A Normative Theory of Sovereignty Transfers
85 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2013 Last revised: 25 Feb 2014
Date Written: May 1, 2013
News of its imminent demise notwithstanding, state sovereignty remains a central concept in international law, in legal and political theory, and in the practice of states. Political factors no doubt play a prominent role in explaining its endurance, but its normative foundations are no less important. This article examines those foundations in the context of the transfer of sovereignty from states to international organisations: why should the sovereignty of the state continue to matter? To what limits should these sovereignty transfers be subject?
International and domestic courts have increasingly had to grapple with the ‘first principles’ of sovereignty. This article attempts, first, to cast some philosophical light on the jurisprudence of these courts by distilling and examining the two central questions raised by sovereignty transfers: the liberty question (What limits does the liberty of the individual pose to sovereignty transfers?); and the sovereignty question (How much sovereignty should a state be permitted to transfer?). The second objective of the article is to formulate a normative argument for state sovereignty which, while accommodating and in most ways even supporting of supranational (or non-state) sovereignty, also identifies a principled liberal basis for setting limits to it.
Keywords: international organizations, state sovereignty, political theory, supranational sovereignty
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