Barry Smith

University of Malta, March 1999

The course will provide a survey of the historical development of human social institutions from their earliest beginnings to the modern nation state. We shall examine the biological, cognitive, economic, geographic, legal, military and technological factors determining this evolution and examine also a series of philosophical questions concerning the nature of human groups, of sovereignty and authority, and of territory and war. Topics to be treated will include:
  • Geography, territoriality and ethnic conflict
  • Reading: Barry Smith, "The Cognitive Geometry of War"
    • Absolutism and property rights: from status to contract; from dynastic allegiance to national territory
  • Reading: Barry Smith and Leo Zaibert: "The Metaphysics of Real Estate" 
    • The philosophy of international law: on the ontology of nations
  • Reading: David Held: "Sovereignty and the Westphalian Order"
    • National sovereignty and supranational institutions: from the Roman Empire to the European Union, from the Arab bazaar to internet commerce
  • Reading: J. C. Nyíri, Review of Manual Castells, The Information Age
  • Grading:

    Your grade for this class will be determined on the basis of an essay, which will be posted on the class website at: /smith/courses99/malta

    Supplementary Reading:

    Lord Acton, "Nationality", in Essays on the History of Liberty, ed. by J. Rufus Fears, Indianapolis, Liberty Classics, 1985, 409-434.

    Diamond, Jared, Guns, Germs and Steel, London: Jonathan Cape, 1997. Review

    Ernest Gellner, "Culture in Agrarian Society" from Nations and Nationalism

    Ernest Gellner, "Industrial Society" from Nations and Nationalism

    Jackson, Robert H. Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

    Searle, John R. The Construction of Social Reality, New York: Basic Books, 1995.