The Logic of Freedom and Power
Published in Samantha Besson and John Tasioulas eds, The Philosophy of International Law (Oxford University Press 2010) pp 245-259
10 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2019
Date Written: 2010
A state is sovereign if it has complete power within a political community, and complete independence. It may seem that the idea of sovereignty is objectionable because of two moral principles, or incoherent because of a paradox. The paradox is that a sovereign state must be capable of binding itself and must also be incapable of binding itself. The moral principles are that no state can justly exercise complete power internally, or have complete independence (since complete independence would imply freedom from norms of ius cogens, and from interference with mass atrocities by the state). Through an analogy with human autonomy, I argue that the paradox is only apparent, and that the moral principles are compatible with state sovereignty. So the idea of sovereignty is a coherent idea, and sovereignty, rightly understood, is a valuable feature of states in international law. Sovereignty is to be understood as internal power and external freedom that are complete for the purposes of a good state.
Keywords: sovereignty, autonomy, J.S.Mill, international law
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