Returning Sovereignty to the People

By Ludsin, Hallie | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Returning Sovereignty to the People


Ludsin, Hallie, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Governments across the world regularly invoke sovereignty to demand that the international community "mind its own business" while they commit human rights abuses. They proclaim that the sovereign right to be free from international intervention in domestic affairs permits them unfettered discretion within their territory. This Article seeks to challenge those proclamations by resort to sovereignty in the people, a time-honored principle that is typically more rhetorical than substantive. Relying on classical interpretations of sovereignty, this Article infuses substance into the concept of sovereignty in the people to recognize that a government is entitled to sovereign rights only as the legitimate representative of the people and only as long as it fulfills its duties to them. The Article then examines the conditions that must be met for a government to claim sovereign rights, as well as how and by whom access to these rights should be determined. Taken to its logical conclusion, sovereignty in the people establishes that (1) sovereign rights can be lost when governments commit less than the most egregious human rights abuses, which differentiates this from the responsibility to protect; and (2) any form of government is at risk of losing these rights, including democracies.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 I.  INTRODUCTION
IX.  UNDERSTANDING SOVEREIGNTY
     A. Challenges to Traditional Notions of
        Sovereignty
     B. Reconceiving Sovereignty
III. SOVEREIGNTY IN THE PEOPLE
     A. Identifying the Sovereign
     B. Retaining Sovereign Rights
        1. Legitimacy
        2. Sovereign Duties
        3. The Question of Cultural Relativism
     C. How Much Sovereignty Is Lost?
     D. Who Decides?
     E. Libya: Nascent Support for a Substantive
        Sovereignty in the People
        1. Background
        2. Legitimacy
        3. Failure to Fulfill Duties
 IV. THE PEOPLE
     A. Who Are the People?
     B. Can a Democratic Government Lose Its
        Sovereign Rights?
        1. Illiberal Democracies
        2. Democracies in Conflict
        3. Liberal Democracies
  V. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

Governments often invoke a claim of sovereignty to avoid international scrutiny of their human rights abuses. They angrily denounce conditions on international relations intended to influence them to stop their violations as breaches of sovereignty. Rather than change their behavior, they proclaim that their sovereignty serves as an impenetrable barrier permitting them unfettered discretion within their territory. Most credible institutions, politicians, academics, and policymakers do not believe that sovereignty leads to this unregulated discretion, yet these proclamations serve as strong rhetoric that the international community should "mind its own business," other than in the most egregious cases. This Article seeks to challenge this rhetoric by resorting to a different type of sovereignty--sovereignty in the people.

Constitutions throughout the world declare that sovereignty lies with the people, yet the declaration often grants no real rights and does nothing to check the power of governments to control, rather than represent, the people. Infused with substance, however, "sovereignty in the people" could act as a powerful tool to promote accountability and minority rights. Taken to its logical conclusion, the concept establishes that (1) governments can lose sovereign authority even when they commit less than the most egregious human rights abuses, and (2) any form of government is at risk of losing this authority, including democracies--two notions that are likely to be highly contentious). (1)

Part II of this Article provides the background necessary for understanding the meaning of sovereignty. It examines sovereignty as a mechanism for organizing domestic and international politics to protect and enhance the security and common good of the people and considers the challenges to and development of the concept. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Returning Sovereignty to the People
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.