fact, as remarked by von Mises:
“Nowhere and at no time has the large-scale ownership of land come into being through the working of economic forces in the market. It is the result of military and political effort. Founded by violence, it has been upheld by violence and by that alone.” “The great landed fortunes did not arise through the economic superiority of large-scale ownership, but by violent annexation outside the area of trade.” (Socialism, 1936).
In Europe, for instance, the modern territorial state with its landed class results from the looting of Church properties (for instance, in England with the dissolution of monasteries under Henry VIII) and the appropriation of common land (before the Industrial Revolution) on a massive scale.
These simple historical facts should be enough to convince us that, in order to really grant and protect individual and common property rights, we must go beyond any monopolistic territorial power and that means, in our time, beyond state territorialism.
While monopolizing territories provides a simple but highly ineffective and deceptive answer to a complex reality (the variety of territories and the various modes of their access and use), managing territories, like any management activity and process, requires a variety of solutions in relation to the plurality of situations and exigencies.
We can distinguish between three main types of land property and access rights as the basis for three different ways of relating to and managing territories:
- Individual (Person). Individual property rights emerge from the work undertaken by a person upon a vacant territory. This is the classic liberal position as expressed by Locke in his Second Treatise of Government (1690). We are referring here to moderately large or relatively small parcels of land cultivated by a farmer or to built surfaces (an apartment, or a house) occupied by a person or a family. In the case of very large individual properties (e.g. hundreds of hectares of land) the instance should be examined on its merits. If the land lay unused because worthless even for recreational purposes and the occupier has been able to put it to good use (investing resources and hiring workers), the ensuing personal property should be accepted and protected (at least while the situation remains the same). If, on the other hand, the land has been compulsorily appropriated by naked force (violent expropriation) or by legal chicanery (state deception) we are very much in the unacceptable realm of state territorialism under the not so different and always unpalatable guise of one’s man territorialism. This is what Albert Nock called the state “preoccupation with converting labour-made property into law-made property, and redistributing its ownership.” In fact, “a purely legal distribution of the ownership of natural resources is what the State came into being for.” (Anarchist’s Progress, 1927)
The diffusion of genuine individual property rights has been shown to be conducive in producing two very positive results:
- a generally higher level of productive outcome and a degree of more effective maintenance because of the direct personal interest and involvement of the owner;
- a bulwark against oppression and exploitation because it gives to the individual(s) a place to stand in order to oppose possible infringements to liberty and autonomy from wherever they might arise. For this reason Proudhon qualified the monopolization of property as "theft" (vol) and the diffusion of property as "freedom" (liberté). (see: Théorie de la propriété, 1862)
- Common (Community). Group property is probably the oldest form of property that appeared in history. When the individual felt defenceless or powerless with respect to environmental challenges or when he needed other individuals to master nature (e.g. opening up new agricultural fields) and extract resources (hunting, mining, etc.), group property was a recurrent solution. During the Middle Ages, community properties (common land) were those uncultivated territories (e.g. wooden areas, large tracts of pastures, streams, etc.) of which all the members of the local community enjoyed the use. A use highly regulated through customary practices, indicating what was permitted or prohibited, so that over-exploitation of the resources was almost non-existent. The so called "tragedy of the commons" highlighted by Garrett Hardin in a popular essay previously referred to and that has given a bad name to common property, is then basically a farcical comedy of scientific ignorance and intellectual deception. Pollution and over-exploitation has happened in spaces that were seen to be “no man’s land” and “no one’s concern” (like the seas and the oceans) but this has nothing to do with the reality of the commons.
Group property (as in a shareholding company) is particularly relevant when we are dealing with the management of territorial resources or tracts of land that require means for exploitation and care larger than those generally at the disposal of an individual or a family. It applies also to any case in which individuals are willing to pool their resources and efforts like, for instance, the National Trust in England and Wales, set up for the care of places of historic interest and natural beauty. A further difference with respect to individual property is that here we are referring to a much wider area or to natural and architectural resources in which the right of transit/access is granted practically to everybody (in some cases paying a small entrance fee contributing towards the upkeep of an historic building).
- Universal (World). There are certain territorial resources that, like works of art or scientific formulas or technological inventions, are the common heritage of humanity. To exemplify it, the Amazon forest belongs neither to the Brazilian state nor to the Brazilian people, not even, in exclusivity, to those living on or around those territories. The acceptance of universal-world rights of property disposes definitively of the pretension of territorial states to claiming the exclusive ownership and control of large territories (the so-called state sovereignty). In other words, the earth does not belong to monopolistic national masters and so it should not be the arena for their bullying, harassing and racketeering. The earth belongs to the entire humankind, to the present and future generations, for their care and enjoyment. The idea of the earth resources (e.g. seas, mountains, rivers, landscapes, etc.) as world heritage has already been asserted and developed in the past by rational individuals (like Hugo Grotius proclaiming the universal freedom of navigation in Mare Liberum, 1609) and, in the present, by some associations and institutions (for instance the Unesco World Heritage Centre). What is required is the refinement of instruments for the preservation and care of those resources and the complete disentanglement of those territories from the sovereignty of any state in order to assure their future.
In fact, there are signs that bankrupted states might be trying to sell natural resources to the highest bidder in order to refill their coffers. Those attempts have already taken place in the past. Norman Douglas deprecated the destruction of the wooded areas in Calabria (Southern Italy), courtesy of the Italian state, when he wrote that the virgin forest of Gariglione "has been sold for 350,000 francs to a German company; its primeval silence is now invaded by an army of 260 workmen, who have been cutting down the timber as fast as they can." (Norman Douglas, Old Calabria, 1915). In recent times, a Minister of the Italian Government has suggested selling off beaches in order to raise money for the state. It suffices that as one state bandit does it and gets away with it, the entire earth will become, even more than now, a huge territorial racket. And this will be a final disastrous accomplishment of state territorialism.
The way in which group and universal resources will be administered and cared for is not a matter to be decided in the abstract. From past experience, the only thing we can say and stress is that people left free to sort out problems, manifest, sooner or later, the ingenuity and willingness to find a solution, unless vicious and deceptive obstacles are put in their way. So, for the moment, the arrival at appropriate solutions is less important than the removal of absurd illusions concerning the existence of an institution (the territorial state) capable of solving any problem of territorial organization. As pointed out by Elinor Ostrom "communities of individuals have relied on institutions resembling neither the state nor the market to govern some resource systems with reasonable degrees of success over long period of time.” (Governing the Commons, 1990)
For this to be possible, the deceitful alternative of public property - private property, is to be abandoned as one of the most vicious cons ever performed on gullible minds considering that, more often than not, public=state property is nothing other than the "private" fiefdom of the ruling strata, to be used and abused as their personal dominion to raise and pocket revenues. What we need instead is to develop a very transparent scale of land rights that could be in the form of:
- Ownership. Full property rights (ius utendi et abutendi) and full control of access (property as disposal)
- Trusteeship. Partial property rights (ius utendi sine abutendi) and relative-weak control of access (possession as use).
- Stewardship. Disseminated property rights and almost non-existent control of access (enjoyment as care).
The way these land rights emerge depends on the type of resource and the type of effort expended on it and by whom. Moreover, we might have single ownership or shared ownership of a piece of land according to the voluntary choices of the individuals who own it. The many ways and forms of ownership, trusteeship and stewardship are not, however, the most important aspect. What is more relevant is the realization that there is one planet earth that belongs to human beings, as individuals, communities or the whole humanity and is not an arena for theft by state rulers and their cronies. For this reason we need sensible shared norms for managing territories and certainly not idiotic imposed laws to monopolize territories and subjugate all people living on them. State territorialism has inflicted so many miseries on people and so many scars on landscapes and places that it is time to get rid of this calamity as soon as possible and once for all.
Beyond territorialism (^)
The end of territorialism is the necessary pre-requirement for three positive reconciliations:
- The recomposition national territories - foreign territories. The feudal cages of the feudal masters have been replaced by the national boxes of the national rulers. This cannot be seen as a significant change for the better but as the continuation of the same rotten attitude: to consider and to treat human beings as servile appendices to the territory, submitted to the territorial rulers. For instance, there are people that, in the course of their lives have changed, more than once, nationality and juridical systems according to political and military vagaries. This is all nonsense that can only be accepted and considered as normal because of popular errors and prejudices brought about by constant brainwashing through state propaganda. Furthermore, the fact that an individual is required to ask for a document (a permit) from the state to move from one territory to the other of the earth, sometimes even within the same state (internal passports) is an obscene abuse of power on the one hand and a humiliating sign of servitude on the other. As pointed out by Proudhon, with the institution of passports the state is supervising and selling “the right to walk and travel.” (Qu'est-ce que la propriété? - What is Property?, 1840). All this would come to pass with the end of territorialism and the recomposition of the earth into one whole free space (land and sea), differentiated simply by orographic factors and environmental and cultural features.
- The recomposition town-country. State territorialism and the related by-products of wars and imperialisms have generated huge concentrations of people in certain places (e.g. the capital cities of the empires) where resources were channelled and where a voracious bureaucracy and other parasitic strata were, and still are, intent to consume them. In 1947, for instance, a French geographer, Jean-François Gravier, produced a book with the telling title Paris et le désert français (Paris and the French desert). It was a powerful indictment of the abnormal power of the territorial central state (represented by Paris) which was absorbing resources to the disadvantages of other territories. The same situation is replicated in underdeveloped regions where the capital centre is the cancer that drains resources from the surrounding region. All this is possible because of territorialism, that is the exclusive territorial sovereignty of the state, that people have been duped (manipulated) to accept as a necessary and indispensable condition for the management of a territory. Going beyond territorialism will make it possible to overcome huge social, economic and demographic imbalances, with a reduction in layers of parasitic strata and a diffusion of population and resources in a more rational and appropriate way.
- The recomposition functionality-reality. Up to now the way to manage territories and resources had to do essentially with the imperatives dictated by national politics. What is needed instead are functional norms (as for road traffic or air pollution) in place of national laws, laws often made to favour national lobbies. For instance, a service offered by a company (e.g. an insurance company) usually ends at the border of each state even if it would be much more sensible, for producers and consumers, to ignore artificial borders and extend their reach up to the point where their provision-fruition is functionally and economically viable. In an historical period in which access to services is a very significant factor in the life of everybody, to retain the same obstacles that were once imposed in relation to "foreign" goods, makes it clear that we are still not far removed from feudalism. To take just one example, at the beginning of the XXI century a person, moving across different European regions, who wants to use his cellular phone, is practically obliged to buy, for each territorial monopolistic state, a specific SIM card from a national provider, unless he/she wants to be a company “benefactor” and pay not only for the calls he makes but also (partly) for the calls he receives (or be subject to additional extortionist fees). These are some of the absurdities that can be solved only if we end the territorial pretensions of the mafia-states to control a territory and sponge off its inhabitants.
It should then appear increasingly clear to all of us that if we want to build a viable future we must go beyond territorialism and towards spatialism.
Towards spatialism (^)
The use of the word spatialism to qualify a reality beyond territorialism seems appropriate in so far as it is meant to cover all sorts of territories and places, including multi-dimensional and non-physical ones. And this is important nowadays when people, more than in the past, are highly diverse in their attitude towards the land and when new spaces are continuously built, materially and virtually.
We can list the following typology of spaces:
- Natural spaces (litho-idro-atmosphere)
- Artificial spaces (built environment)
- Virtual spaces (ideational reality).
The advocates of state territorialism have so far succeeded in monopolizing the sovereignty of natural and artificial spaces and manipulating the ideational reality by employing state-paid intellectuals. However, as more and more people engage in producing virtual spaces of ideation and communication, the state control and manipulation of minds is destined to fail and, in due course, the free and universal circulation of new ideas will also contribute to the breaking down of other monopolistic pretensions. In the way that the introduction of the printing press (around 1440), threw light on obscurantist creeds, and contributed to the dismissal of the temporal power of the Church, so the virtual net (Internet) with the universal spreading of information and counter-information, is going to destroy myths and mental restrictions and, with them, the territorial monopolistic power of states.
A very simple reality can have simple mechanisms of control and management, but a reality of many intersecting spaces (natural-artificial-virtual) is not something that can be patrolled and circumscribed by simply putting up border posts and “no trespassing” signs. Mises, for instance, in his writings, has stressed many times that “the market economy as such does not respect political frontiers. Its field is the world.” (Human Action, 1949). Now, more than ever, the current virtual reality of information and communication does not recognise any barriers or limitations.
In recent times the use of hundreds of typing machines and radio equipments in the hands of those who wanted to counter-act the lies of the Communist States, was sufficient to coalesce an opposition to the Communist Parties of Eastern Europe and make them give up power within a short period of time.
The idea that, in order to avoid this, states might take over the universal network of virtual spaces known as the World Wide Web is pie in the sky. That is unless an extraordinary number of people decide otherwise and, out of “fear of freedom,” succeed in making everybody retreat even from those virtual spaces to the servile condition of territorialism and accept that the Internet will become reduced to a series of closed and controlled Statenets or Imperialnets.
However, this would require a collapse of technology, similar to a devastating war, with total insecurity and corresponding fears taking hold of people's minds. To be sure that this does not to happen, territorialism should be superseded, in every sphere of life, by the reality of spatialism.
Spatialism should be characterized by a series of qualities and requisites attached to the spaces so as to make them cherished and taken care of voluntarily and effectively. Spaces should then posses the following traits:
- Peculiarity: that can be achieved through the personalization of spaces, highlighting the sense of variety by way of distinctive landmarks (buildings, squares, parks, etc.);
- Permeability: that means interconnectedness between spaces through the removal of unnecessary impediments (natural or artificial);
- Manageability: that means a clear attribution of responsibilities in relation to functionality, competence and willingness to manage spaces.
All this clearly goes against the current state territorial pattern in which an artificial standardization is imposed, connections between territories are obstructed by political and bureaucratic imperatives and centralization makes a tragic mockery of the efficient care and management of territories.
For spatialism to be possible we also need to have certain recognized entitlements of people in relation to spaces. They are:
- Assuredness: personal property of personal spaces should be secured (for instance protected by insurance companies financed by the customers) and not subject to the whims of a monopolistic power. The idea that property exists only because it is assured by the state, is a ludicrous notion that should be sent back to its inventor, the state robbers and tricksters, as a discarded useless assumption.
- Availability: property is like manure, the more widely spread everywhere on fertile soil, i.e. among all those able and willing to use it productively, the better. That is why the process of achieving ownership through direct effort, which results in an increase in the value of the property, is the only fully acceptable method and the only one that leaves enough opportunities for everybody willing to care and make the most of natural, artificial and virtual spaces and resources.
- Accessibility: certain properties should also be accessible, allowing people to enter and enjoy them (world heritage sites) and use them (common lands). This, by the way, means that there should be also open access to ideational resources without state made patents. Breakthroughs in knowledge and practical improvements are made possible by relying upon the past knowledge of an infinite numbers of scientists and common people and this is something to be encouraged and protected without introducing foolish limitations.
Spatialism is then a wide umbrella term meant to mark a decisive break with the narrow conception and arrogant pretences of state territorialism. In the passage from territorialism to spatialism, many new problems associated with the management of resources will appear. However, they will be solved by the ingenuity of human beings, in many different ways, according to different exigencies and wishes. The fact that not everything can be defined and decided in advance is not a reason to remain attached to the old devil of territorialism which is responsible for a long and never-ending list of miseries, tragedies and of never solved problems. A list that is going to grow as it is increasingly unlikely that the local and global problems of the 21st century can be tackled successfully within the feudal framework of state territorialism.
Spatialism is then not a jump into the dark from the supposedly cosy and wonderful world of territorialism, but an elegant and efficient way to solve old and new problems. It is an élan towards fresh challenges in new unexplored spaces of the human adventure, in order to avoid the present and future disasters that the territorial state rulers and their cronies are engendering for all of us.
With many thanks to John Zube, Michael Clegg, Adam Knott and Richard Johnsson for corrections and suggestions. The remaining faults concerning the form and the content are clearly all mine.