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The Territorial State after 1989: Decline, Transformation or Persistence?

Friday 28 and Saturday 29 June 2013

Conference supported by the German Historical Institute London, the Gerda Henkel Foundation and the London School of Economics

Organiser: Prof. Andreas Rödder, Gerda Henkel Guest Professor 2012/13

Venue: German Historical Institute London

It has become a widely shared assumption that the territorial state – ‘territory and the political properties attributed to it’, as Charles Maier defines territoriality – has fundamentally lost influence and impact. ‘The contemporary history of the European state’, Jan Palmowski writes, ‘is marked by the regional, national, transnational and supranational entanglement of its politics, economics, society and culture.’ Individuals, groups and societies increasingly act in contexts transcending national or territorial boundaries, such as communication and travel, information and discourses or social movements and NGOs, in dealing with the financial crisis 2008 or fighting climate change.

Indeed, just recently in a masterly treatise of ‘Leviathan 2.0’, Charles Maier has stated the ‘decline of modern territoriality’ as a concept for ‘regulating human politics and economics’ since the late 1960s, having ‘lost much of its vitality as a premise for effective politics. Territoriality no longer assures whether a given political unit has jurisdiction and effective power to secure desired legal much less economic outcomes.’ Digitalisation and globalisation remove borders, for example as regards migration, citizenship rights, or economic growth.

On the other hand, David Cameron’s recent speech on the EU reclaimed national sovereignty rights for Britain. And in its 2009 judgement on the Lisbon Treaty the German constitutional court determined that certain fields (such as criminal law, use of force, basic fiscal decisions, social security and cultural politics) substantially and permanently reside with the individual member states.

These glimpses may highlight the spectrum of the issue: Has the modern territorial state lost agency in times of globalisation and since the end of the Cold War, or is it still the principal instance of political authority and of sovereignty? To be a little more specific: to what extent is the territorial state still the principal instance of political authority, and to what extent do problems and developments transcend its agency as opposed to supranational entities? Is there evidence that global governance is emerging, seizing substantial sovereignty rights from former territorial states? What is really new?

Thus the conference will ask how competences, capacities and the relevance of the territorial state have changed since the late 20th century as regards

  • organising political authority, constitutional government and democratic rule
  • ensuring citizenship rights and acquiring people’s loyalties
  • achieving economic growth and implementing economic regulations, in relation to
  • transnational companies, financial markets and a released global capitalism
  • fiscal and budgetary politics
  • social security
  • international politics, security and defence, war and peace
  • energy supply
  • climate change
  • (open for further aspects contributors consider important).

The conference will approach these questions by comparing different case studies in a global perspective: the US, various European states and the EU, and finally a selection from the so called BRIC states. In addition to focused talks on these case studies there will be sufficient time for plenary debates which are expected to create further analysis. The conference will conclude with a final debate between the participants about the territorial state and post-1989 historiography.

In addition to the participants listed on the programme, there is a limited number of places open to academics and postgraduates. If you are interested in attending, please contact Andreas Rödder (roedder(ghi)ghil.ac.uk) or Carole Sterckx (sterckx(ghi)ghil.ac.uk).

Conference programme (PDF file)

Conference report (PDF file), published in: GHIL Bulletin 35 (2013), Vol 2