HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy
Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights, Global Affairs and Philosophy


Rights to territory and rights to immigration are usefully theorized together. Our starting point is a Lockean analysis of the moral foundations of territoriality offered by John Simmons. Crucially, this Lockean account makes the legitimacy of a state’s claim to its territory dependent on a prior claim to land that individuals may have. However, we will see that this account needs to be amended to give appropriate expression to the view that the earth is common property of humankind, which is central to the Lockean account of ownership. In this way, Locke’s thought leads us to notions of over- and under-use of collectively owned resources that might help us understand the moral nature of immigration. However, once we have developed this Lockean account to that point, we will leave it behind to develop our main conclusions in a manner that does not depend on a specifically Lockean account. We will embark on a systematic discussion on the notion of collective ownership and explore various ways of thinking about it, and then derive accounts of immigration and territoriality. In doing so, we will be able to offer more precise accounts of the ideas of over- and under-use of resources, so as to introduce the possibility of resource-based constraints on immigration policy. The account that will emerge in this way will be quite different from Simmons, but in line with the revisions of the Lockean account that we will suggest. We will proceed to use this territorial account as a means of criticizing one pattern of argument frequently invoked to legitimate the state’s right to constrain immigration: the survival and preservation of culture. We will conclude with some final reflections on the right to culture more generally, understood here as a right to select immigrants based upon their cultural membership and identity.


Blake, Michael, and Mathias Risse. "Migration, Territoriality, and Culture." KSG Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP07-009, February 2007.