Leaving Sovereignty Behind?

Friedrich Kratochwil

in Legality and Legitimacy in Global Affairs

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199781577
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932887 | DOI:
Leaving Sovereignty Behind?

Show Summary Details


The article takes issue with the notion that “sovereignty” as the foundational principle of the international system has been superseded by a more “cosmopolitan” understanding based on subjective rights and “human dignity”. It does so on analytical as well as on historical/political grounds by showing, first, that the alleged “exclusivity” of the “Westphalian” order is more a figment of ideal-typical imagination than of historical practice even at the height of “statism.” Therefore, I argue, second, for a broader analysis that places “sovereignty” within a semantic field. Thereby the meaning of “sovereignty” has to be analyzed by the changing use of the term in discursive formation and the changing practices that were thereby authorized or enjoined. In this vein I also raise the question of democratic legitimacy, as with the demise of the personal “sovereign”, the “will” of the state, and even of “the people” as a source of law, notions of “universal” subjective rights, and of “human dignity” abstracted from any particularistic historical political underpinnings seemed to have eclipsed former legitimizations based on autonomy or “natural liberty”. This discussion leads me to a more cautious assessment of the “cosmopolitan” discourse.

Keywords: sovereignty; Westphalia; cosmopolitanism; discourse analysis; state; state system; human dignity; rights

Chapter.  10742 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.