The Puzzle of States and their Territory

No state can emerge without territory. However, only states (and some similar entities) possess territorial title. This creates a puzzle: statehood cannot emerge only in response to the rights that it grounds. Maybe the capacity to possess title is a consequence of statehood, whilst control of territory is one of its antecedents? This achieves consistency but risks oversimplification: the ‘territorial antecedent’ can be satisfied by transfers of title and statehood can endure where title persists but control does not. To explain this we must ask why statehood and territory matter. I contend that ‘political community’ is key to understanding this. States possess title because this is conducive to the development of valuable political traditions. Existentially, their emergence requires the capacity to govern physical space in a manner conducive to the same, whilst their persistence reflects the value of extant political traditions.