"Sovereignty and the State"
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