The Territorialization of the Global Commons: Evidence From Ocean Governance

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

The Territorialization of the Global Commons: Evidence From Ocean Governance


  • Daniel Lambach Research Centre Normative Orders, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Germany


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Abstract:  The international system of states displays an inherent drive to territorialize the global commons. But territorialization is not a continuous process—it occurs in episodes. In this article, I use one case from ocean governance, the expansion of territory into near-shore areas of the seas, to advance a twofold argument about the nature of these episodes. First, I argue that the root causes of this drive to territorialize “empty space” are located in global politics, norms, and economics. Second, a territorializing episode occurs when there are impelling economic incentives, and when great powers are unable or unwilling to oppose territorialization. However, this can lead to different outcomes: sovereign territories, functional territories, or internationalized territories. Oceanic space has seen a series of these territorializing episodes since the end of the Second World War and functional territorialization has become more prevalent over time.

Keywords:  global commons; governance; ocean; territory

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v10i3.5323


© Daniel Lambach. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.