Theory and Practice
The theoretical basis for the concepts and examples discussed in this book is the general principle of political theory stated in the subtitle. It is referred to as a principle, rather than a theory or law, as it will be found to universally apply to all cases within its expressed parameters—reliably accurate if not yet so thoroughly tested to meet the requirements for a law. It is a form that will accept any relevant content, such that in any and all cases where a place or its resources is contested by two or more parties, if and when competing claims are resolved, it will be in the manner described by the principle. It operates at all scope and scale of human interaction, in any combination, from the individual to states and empires, from the family house to continents. As a principle, it makes no value judgements, any more than the law of gravity passes judgement on the moral fitness of Newton’s apple falling from a tree. It describes what necessarily occurs; actual not desired outcomes.
Referring to the Principle for the purposes of this book will make for an easier read than stating the entire principle each time it is mentioned. Each of the elements within the Principle—Settlement, Migration, Conflict, Convention, and Rights—having meanings within its context will be capitalized and in italics; when in plain type they refer to their common usage. Settlement is the occupation of a place with the intent of permanent or ongoing use. Migration describes the temporary use of a place. This may be a unique event, a process that occurs over a more extended period of time, or one that repeats on a regular or semi-regular basis. Conflict expresses the entire range of dispute and disagreement, from verbal exchanges to war. Likewise, Convention expresses the range of ways that agreement is reached, from tacitly understood customs to contracts and treaties. The establishment of Rights of Settlement and Migration is thus the ultimate end pursued through the means of Conflict and Convention. It brings together the physical reality of the place claimed with the abstract concept of the claim into a recognized, specific identity. Rights may be formal or de facto, absolute or conditional.
The Principle may also be expressed as a dialectic. In the first term, the dynamic of Settlement/Migration describes the condition of a party holding recognized claim to a place. In the middle term, this condition encounters the dynamic of Conflict/Convention, where claims held in the first term are contested. In the third term, Rights to the place are retained or established. Thus, the Principle as stated describes what occurs for Rights to be established. Applied as a dialectic to a specific example, it shows exactly what events resulted in a party gaining Rights to a place, such that: In 1900 the Ottoman Empire held claim to Mesopotamia>World War I, the defeat and breakup of the Ottoman Empire>Great Britain holds the mandate for the new state of Iraq.
A series of succeeding dialectics would map out the iterations of a people or place through history, stage by stage showing how they arrived at the present. As the third term of one dialectic becomes the status quo, with Rights of Settlement of a party to a place, it forms the first term of the next dialectic, where it meets the middle term of Conflict/Convention of competing claims, to be resolved with new Rights in the third term, and so on. This could be programmed as an app, solving for people or place, to answer the questions of just who are these parties with competing claims, and what is this place they are fighting over? The expense of blood and treasure deserves at least that much.
Every people has its Narrative. It explains a people to themselves, providing an understanding of how they came to be who they are and live in their land, and a rationale for maintaining their unity as a unique or defined group. The Narrative forms the basis supporting their claims to Rights of Settlement, as a kind of cultural and political manifesto declaring them the rightful occupants or holders of that place for all the reasons the Narrative may employ to make their case. In this way, a Narrative not only gives a people an understanding of itself, but it is how they are portrayed to the outside world, asserting a justification of themselves and their claims to territory.
Narrative can be a blend of fact and fiction, verifiable historical facts or creation myth, select or inclusive, with the aim of conveying a greater truth, if not the actual truth, about a people. It is subject to change as the nature of a people changes through different stages, and may portray any part of their history as suits their purposes. The Greek Narrative emphasizes the democratic polis, particularly the relatively brief experience of Athens, and takes little account of the many years of Romans, Christianity and the Byzantine Empire, or the Ottomans.
Conflict and Convention take place through dueling Narratives, as each side asserts what they believe is the superior case for their claims. Regardless of the relative merits of any party’s Narrative, it is likely to countered, ignored, or outright rejected by the opposing party. Each party may have equally strong, historically correct Narratives. Where Narrative may have the greatest influence is on public opinion, especially outside the conflict area, as one party brings allies to its side. Narrative’s role may be significant, though ultimately not decisive, as it cannot prevent Conflict from recurring.
The Principle enters the greater tradition of political theory. From Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, to Marx, concepts of who we are as individuals and as a society are presented, refuted, and built upon. It is not possible to create a society without the constituent language for shaping it, nor can these societies function and interact with other societies without the language and concepts necessary for establishing laws and contracts. The Principle supplies the underlying theory that explains Who belongs Where.
To solve real world problems, the theoretical must address the practical. Political theory is to policy and diplomacy what math and physics are to engineering, or biology and chemistry to medicine, the underlying body of knowledge that makes possible the practice of those fields. The Principle, as a part of that body of knowledge, functions as what we might term applied political theory, or simply stated, theory intended to effect a practical end. To continue along the same line as the above analogy, a principle of theory functions like a familiar mathematical equation, chess move, or sports play put to use at a key stage of the larger equation or game that moves everything forward more effectively and efficiently.