Problematic Sovereignty: Contested Rules and Political Possibilities

Problematic Sovereignty: Contested Rules and Political Possibilities

Problematic Sovereignty: Contested Rules and Political Possibilities

Problematic Sovereignty: Contested Rules and Political Possibilities

Synopsis

Some of the most pressing issues in the contemporary international order revolve around a frequently invoked but highly contested concept: sovereignty. To what extent does the concept of sovereignty -- as it plays out in institutional arrangements, rules, and principles -- inhibit the solution of these issues? Can the rules of sovereignty be bent? Can they be ignored? Do they represent an insurmountable barrier to stable solutions or can alternative arrangements be created? Problematic Sovereignty attempts to answer these and other fundamental questions by taking account of the multiple, sometimes contradictory, components of the concept of sovereignty in cases ranging from the struggle for sovereignty between China and Taiwan to the compromised sovereignty of Bosnia under the Dayton Accord. Countering the common view of sovereignty that treats it as one coherent set of principles, the chapters of Problematic Sovereignty illustrate cases where the disaggregation of sovereignty has enabled political actors to create entities that are semiautonomous, semi-independent, and/or semilegal in order to solve specific problems stemming from competing claims to authority.

Excerpt

Ethnic wars, transnational concerns for human rights, the Internet, financial crises, multinational corporations, international trade, and more generally, globalization have given rise to the sentiment that sovereignty as it has been conventionally understood is eroding or even withering away. This conclusion has been reached without much sense of the extent to which the present is different from the past, and without much systematic thought about how the concept of sovereignty might be understood and how the rules of sovereignty have actually functioned in the international environment.

Many recent discussions about the status of sovereignty have addressed economic questions—especially the possible loss of state regulatory capacity. However, this volume addresses different and possibly more consequential issues: namely, the way in which basic rules regarding mutual recognition and the exclusion of external authority, what are termed in this study international legal sovereignty and Westphalian sovereignty, are influencing, facilitating, or impeding the resolution of difficult political and economic issues. The rules associated with sovereignty, like any set of rules, may be more or less functional—more or less able to facilitate the realization of political, economic, security, or ideological objectives that are pursued by actors. The conventional rules of sovereignty—that is, to recognize juridically independent territorial entities and exclude external sources of authority from domestic territory—have been widely recognized at least since the early part of the nineteenth century. These rules, which originated in Europe, have spread . . .

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