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Chapter

This chapter looks at sovereignty. Sovereignty is often defined as ‘supreme authority within a territory’. Analyses of sovereignty often operate across three domains — conceptual, descriptive-explanatory, and normative — with a view to examining the idea of sovereignty and its place in the political landscape. Since World War II, there have been significant international developments designed to consolidate the promise of an international state system committed to the principle of state sovereignty, while tempering its risks and excesses. A major landmark was the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). These developments raise questions about what sovereignty is, does, and where its limits ought to lie. The chapter then considers borders. Borders vary in the degree to which they are peaceful or contested, fortified, open or closed, and selectively open and closed to whom and what.

Chapter

Ayesha Omar

This chapter outlines some of the key ideas of Sayyid Qutb, a prominent Egyptian, Muslim political theorist and anti-colonial thinker. It begins by setting Qutb’s ideas in their intellectual contexts and discussing his theory of jahilliyyah (condition of ignorance), assessing how and why Qutb prescribes measures to counter the effects of jahilliyyah. The chapter then looks at Qutb’s conception of hakimiyyah (divine sovereignty), which is central to his project for Islamic renewal. It also considers Qutb’s contribution to revolutionary resurgence and in particular his theory of offensive jihad. Finally, the chapter highlights and problematizes Qutb’s enduring legacy both as a militant and decolonial political thinker, and underscores the manner in which his ideas continue to garner interest in the contemporary world.

Chapter

Stephanie Lawson

This chapter discusses global politics in relation to the phenomenon of globalization. ‘Global politics’ as a field of study encompasses the traditional concerns of International Relations with how states interact under conditions of anarchy, but lays greater emphasis on the role of non-state actors and processes in a globalizing world. The chapter first provides an overview of politics in a globalizing world before explaining the basic distinctions between ‘state’ and ‘nation’ in the context of contemporary global politics. It then considers the variation in state forms and the phenomenon of empire throughout history as well as the historical emergence of the modern state and state system in Europe along with ideas about sovereignty and nationalism against the background of ‘modernity’. It also examines the effective globalization of the European state system through modern imperialism and colonialism and the extent to which these have been productive of contemporary global order.

Chapter

Robert Garner

This chapter explains why the state and sovereignty are relevant to the study of politics. It first provides an empirical typology of the state, ranging from the minimalist night-watchman state, approximated to by nineteenth-century capitalist regimes at one end of the spectrum, to the totalitarian state of the twentieth century at the other. It then examines the distribution of power in the state by focusing on three major theories of the state: pluralism, elitism, Marxism, as well as New Right theory. The chapter seeks to demonstrate that the theories of the state identified can also be critiqued normatively, so that pluralism, for instance, can be challenged for its divisive character, as exemplified by identity politics. It then goes on to review different views about what the role of the state ought to be, from the minimalist state recommended by adherents of classical liberalism, to the pursuit of distinctive social objectives as recommended, in particular, by proponents of communitarianism. Finally, it discusses empirical and normative challenges to the state and asks whether the state’s days are numbered.

Chapter

David Boucher

This chapter examines Edmund Burke's political thought. It first provides a short biography of Burke before discussing the three main interpretations of him: first, as a utilitarian; second, in relation to natural law; and the third, which attempts to bring together the two antithetical interpretations. It argues that even though Burke has elements of utilitarianism in his thought, and although he subscribes to natural law and universal principles, both somehow have to coincide in the traditions and institutional practices of a community. On the question of political obligation, although he uses the language of contract, it is clear that Burke does not subscribe to its central tenets. The chapter proceeds by exploring Burke's views on sovereignty, constitutionalism, colonialism, and slavery.

Chapter

Paul Kelly

This chapter examines Jeremy Bentham's political thought. Bentham is both an advocate of laissez-faire and an interventionist, a liberal rationalist and an equivocally liberal thinker prepared to sacrifice the rights of individuals to the well-being of the multitude. His ideas remain contested from all quarters, yet the outline of his actual political thought remains obscure. This chapter defends an interpretation of Bentham as an important liberal thinker with a commitment to the role of government in defending personal security and well-being, but also with a strong scepticism about government as a vehicle for harm as well as good. It first provides a short biography of Bentham before discussing his psychological theory as well as his account of value and duty. It also explores Bentham's views on psychological hedonism, obligations and rules, sovereignty and law, and representative democracy. It concludes with an assessment of Bentham's complex relationship with liberalism.

Chapter

Michael Barnett

This chapter examines the concept of duties beyond borders and its implications for the practice of foreign policy. More specifically, it considers why states proclaim duties to those beyond their borders as well as the apparent expansion of those duties over the last two decades. After explaining what is meant by duties beyond borders and how it relates to the concepts of sovereignty and cosmopolitanism, the chapter explores how realist, liberal, constructivist, and decision-making theories account for the existence and expansion of these duties. It also describes why states failed to halt the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and intervened in Libya in 2011, but not in Syria. It also analyses the growing tension between a foreign policy defined by realpolitik and a foreign policy that is increasingly affected and defined by intensifying interdependence in a range of issues and transnational connections between peoples.

Chapter

This chapter examines the normative principles underlying the European Union's foreign policy and whether there are inconsistencies therein. Drawing on a distinction between the principles of sovereignty, human rights, and a common good, the chapter challenges the notion that the EU is a distinctive foreign policy actor. Each of these principles points to a different perspective on how international politics should be organized, and each would take the EU's foreign policy in different directions. The chapter shows that the unresolved tensions in the EU's internal constitution, between its cosmopolitan vocation and the ambition of (EU) nation building, are also reflected in the EU foreign policy.

Chapter

Lene Hansen

This chapter examines the core assumptions of poststructuralism, one of the International Relations (IR) perspectives furthest away from the realist and liberal mainstream. It explores whether language matters for international relations, whether all states have the same identity, and whether the state is the most important actor in world politics today. The chapter also considers poststructuralist views about the social world, state sovereignty, and identity and foreign policy. Finally, it discusses poststructuralism as a political philosophy. Two case studies are presented, one dealing with discourses on the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the other relating to Russian discourse on Crimea. There is also an Opposing Opinions box that asks whether poststructuralism provides a good account of the role that materiality and power play in world politics.

Chapter

This chapter discusses the importance of the state and sovereignty to the study of politics. It first provides an empirical typology of the state, from the minimalist night-watchman state to the totalitarian state, before considering various theories of the state such as Marxism, pluralism, elitism, and the New Right. Two key general points about these competing theories are examined. First, an organizing theme relates to what each of these theories say about the distribution of power. Second, the theories can be analysed in both empirical and normative terms. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the claim that the state has significantly declined in importance, mainly as a result of economic globalization.

Book

Catriona McKinnon, Robert Jubb, and Patrick Tomlin

Issues in Political Theory provides an introduction to political theory and how it is applied to address the most important issues confronting the world today. It has a focus on real-world issues and includes case studies. The text examines important and influential areas of political theory. The text includes chapters on liberty, global poverty, sovereignty and borders, and the environment provide readers with fresh insight on important debates in political theory. Case studies in this text look at contemporary issues including same-sex marriage, racial inequality, sweatshop labour, and Brexit.

Chapter

This chapter examines the core assumptions of liberalism regarding world politics. It explores why liberals believe in progress, what explains the ascendancy of liberal ideas in world politics since 1945, and whether liberal solutions to global problems are hard to achieve and difficult to sustain. The chapter also considers central ideas in liberal thinking on international relations, including internationalism, idealism, and institutionalism. It concludes with an assessment of the challenges confronting liberalism. Two case studies are presented. The first case study looks at the rise and fall of what it terms ‘the indispensable nation’, in other words the old liberal world order, lead by the United States. The other case study examines the African concept of sovereignty: sovereignty as responsibility.

Chapter

Lene Hansen

This chapter examines the core assumptions of poststructuralism, one of the international relations (IR) perspectives furthest away from the realist and liberal mainstream. It explores whether language matters for international relations, whether all states have the same identity, and whether the state is the most important actor in world politics today. The chapter also considers poststructuralist views about the social world, state sovereignty, and identity and foreign policy. Finally, it discusses poststructuralism as a political philosophy. Two case studies follow. The first one looking at discourses, images, and the victory of the Taliban regime. The second case studies examines Covid-19, state sovereignty, and vaccines.

Chapter

Peter Hallward

This chapter evaluates some of the central tensions that characterize Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s egalitarian account of sovereignty. He formulates this account as the basis for a participatory ‘social contract’, meaning a voluntary form of association that aims to be both general enough to include the people as a whole, yet concentrated enough to command their government and to over-power the divisive influence of a wealthy elite. As he argued in his main political works, if it is sufficiently forceful, such a collective will can counteract the forms of inequality and servitude that have accompanied the historical rise of propertied and exploitative classes. Rousseau’s radical conception of mass power would soon inspire the most uncompromising sequences of the French Revolution. However, its emancipatory promise was also limited by its author’s sexism, his anachronism, and his failure to engage with some emerging forms of inequality and power, notably those associated with the rise of commerce, capitalism, and the transatlantic slave trade.

Chapter

Signy Gutnick Allen

This chapter discusses the ideas of Thomas Hobbes, focusing on his account provided in Leviathan (1651). By emphasizing the importance of centralized state power underpinned by individuals’ consent, the Hobbesian approach to politics highlights a set of key questions. What does it mean to be a citizen? What are the grounds, nature, and limits of political authority and obligation? The chapter begins by outlining Hobbes’s presentation of the state of nature, natural right, and the laws of nature, linking his analysis to his materialist science. It then turns to Hobbes’s explanation of the origins of the state and explores his argument that the political relationship is fundamentally representative. The chapter also explains his understanding of sovereignty, as well as his theory of inalienable rights. Finally, it examines the possibility that this retained right is the seed of a right to rebel against the sovereign, before considering Hobbes’s legacy.

Chapter

Tim Dunne and Marianne Hanson

This chapter examines the role of human rights in international relations. It first considers the theoretical issues and context that are relevant to the link between human rights and the discipline of international relations, focusing on such concepts as realism, liberalism, and constructivism. It then explores key controversies over human rights as understood in international relations as a field of study: one is the question of state sovereignty; another is the mismatch between the importance attached to human rights at the declaratory level and the prevalence of human rights abuses in reality. The chapter also discusses two dimensions of international responsibility: the duty to protect their citizens that is incumbent on all states in light of their obligations under the various human rights covenants; and the duty of states to act as humanitarian rescuers in instances where a state is collapsing or a regime is committing gross human rights violations.

Chapter

Alan J. Kuperman

This chapter examines humanitarian intervention and its relationship to the promotion of human rights. It first traces the evolution of humanitarian intervention, especially in the wake of the Second World War and the Cold War, to include military force and the violation of traditional norms of neutrality and state sovereignty. It then describes some obstacles to effective intervention, including the speed of violence, logistical hurdles to military deployment, and lack of political will. It also discusses unintended consequences, such as how the ‘moral hazard’ of humanitarian intervention may inadvertently trigger and perpetuate civil conflict, thus exacerbating civilian suffering. Many of these concepts are illustrated with a detailed case study of humanitarian intervention in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995 by the United States, European Community, United Nations, and NATO. The chapter concludes with recommendations to improve humanitarian intervention and to reconcile it with the promotion of human rights.

Chapter

Cathy Gormley-Heenan and Mark Sandford

This chapter examines the relationship between the UK Parliament and the devolved legislatures established in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. It first considers the impact of devolution on parliamentary sovereignty before discussing the establishment and development of the devolved parliaments in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. It then describes the key features of those devolved institutions and the way in which Parliament's interactions with them have evolved since their inception, as well as the division of powers between the United Kingdom and devolved governments. It shows that the influence of Parliament on devolution in the UK has so far been marginal, and that these subtle changes in practices at Westminster point to Parliament as an increasing reflection of wider shifts in public attitudes about the relationships between the territories of the United Kingdom, especially after the Brexit referendum.

Chapter

Gianfranco Poggi

This chapter examines how the nation-state came into being and how it became dominant as a political unit. It first presents a general and streamlined portrait of the state—a concept that sociologists inspired by Max Weber might call an ideal type. In particular, it considers some of the characteristics of a nation-state, including monopoly of legitimate violence, territoriality, sovereignty, plurality, and relation to the population. The chapter proceeds by discussing a more expansive concept of the nation-state, taking into account the role of law, centralized organization, the distinction between state and society, religion and the market, the public sphere, the burden of conflict, and citizenship and nation. The chapter also describes five paths in state formation and concludes with an assessment of three main phases which different European states have followed in somewhat varying sequences: consolidation of rule, rationalization of rule, and expansion of rule.

Chapter

This chapter examines the role of nationalism and national self-determination (NSD) in shaping the major institution of modern international relations: the nation-state. It considers different types of nationalism and how they vary from one another, whether the commonly accepted sequence of nation > nationalism > nation-state is actually the reverse of the normal historical sequence, and whether the principle of NSD is compatible with that of state sovereignty. The chapter also explores the contribution of nationalism to the globalization of world politics and the changing meanings of NSD since 1918. Four case studies of nationalism are presented: Kurdistan, Germany, India, and Yugoslavia. There is also an Opposing Opinions box that asks whether the principle of NSD threatens stable international relations.