Unconstrained Sovereignty: Delegation of Authority and Reversibility
41 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2021
Date Written: November 4, 2020
The concept of sovereignty shapes our understanding of the world. Yet our current understanding of sovereignty does not explain when states pull out of supranational organizations, why shared sovereignty agreements frequently fail, or why young democracies have a tendency to backslide. These analytical problems stem from a contradiction at the core of the existing definitions of sovereignty. They mistakenly conflate delegation of authority with a loss of sovereignty. Delegation is relatively cheap, quick, and leads to an assured outcome; it’s an affirmation of sovereignty. Use of force, however, is required to regain lost sovereignty. Conflating the two has significant consequences. I propose a definition of sovereignty that draws a clear distinction between sovereignty and delegated authority. Adopting this definition shows that: sovereignty applies across time and space, it is indivisible, institutions do not place permanent constraints on supreme authority, and popular sovereignty is not a well-grounded concept.
Keywords: sovereignty, delegation of authority, institutions, state, globalization, intergovernmental organization
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