Sharing Sovereignty: Non-State Associations and the Limits of State Power

33 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2014

Date Written: 2004


The subject of mediating associations and voluntary associations have received much attention in recent years. Both conservative and liberal scholars have invoked the idea that certain institutions that fall somewhere on the spectrum between the State and the Individual play a significant role in society and that they therefore ought to be protected and even cultivated. But much of this work proceeds from a flawed premise, and leads to an instrumental view of these non-State associations that requires that these institutions be justified based on their social utility. This view means that the utility of any given institution usually seems to depend on the particular political and social views of the individual writer.

In this essay I argue that the instrumental view of non-State associations -- one that values them solely for their benefits to individuals or to the State -- is wrong-headed. These organizations -- families, churches, businesses, voluntary organizations -- have played, and continue to play roles in fulfilling human life and fostering human development that are not inferior to that of the state. Reducing these human organizations to a "mediating" status between the two key players reduces them to instrumentalities for carrying out other policies rather than entities who legitimately pursue their own ends independent of the individual or the State.

Keywords: associations, mediating institutions, sovereignty

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K39

Suggested Citation

Snyder, Franklin G., Sharing Sovereignty: Non-State Associations and the Limits of State Power (2004). American University Law Review, Vol. 54, No. 365, 2004. Available at SSRN:

Franklin G. Snyder (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States
254-205-6666 (Phone)

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