Sociology Index

SOVEREIGNTY

Sovereignty is the authority possessed by the governing individual or institution of a society. Sovereign authority is distinct in that it is unrestricted by legal regulation since the sovereign authority is itself the source of all law.

The idea of state sovereignty appears to have developed first in Europe, in the late middle ages, where it emerged once a division was made between the sacred authority of the church and the secular authority of the state. So long as state power was subject to religious institutions - like the Catholic church - state sovereignty could not emerge.

In Britain, state sovereignty is possessed by the Crown in Parliament: law passed by Parliament and consented to by the Crown has unchallengeable legal authority.

Our conceptions of sovereignty are narrow and increasingly anachronistic. Scholars must consider deeply the purpose and role of sovereignty in the contemporary world.

Sovereignty - An Institutional Perspective 
In a world of nuclear weapons and economic interdependence, any adequate analysis of the nature of sovereignty operationalized with regard to transborder controls and extraterritoriality must be informed by an institutional perspective. - STEPHEN D. KRASNER, Department of Political Science Stanford University

Sovereignty, globalization and transnational social movements 
Raimo V´┐Żyrynen, Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame
Abstract: Traditionally, sovereign states have been defined, in terms of their external and internal dimensions, as mutually exclusive territorial jurisdictions. Economic globalization is associated with the liberalization of the world economy, decreases in transaction costs, the development of communication technologies, and the emergence of transnational social and cultural spaces. It is unrealistic to define state sovereignty as a counterpose to the global system, as these phenomena have become mutually embedded. States and their sovereignty are not disappearing – on the contrary, they may be gaining new tasks and resources – but they cannot exercise their agentive power as effectively as before. This means that the internal dimension of state sovereignty has been transformed more thoroughly than the external one.

 

RETHINKING THE SOVEREIGNTY DEBATE IN INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC LAW - Kal Raustiala, Acting Professor, UCLA Law School and Institute of the Environment.
Many observers argue that sovereignty is threatened by the ongoing expansion of international economic institutions. This article explores a school of thought that counterintuitively argues that institutions such as the World Trade Organization in fact strengthen sovereignty. These theories collectively highlight an under-explored proposition: that changes in the international system or in domestic politics have already compromised sovereignty and thus international institutions, while rendering the erosion of sovereignty more legible, actually serve as a means to reassert or reclaim sovereignty. These ideas are important for two reasons. First, they challenge prevailing wisdom and thus offer an alternative guide for policy. Second, they suggest that our conceptions of sovereignty are unduly narrow and may be increasingly anachronistic. In particular, scholars must consider more deeply the purpose and role of sovereignty in the contemporary world. 

Floating Sovereignty: A Pathology or a Necessary Means of State Evolution? 
Dora Kostakopoulou, School of Law, University of Manchester
The framing of the debate concerning sovereignty in terms of the dualism of retention or rejection conceals the floating character of sovereignty and constrains the capacity of the state to mutate, adapt and respond adequately to the diverse and complex processes which range in, through and above it. The paper develops the idea of floating sovereignty by putting forward four main propositions: (i) sovereignty's historical entanglement with statehood makes it unsuitable for non-state political organisations; (ii) although the state has been the necessary condition for sovereignty, the latter is no longer necessary for the evolution of the state; (iii) the traditional ideological function performed by sovereignty, namely the legitimation of state power, could be performed by other organizing principles which prioritize governmental efficiency over territorial extent and democratic criteria over nationalist ones; (iv) this means that the state will no longer be in a position to command the loyalty of its citizens but it would have to purchase it through its capacity to meet social needs, to fulfil its basic functions and through the normative qualities of its institutions and policies. Three institutional designs in core areas of ‘high politics’, that is, the fields of determination of nationality, immigration policy and foreign and security policy show how floating sovereignty could be implemented. 

Sovereignty re-examined: the courts, parliament, and statutes 
NW Barber, Brasenose College, Oxford
In this article the relationship between Parliament and courts is examined. The views of writers on sovereignty are considered and criticized. Two criticisms of the sovereignty theorists are made: first, that they wrongly assume that a legal system must attribute supreme legal power to a single source and, second, that they wrongly assume that statutes in the English system constitute absolute exclusionary reasons for decision.