A Topological Approach to Politics and Democracy from Polis to Cosmopolis
(National R & D PLAN, Spain; Ref.: FFI2012-31640)

This project deals with the spatial categories of political theory and their application for historical hermeneutics. The topological approach to political relations and ideas allows us to explore the normative dimensions of territoriality. Territoriality is here viewed as a social production that operates as a pre-constitutive dimension of politics, and whithin which various changing elements combine throughout history. The core goals of this project are: a) to explore the ideas dealing with space and territory in the history of political theory; b) to focus on the city both as a political space in history and as a topic of political theory; c) to outline the theoretical challenges that globalization poses for the traditional conceptions of the political space.

The Topology of Political Space


Political theory has traditionally stressed the time dimension and the chronology of political ideas. However, there is a spatial dimension in the political imagination that has been relatively neglected. This project adopts a topological approach to politics, i.e. it pays special attention to the space and place of political relations. Such an approach paves the way for considering the normative underpinnings of territoriality and of political spaces in general: the territorial principles of justice, the consequences of jurisdictional systems for the political articulation of space, and their combined influence on the collective identity of political actors. The political space is not a purely geographical dimension, but a normatively constructed one. This project conceives of territoriality as the materialization of political space. It does not view it as a merely physical concretion or as a given fact, but as a nexus between space, history and power. This is the reason why the spatial categories of politics are not considered here from a purely theoretical perspective. It is assumed instead that their historical meaning was conveyed to them by the contexts within which they materialized as an interpretation of social relations and political institutions.

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Theorizing the City


Empires, states and nations have mainly dominated the interests of modern political theory. The cities, however, have been an essential unit for the political organization of the territory in Europe and the Americas. Max Weber saw in the material and political conditions of medieval cities the key of the Western historical transition to political modernity and capitalism. The Spanish dominions in the New World were organised as hierarchical network of cities. In a similar vein, the Atlantic Ocean has been defined as a space upon which a political imaginary was historically projected –the republican tradition- that echoed an unmistakably urban background. Accordingly, this project focuses on the city not only as a space shaped by historical and political conditions but as an object of political theorization as well.

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The Global Space


Globalization can be viewed as a type of spatial synchronization that generates new forms of social complexity. This new type of complexity is characterized by the proliferation of social cleavages and the transformation of traditional political spaces. This process has been impulsed by changes in the coupling of territory and power, and by the de-territorialisation of some political relations. The result has been the erosion of the Nation-state as the hegemonic form of political and territorial organization. The dynamics of the global space has also obliged moral philosophy to reconsider the traditional canon of political virtues. Multiple uncertainties, but also numerous opportunities for creative social change have emerged from this. In any case, all these processes request a reappraisal of the classical references of the political space and of the normative criteria necessary to manage it.

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