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Territorial Rights, Political Association, and Immigration

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image of Journal of Moral Philosophy

Liberals conceive of territorial rights as dependent on the legitimacy of the state, which is in turn understood in terms of the state’s protection of individual rights and freedoms. Such justifications of territorial rights have difficulties in addressing the right to control immigration, which is therefore in need of additional justification. The paper considers Christopher Heath Wellman’s liberal proposal for justifying the right to control immigration, which understands the right as derivative of a general right to freedom of association held collectively by the people of the state. The paper argues that state legitimacy and freedom of political association fail to connect in the way required to justify a right to control immigration. Wellman’s argument conflates the state as an institution and the people as a political collective and elides the difference between territorial jurisdiction and associational freedom.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Culture and Identity, Roskilde University Universitetsvej 1, P.O. Box 260, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark,


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