Problematic Sovereignty: Contested Rules and Political Possibilities

By Stephen D. Krasner | Go to book overview

4
The Issue of Sovereignty
in the Asian Historical Context
MICHEL OKSENBERG

Stephen Krasner poses an interesting and important question: does the concept of sovereignty and its associated ideas, on which so much of international relations appears to be based, preclude solutions to a number of the world's pressing contemporary problems?

In a series of studies, through careful analyses of four analytically distinct meanings of “sovereignty” and a demonstration of the many and varied departures in behavior from each of these meanings, Krasner has illuminated the fluidity of the concept. 1 Krasner considers the discrepancy between the professed ideals embodied in the notion and the actual behavior of its adherents to be “organized hypocrisy.” He amasses impressive evidence to document the extraordinary flexibility of contemporary international arrangements, and concludes that sovereignty—so central to notions in Western political theory about interstate relations and the nature of the state—is not a confining or constraining concept. It appears to be infinitely malleable in the hands of leaders who are willing to interpret or ignore it in ways that suit their immediate needs and interests.

To quote from the conclusion of Krasner's Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy: “Domestic political institutions can be set in a hierarchical structure of authority and underpinned by widely shared values. International institutions operate in a more fluid environment. There are no constitutive rules that preclude rulers from contracting to establish whatever kind of institutional form might serve their needs.” 2

-83-

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