Partitioned states

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Partition is a term which appears frequently to describe certain types of change in the world political map. As such, it has been inadequately defined and is often overused and abused. Partition is both an attribute and a process. As an attribute, a single unit on the map is divided into two or more parts. As a process, it is non-continuous and takes place over an historical time-scale. Many partition studies have adopted an historical approach using case studies. The adoption of a realignment approach such as that used by political scientists, which stresses the countervailing currents of state disintegration and reintegration, might reveal more about the nature of partition. Partition should not be examined in isolation but as a further side to a prism through which the same events can be viewed through the facets of secession, self-determination, separation and irredentism. If boundaries drawn in every conceivable way-integrated production processes, exchange patterns, political jurisdiction, cultural coherence, ecology-were in fact always (or even usually) synonymous (or even highly overlapping), there would be little problem. But as a matter of empirical fact, taking the last ten thousand years of human history, this is not at all the case. We must therefore choose among alternative criteria of defining our arenas of social action, our units of analysis (Wallerstein, 1984: 24).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-170
Number of pages20
JournalPolitical Geography Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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