A bizarre adventure happened to space on the road to globalisation: it lost its importance while gaining in significance. On the one hand, as Paul Virilio insists,1 territorial sovereignty has lost almost all substance and a good deal of its former attraction; if every spot can be reached and abandoned instantaneously, a permanent hold over a territory with the usual accompaniment of long-term duties and commitments turns from an asset into a liability and becomes a burden rather than a resource in power struggle. On the other hand, as Richard Sennett points out, ‘as the shifting institutions of the economy diminish the experience of belonging somewhere special … people’s commitments increase to geographic places like nations, cities and localities’.2 On the one hand, everything can be done to far away places of other peoples without going anywhere. On the other, little can be prevented from being done to one’s own place however stubbornly one holds to it.
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Freedom From, In and Through the State
T.H. Marshall’s Trinity of Rights Revisited
Each one of T.H. Marshall’s trinity of human rights rested on the state as, simultaneously, its birth place, executive manager and guardian. And no wonder. At the time Marshall tied personal, political and social freedoms into a historically determined succession of won/bestowed rights, the boundaries of the sovereign state marked the limits of what humans could contemplate, and what they thought they should jointly do, in order to make their world more user-friendly. The state enclosed territory was the site of private initiatives and public actions, as well as the arena on which private interests and public issues met, clashed and sought reconciliation. In all those respects, the realm of state sovereignty was presumed to be self-contained, selfassertive and self-sufficient.
In the late nineteenth century the great European project of nation-building was set in motion. It was meant to end in a Europe of unified nation-states, each with its own language, history, traditions and a people undivided in its loyalty. The local or ‘merely ethnic’ communities would be effaced, subsumed into the homogeneous nation. Assimilation was the means whereby outsiders would become insiders, strangers would become citizens.