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Sovereignty and the State PS 314 January 24th
The Big Questions • What is the nature of sovereignty? • From where did sovereignty come? • How can we account for the rise of the modern state? • Is the reach of the state being curtailed by globalization? • Is sovereignty being undermined by globalization?
Sovereignty • Sovereignty is: the “ultimate monopoly of coercion by a set of political institutions within a defined territory” • Sovereignty is an artifact of the modern era. Why? • Theorists such as Jean Bodin (1530-96) and Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) began thinking about sovereignty in the late16th and early 17th centuries, in the wake of cataclysmic upheavals in Europe • Sovereignty emerged as the successor to the dual concepts of ‘ultramontanism’ and ‘divine right’
The Theory of Sovereignty • Bodin, in his The Six Books of the Commonwealth, is the first theorist to outline the idea that power lies in the state, not in the person. • Asked not the question, “Who are the rulers and what are their powers?”, but rather, “What is the state and how is it constructed?” • However, Bodin still does not depart from the old concept of divine right (which has important consequences). • Hobbes, on the other hand, begins an investigation of how states come to be. • In doing so, he provides the springboard to the modern era, for he overturns the principle of divine right.
The Emergence of the State • It is often argued that the appearance of state sovereignty was cemented by the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), which established the so-called ‘Westphalian system’. • Once of Krasner’s key points is that Westphalia is not exactly what it has been seen as by historians; why not? • However, by the time that we move into the 19th century and the Congress of Vienna, the possibility of state sovereignty provides the framework for the aspiration to ‘self-determination’
Why did the modern state emerge? • Within two centuries, Europe passed from medievalism → city states and leagues → modern states. For example, the first modern state is generally considered to be 17th century Prussia. Why did the state emerge? • Two traditional explanations have been proffered by historians for the rise of the modern state; • success in warfare (neo-realism) • The emergence of national markets (Marxism) • Spruyt argues that there was a third, and perhaps most important factor at work; sheer luck (unintended consequences). • The outcome was a combination of Darwinism, mutual empowerment, and (later) adaptation and mimicry.
Contemporary Sovereignty • Both Krasner and Spruyt remind us that sovereignty is a powerful tool in the modern world, despite globalization • Both of them reject the notion that sovereignty is undermined by universalism, whether it be religious ideals (islamic fundamentalism) or secular ideals (human rights) • Spruyt argues that the state is more powerful than ever before • However, Krasner does concede that the state now has real competitors for power (i.e. NGO’s) • Neither sees the European Union as a fundamentally new form of organizing sovereignty for all