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Territory, Authority, Rights: from medieval to global assemblages

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Saskia Sassen|
Princeton University Press (July 2006)

Where does the nation-state end and globalisation begin? In Territory, Authority, Rights, one of the world's leading authorities on globalisation shows how the national state made today's global era possible. Sasskia Sassen argues that even while globalisation is best understood as 'denationalisation', it continues to be shaped, channelled and enabled by institutions and networks originally developed with nations in mind, such as the rule of law and respect for private authority. This process of state making produced some of the capabilities enabling the global era. The difference is that these capabilities have become part of new organising logics: actors other than nation-states deploy them for new purposes. Sassen builds her case by examining how three components of any society in any age - territory, authority and rights - have changed in themselves and in their interrelationships across three major historical 'assemblages': the medieval, the national and the global.

The book consists of three parts. The first, 'Assembling the National', traces the emergence of territoriality in the Middle Ages and considers monarchical divinity as the precursor to sovereign secular authority. The second part, 'Disassembling the National', analyses economic, legal, technological and political conditions and projects that are shaping new organising logics. The third part, 'Assemblages of a Global Digital Age', examines particular intersections of the new digital technologies with territory, authority and rights.

Sweeping in scope, rich in detail and highly readable, Territory, Authority, Rights is a definitive new statement on globalisation that will resonate throughout the social sciences.

Saskia Sassen is Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago and centennial visiting professor at LSE.


'Territory, Authority, Rights takes up pivotal sources of friction in a process of globalisation too often seen as simple and inexorable. With clarity and insight Sassen shows how the meaning of each is reconfigured in contemporary social change. Her work is essential to making sense of practical problems as well as theoretical issues.'
Craig Calhoun, Social Science Research Council

'Saskia Sassen is a spectacularly original thinker. She offers us not only new concepts, but often a new vocabulary. Her central insight in Territory, Authority, Rights, that understanding globalisation actually requires focusing on the national - or more precisely, the phenomenon of 'denationalisation' of many familiar domestic institutions and processes - opens the door to reimagining and retheorising some of the most fundamental physical and political elements of our world.'
Anne-Marie Slaughter, Princeton University

'In this brilliant and pioneering work, Saskia Sassen provides a whole new way of thinking about globalisation and political development generally. This is a stunning achievement. One of the beauties of the book is its careful historical analysis that puts the globalising present in the contexts of the past. However, not only is the message important, but also the author's way of illustrating the story in wonderful details, so we are reading specifics as well as sweeping abstract ideas.'
Yale Ferguson, Rutgers University

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