Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Adeno Addis

First Page



Looking at the astonishing technological developments in mass communication over the past several decades, Professor Addis explores whether and how the resulting communication revolution has undermined the notion of territorial sovereignty. Specifically, he argues that (1) although the territorial state has faced serious challenges from the communication revolution, the question is not whether state sovereignty will survive, but how thick or thin that sovereignty will (or should) be; (2) even if it were true that the territorial state is giving way to other institutional arrangements, those arrangements may not be a decentralized system of governance in that the communication revolution is leading to institutional arrangements that are increasingly more centralized and distant from the individuals whose lives they affect; and finally that (3) the various institutional and conceptual responses that have been offered to deal with the challenges of the communication revolution--the statist, the proceduralist, and the liberal internationalist responses--misapprehend the nature of the communication revolution and consequently fail to suggest institutional structures that fully address the tension between the technological reality of routine transborder information flows and the institutional claims of the territorial state.

Drawing from the works of prominent political philosophers and communication theorists, Professor Addis sketches an outline of "thin statism" as a more defensible response to the communication revolution. Organized by two principles (the notion of plurality (internal pluralism) and the idea of subsidiarity (external pluralism)), thin statism will allow us to reconcile the reality of transborder communication with the need for a version of a state system as a check on thick globalism. This thin state will also accommodate two commitments that are generally viewed as incompatible: universalism and the pursuit of the "politics of difference." Just like any other boundaries, territorial boundaries "both foster and inhibit freedom." The institutional arrangements suggested by the notion of the thin state understand and respond to this ambiguity.