Perspectives on Sovereignty in the Current Context: An American Viewpoint
Canada-United States Law Journal, Vol. 20, pp. 9-17, 1994
6 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2010
Date Written: January 1, 1994
This article: (1) notes current attention to – and questioning of – the concept of “national sovereignty”; (2) indicates some of the ways scholars have defined sovereignty, as well as some other current meanings; (3) discusses some of the recent developments and changes in our world and ways in which peoples and nations now deal with each other that may be stimulating this recent questioning of the concept of sovereignty; and (4) suggests some implications of these developments, both for the continued usefulness of the concept of sovereignty and for how we think about the structure and governance of international society.
The article recognizes that, in our more globalized and transnational international order, nationality and borders may be becoming somewhat less relevant, power and authority more diffuse, and the processes of transnational regulation and governance more multi-layered and complex. It concludes, however, that the state and its attributes – many of which are commonly described by the term “sovereignty” – will still be with us for some time to come.
The author also suggests that the concept of sovereignty deserves at least a few words in its defense. The idea that every participant in a political community is entitled to some measure of autonomy – a private space in which (s)he is free to seek to realize her or his potential destiny, is a cherished feature of all liberal and non-totalitarian societies. To the extent that the concept of sovereignty reflects a similar claim by a political community to the freedom to choose and develop its own identity and policies without undue interference from more powerful neighbors – at least so long as it is not causing harm to its own people and others, it deserves some respect and deference.
Keywords: soverignity, international governance, statehood, the sovereign state, transformation of sovereignty, limits of
JEL Classification: K33, K4
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation