Problematic Sovereignty: Contested Rules and Political Possibilities

By Stephen D. Krasner | Go to book overview
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Problematic Sovereignty
STEPHEN D. KRASNER

This volume addresses the following question: to what extent do existing institutional arrangements, rules, and principles associated with the concept of sovereignty inhibit the solution to some of the most pressing issues in the contemporary international order? Can these rules be bent? Can they be ignored? Do they present an insurmountable or at least significant barrier to stable solutions, or can alternative arrangements be created?

Any answer to these questions involves a set of prior stipulations about exactly what rules are associated with sovereignty. The concept of sovereignty has been used by sociologists, international lawyers, and political scientists, but not always with the same meaning. For sociologists sovereignty offers a script, a shared cognitive map that facilitates but does not determine outcomes. For international lawyers individual states are the basic building blocks of the international system. These states are sovereign in the sense that they are juridically independent and can enter into treaties that will promote their interests as they themselves define them. What is critical for international lawyers is not the substance of these agreements but rather that they not be coerced. For political scientists sovereignty has sometimes been an analytic assumption, as in the case of neorealism and neoliberal institutionalism, where states are assumed to be rational, unitary, independent actors. For other political scientists, such as the English School, sovereignty is a set of normative principles into which statesmen are socialized, the most important of which is nonintervention in the internal affairs of other states.

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