Reconstructing Sovereignty

The Impact of Norms, Practices and Rhetoric

Schatzkammer Residenz Muenchen Krone des Koenigreichs Bayern
Reconstructing Sovereignty : The Impact of Norms, Practices and Rhetoric - Kathleen Claussen & Timothy Nichol


The ongoing reconstruction of sovereignty as an institution with functional and ontological significance indicates that it is both founded on the basis of and maintains an important role in shaping international norms. Through practice and rhetoric, state and non-state actors have developed a complex system of terminology that reflects the evolution of sovereignty and its normative framework. This article examines the contributions of state representatives, international institutions and international relations scholars to the re-conceptualization of the fundamental institution of the world order.


“Sovereignty means many things, some essential, some insignificant, some agreed, some controversial, some that are not warranted and should not be accepted.”[1]

Louis Henkin

Henkin’s words illustrate the central dilemma in any attempt to analyze sovereignty: by nature of the widespread and indiscriminate use of the word, sovereignty refers to many concepts and ideas, each highly contested. Reinvigorated debates about humanitarian intervention, globalization and regional integration have led to qualitative changes in its meaning. International relations literature treats the multidimensional discourse on sovereignty as though it were self-generative and self-promoting. In reality, politicians and scholars interpret and employ the term based on both competing preconceptions of its meaning and competing objectives for its application.

Practitioners and theorists have contributed heavily to the creation of nuanced understandings of sovereignty. In the 1990s, the claim that sovereignty had lost its salience as the Grundnorm of international relations was widespread in the literature.[2] Scholars proposed a variety of reasons for the end of sovereignty: for instance, that the grounds for sovereignty’s erosion were laid in the humanitarian interventions of the period; that the post-modern emphasis on de-centeredness had influenced conceptions of sovereignty; that weak structures of state authority had undermined sovereignty by inviting external forces to correct or replace them; that the rise of alternative forms of governance had begun to threaten the very concept of “international” in international relations; and that the demise of the nation-state threatened to diminish sovereignty as an organizational concept.[3]

In this article, we survey the contestation of the institution of sovereignty and its perpetual reconstruction, which together indicate that sovereignty, in its many forms, is still en vogue. By investigating the proliferation of modified forms of sovereignty, this article builds upon works of other scholars that trace the ways in which sovereignty is debated and applied in world politics.[4] We limit our discussion to three re-conceptualizations that attempt to capture particular trends in the discourse on sovereignty by calling attention to sovereignty’s divisibility, conditionality and collectivity. More specifically, we look at what these qualifying adjectives bring to the sovereignty debate, how they change the institution and how they help us to understand contemporary political developments. In so doing, we examine the interaction of norms, practices and rhetoric. We focus first on the value-laden nature of sovereignty in the public sphere and then discuss normative change at the institutional level.

Recognizing the complexity of the norms and practices that shape perspectives on sovereignty, we adopt a definition of sovereignty as an institution. As such, the meaning of “institution” must be clarified. This article defines “institution” through a constructivist lens in terms of practices, coupled with norms that both govern and are revised through those practices. With this approach, we examine the many interactions between actors involved in the dual process of norm contestation and the maintenance of norm validity. Kratochwil and Ruggie argue that actors reproduce normative structures and change them in their practice as underlying conditions change.[5] This insight exceeds the realm of analysis conducted under more traditional approaches toward sovereignty and points to an important dimension frequently left unexplored.[6]

We select a sociological definition of “institution” as a relatively stable collection of practices and rules defining appropriate behavior.[7] This is an important dimension for understanding sovereignty considering that other institutions in world politics are affected by sovereignty. It should be noted that the type of institution to which we refer is not that of a particular structural arrangement, but rather a general pattern of behavior with correlative structures and principles. As such, sovereignty and its associated norms constitute the means by which states and, increasingly, other actors pursue goals, share meanings, communicate with each other, criticize assertions and justify actions.[8] In this way, it can be considered the “Grund-institution” of the world’s legal system.

An Institution of Interacting Norms and Practices

Viewing sovereignty as an institutional arrangement for organizing international politics helps scholars to conceive of ways in which sovereignty is comprised of distinct and interrelated features. Undoubtedly, sovereignty has a norm-generative effect, but it is likewise shaped by changing norms.[9] Norms isolate single standards of behavior and can obscure the distinct and interrelated elements of social practices. An institution, by contrast, emphasizes the way in which behavioral rules are structured together.[10] Such a conceptualization facilitates the study of how sovereignty has transformed over time, and draws attention to the way in which the addition and contestation of norms in international relations discourse create new patterns of politics and, potentially, a new model of sovereignty.

The institution of sovereignty is embedded in a broader matrix of socio-political and legal practices. These practices generate categories of meaning through which we conceive and explain applications of sovereignty.[11] The relationship between the concrete developments and paradigmatic change, which constitutes and directs sovereignty, can be represented by a two-dimensional model (Figure 1) that attempts to capture the conditions in which sovereignty norms are generated, legitimated, exemplified, contested, modified and discarded.

Figure 1

Figure 1

The horizontal plane represents the normative dimension of sovereignty and can be divided into two groups of norms. First, sovereignty is premised on a collection of underlying assumptions that have gained wide acceptance in the course of history. These are referred to in the diagram as the “normative consensus,”[12] which is the reasonably stable set of norms that underpins the institution. These norms make the institution unique and give it its ontological significance. They include: the shared value of international order among states; the shared importance of a system of membership in a society of states; acceptance of the co-existence of the political freedom of states; and, finally, respect for diversity of political systems. Thus, the normative consensus comprises the strongest constitutive elements of sovereignty. The norms of this set are less susceptible to change and contestation as a result of their widespread acknowledgment within international relations. The validity of these principles is continually reinforced through the consent of and use by members of the international community.

Other sovereignty norms, placed on the opposite end of the normative plane, reflect and build upon the preceding set of foundational norms. This second set of norms is referred to as “contested norms”; we find ample evidence both in support of and against them.[13] Some of the most prominent contested norms today are: non-intervention (territorial integrity); equality among states; self-determination; and mutual recognition that creates the boundaries between nominally independent states. The strength and relevance of these norms are constantly debated; they enjoy less consensus in political and scholarly discourse, though their importance should not be underestimated. The contested nature of these norms allows for the evolution and reconstruction of the institution of sovereignty.

Sovereignty norms are debated, modified and validated or discarded on the vertical plane. This plane represents the actions, practices and rhetoric of states as well as non- governmental organizations, intergovernmental actors and international relations scholars. Both legal and political manifestations of sovereignty norms are located on this plane. It is important to note, however, that the distinction between legal and political expressions is often blurred by delicate ambiguities in international relations, as will be illustrated below.

Multiple feedback processes challenge and redefine the meaning of sovereignty, as identified by the overlapping arrows in Figure 1. Norms on the horizontal plane are generated and validated through manifestations on the vertical plane. In the same manner, the normative dimension has an influence on the political and legal expressions. This relationship between planes denotes the dual quality of norms.[15] Norms both structure and construct, such that the properties of the institution are “the medium and the outcome of practices that constitute” it.[16] Thus, the validity of sovereignty is dependent on both the normative consensus and the contestation of the norms within political and legal spheres.

The complexity of the norms and structures that play a role in the process of institutional reconstruction illustrates that sovereignty is not just one thing—not simply the property or status of individual states, an abstract concept of supreme power, an organizational principle, a normative premise, a system, a responsibility, a right, a practice or a political outcome, as scholars of international relations have argued.[17] Rather, it can represent any of these ideas depending on the context, author or rhetoric used. The definition of sovereignty is inextricably bound to its use.

There are two realms in which sovereignty is contested. The first can be identified in public discourse, such that the term itself acquires a nuanced subtext of values and connotations. The second refers to the evolving institution in academic and political discussions, as represented in the previous diagram.

The Contested Nature of the Term in the Public Sphere

Sovereignty has acquired tremendous symbolic weight through the contestation of its norms and its entrenchment as the fundamental institution of the international system. By nature of its function in law as the constitutive element of statehood, the term has come to symbolize a political ideal as well. To sub-state entities engaged in a struggle for autonomy, sovereignty signifies international recognition, stability, structure and equality on the global playing field.[18] Such consequential references further enhance the attractiveness of the term in public discourse and endorse its symbolic content. As a result, sovereignty achieves a high level of legitimacy and popular acceptance.

On this basis, state leaders have employed the term “sovereignty” as a means of adding legitimacy to both their own actions and the actions of the states they represent. These political manipulations, predicated on an understanding that “sovereignty” retains an authoritative quality, have pervaded the public consciousness through the media.

Recently, UK and US officials referenced improvements in Iraqi rule of law as demonstrations of Iraqi sovereignty. During a White House press briefing in August 2006, Press Secretary Tony Snow commented that: “[t]o have a democracy that allows people to have sovereignty over their lives is something that we think is so powerful, and that the yearning for freedom is so natural, that that is going to send a powerful signal throughout the region. People are going to want more of it.”[19] This association of “sovereignty” with “democracy” indicates the significance attached to the term. Like “democracy,” “sovereignty” is used indiscriminately and is correlated with larger social and political goals. Similarly, UK Home Secretary John Reid, speaking in a televised interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation in November 2006, called the guilty verdict in Saddam Hussein’s trial the “ultimate expression of their [the Iraqi people’s] own sovereignty.”[20]

In both cases, Snow and Reid address the establishment of the rule of law in Iraq, though they also likely intend to emphasize the non-interference of other states in the trial process. They use “sovereignty” and its symbolic value as a political device to achieve their own ends and the ends of the states they represent. These brief examples are characteristic of a recent trend to make use of the symbolism of “sovereignty,” associating the term with preconceptions about identity and political community. Such statements demonstrate the continuing importance of sovereignty within international relations and the perception that it is associated with great consequence.

Just as state representatives make use of sovereignty to add legitimacy to their own actions relative to their constituents, they further play a part in re-conceptualizing sovereignty through their actions and words in diplomatic settings. Likewise, international organizations find themselves at the intersection of competing conceptions of sovereignty. Regional organizations, by their very construction, embody implicit revisions to a singular and absolutist approach to sovereignty, as will be discussed further below. The United Nations has wrestled with the multitude of interpretations of sovereignty in such wide-ranging contexts as that of indigenous nations, related to self-determination, and in border dispute resolution, related to non-intervention.[21]

Opposing interpretations of the UN Charter referring to sovereignty norms emerge from groups with demands for international recognition and statehood.[22] The appearance of the words “sovereign equality” in Article 2 of the Charter indicates the primacy which the United Nations places on sovereignty; however, the institutionalization of human rights and peace-building bodies and the discussion of related principles in recent years altered the agenda of the organization, causing it to modify previously enshrined sovereignty norms.[23] The delicacy with which the UN treats matters of sovereignty indicates the changing normative and political landscapes the UN faces and makes evident the greater scope for sovereignty’s contestation.

In the academic realm, scholars invent new terminology to capture nuances in the institution. Taken as a whole, these contributions represent sovereignty’s dual quality as an ontological and a functional construct. Reconstructions of the institution endeavor to account for normative and structural changes in international relations today.

Institutional Qualifiers

We will not attempt to conduct an exhaustive survey of emerging variations on sovereignty. It is important, however, to note the divergent directions in which scholars and practitioners are pulling the institution through their additions of qualifying adjectives. The qualifiers themselves can be assigned to three distinct groups: those that reflect a trend toward suprastate collective authority, those that divide sovereignty into its constituent parts and those that impose conditionalities for the maintenance of sovereign status.


Terms such as “pooled” or “collective” sovereignty make up the group of qualifiers referred to here as the “collectivity” qualifiers. They refer to instances in which states entrust certain national and transnational affairs to a collective entity. Scholars have developed this idea of sovereignty so as to capture structural developments already underway, often at the regional level.[24] In the case of the European Union, for example, European states pool their sovereignty in the interest of developing stable and fruitful cooperation.[25] The qualifying adjectives describe the delegation of state authority required by suprastate and intergovernmental integration.

These terms have gained legitimacy through their widespread use in multilateral settings. They account for change in the structural manifestations of sovereignty on the world stage in an era of greater international cooperation, though by and large they do not alter the normative consensus of the sovereignty institution. Rather, “collectivity” implies a grouping together of sovereign authorities. As a result, the use of these terms to depict such developments is largely accepted. The substance of activity that they intend to convey, however, continues to engender important debate. Nonetheless, unlike the two other groups of sovereignty qualifiers, the “collectivity” terms experience minimal contestation.


A second set of terms, referred to as “divisibility qualifiers,” depicts sovereignty as divisible. They convey a conception of sovereignty that dismantles the institution into many components; the components can be accumulated and together comprise “full sovereignty.”[26] Keohane describes what he calls “gradations” or “degrees” of sovereignty,[27] which separate the institution into its constituent parts and allocate varying forms of authority to state and non-state actors. This approach further implies that administrative functions can be shared by a state or sub-state authority as well as by international organizations.

The divisibility interpretation emphasizes the disaggregation of authority as an acceptable and necessary model to reflect properly the changing geopolitical environment. Lapidoth writes: “[s]overeignty in its classic connotation of total and indivisible state power has been eroded by modern technical and economic developments and by certain rules of modern constitutional and international law.”[28] Examples of adjectives in this group include, but are not limited to: disaggregated sovereignty,[29] late sovereignty,[30] earned sovereignty,[31] imperial sovereignty,[32] pluralistic sovereignty,[33] constrained sovereignty,[34] phased sovereignty,[35] limited sovereignty[36] and partial sovereignty.[37] We select two examples to illustrate this trend and analyze how the divisibility qualifiers contribute to a re-conceptualization of sovereignty, reflective of normative and structural change to the institution.

In an effort to represent developments in international law and politics, Slaughter introduces the term “disaggregated sovereignty.”[38] This variation on the conventional perspective of sovereignty as a singular locus is intended to illustrate the delegation of state authority to its component political bodies. The distribution of powers has led to the creation of various networks that have acquired unprecedented levels of authority. The introduction of “disaggregated sovereignty” into the institutional discourse denotes a post hoc depiction of structural change. Scholars emphasize this model as a permanent transformation in the international order. Thus, the term offers an alternative conceptualization for the construction of sovereignty, which has normative implications meriting further research.

A second example, “earned sovereignty,” illustrates how divisibility qualifiers are used not only at the macro level to describe broad, overarching trends, but also at the micro level, where they are heavily contested, in reference to particular cases of conflict resolution. Earned sovereignty entails the “conditional and progressive devolution of sovereign powers…from a state to a sub-state entity under international supervision.”[39] Similar qualifying adjectives of the divisibility group also give rise to the creation of such quasi-state structures as the UN Mission in Kosovo and other transitional administrations. These sub-state communities are placed in an indeterminate position, as they are neither part of a recognized state nor fully sovereign.

Earned sovereignty thus captures the process during which a political entity acquires a temporary status en route toward a conventional conception of sovereignty. According to this interpretation, sovereignty is no longer the unitary right of the state; rather, it is comprised of a collection of separate competencies and authoritative functions. As a sub-state entity acquires the capacity to self-administer, it progresses toward achieving sovereign status.

The growing acceptance of this group of qualifiers suggests that they are useful in recognizing the structural experimentation taking place in international relations; however, as a result of the context in which these terms are applied and the importance of norms that they attempt to modify, divisibility qualifiers frequently provoke fierce controversy.[40] The emergence of these re-conceptions of sovereignty is the result of changing political and legal conditions that make use of innovative mechanisms for the distribution of authority. Subsequently, the application of these terms calls into question the strength of such related norms as sovereign equality and a right to self-determination.[41]


The third group of qualifiers comprises such terms as “contingent” and “conditional” sovereignty. Though the establishment of sovereignty has always been contingent on certain internationally agreed-upon criteria for recognition, these qualifiers support the idea that a state must meet a set of further provisions in order to maintain its membership in the international community. According to the contingency interpretation, sovereignty is dependent on a state’s ability to prove its commitment to a set of conditions established by an outside authority.[42]

This group contributes to the evolution of sovereignty by rejecting certain norms of the institution. According to Keohane’s understanding of divisible sovereignty outlined above, full sovereignty confers a right to act independently and with comprehensive domestic authority.[43] In contrast, contingent sovereignty negates this right and effectively promotes a policy of intervention based on a set of predetermined criteria. Thus, these terms discard the principle of non-intervention, one of the contested, though widely upheld, sovereignty norms.

The concept of contingent sovereignty grows out of the need to explain violations of the norms of non-intervention and territorial integrity, and the accompanying assertions from policymakers that such violations are appropriate. This set of qualifying terms supports a norm of intervention justified on the grounds of humanitarian concern or security considerations.

Contingency based on humanitarian considerations grows out of a conflict between the norm of non-intervention and moral cosmopolitan principles. Advocates of contingent sovereignty on these grounds argue that gross human rights violations justify intervention and thereby trump sovereignty norms. This qualification of sovereignty has had an effect on state and non-state actors, as well as on international organizations. In fact, the recent support given to contingent sovereignty by the United Nations has significantly heightened the visibility of the term and its acceptance as a legitimate revision of sovereignty.[44] This shift has caused the UN to revisit and revise sovereignty norms in its actions in crisis situations.[45] The complexity of this debate is comprehensively examined in the literature.[46]

Security-related justifications for contingent sovereignty have received heightened attention since 11 September 2001. These justifications attempt to reconcile collective action concerns, such as global threats of terrorism or weapons of mass destruction, with the traditional conception of sovereignty. A brief look at recent US foreign policy in this area assists in understanding the normative changes generated from security-related contingency.

According to the stated position of the Bush administration, such norms of sovereignty as non-intervention do not apply in cases of states harboring terrorists or seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction.[47] Rather, proponents of the so-called Bush doctrine suggest that international norms should be adapted so that such states are obliged to verify that they are not engaged in such activity. According to the US National Defense Strategy of March 2005, failure to supply such evidence warrants intervention.[48]

This position is highly contested as a legitimate interpretation of the institution of sovereignty. Used in this way and in the context of humanitarian considerations, the conditionality qualifiers change the institution by asserting that a hierarchy of norms exists. Accordingly, higher norms of state responsibility supersede traditional sovereignty norms. In sum, these variations on sovereignty seek to reconstruct the institution in light of a normative shift from non-intervention to (limited) intervention.

Critical Juncture Derived from the Qualifiers

The wide use of the terms analyzed in this section can have contradictory implications for the institution of sovereignty. Qualifiers will undoubtedly continue to be employed by scholars, international organizations and politicians as necessary to explain and to influence the changing international system. On the other hand, the addition of qualifiers and their repercussions together have the potential for revising sovereignty beyond recognition, rendering futile the pursuit of normative stability within the institution.

As shown above, states, international organizations and scholars each influence with varying motives the meaning of sovereignty in various settings. Modifications to sovereignty norms endorsed by the United Nations and other international organizations are less contested than those unilaterally advocated by states, as exemplified by the changes put forward by the Bush administration. By contrast, such qualifying adjectives as “collective,” “disaggregated” or “earned” do not attempt fundamentally to alter sovereignty norms; rather, they act as labels for changes to sovereignty as observed on the international stage. In other words, scholars and others who apply these terms classify the transformations taking place on the vertical plane of the sovereignty diagram. Their use of qualifiers draws attention to reconstructions already underway and contextualizes such reconstructions on the normative dimension.

As we have seen, these divergent implications represent a critical juncture in the debate on sovereignty. This critical juncture is made manifest in the sweeping contestation of the term, which evolves through the reconstruction of the normative and non-normative aspects of the institution. It remains to be seen whether the qualifier phenomenon is representative of a lasting trend that conceives of sovereignty with reference to world developments or whether these qualifiers will be discarded in favor of maintaining an absolutist concept of the institution.


As it is continually reconstituted and reconstructed, sovereignty is what actors make of it and thus is subject to change. State actors make use of their prominence in the international system proactively to reshape sovereignty norms as they engage in international relations. International organizations confront the alterations to the institution and exert significant influence on its evolution in diverse ways. Scholars further affect sovereignty through the linkages they make between the normative and non-normative dimensions of sovereignty.

The heightened attention to sovereignty and its normative foundation, resulting from the many transformations of the institution, has led to its broadened application. Sovereignty’s contested nature has proven the doomsayers wrong by demonstrating the resilience of the term. At the same time, such contestation has introduced a set of variations on sovereignty into the public and academic discourses. The attractiveness of the symbolism embedded within the institution entices scholars and politicians alike to apply it to a wide sphere of contexts. Through their practices and associated rhetoric, these actors contribute to changes in sovereignty’s normative underpinning.

The introduction of modified versions of sovereignty, distinguished as the collectivity, divisibility and contingency groups of qualifiers, has attempted to address both the changing normative consensus of the institution as well as the shifts in the structure of international relations. The collectivity group attempts to account for structural change in the international system, in which states voluntarily entrust aspects of their legal and political affairs to a larger suprastate community, without directly altering the normative framework of sovereignty. The divisibility qualifiers disaggregate sovereignty into elements that can be distributed among actors and earned by sub-state entities. This re-conceptualization addresses changes in both the structure of the international system and in the normative consensus of sovereignty. Finally, contingent sovereignty questions the validity of fundamental norms associated with sovereignty in light of global threats. Proponents of each group, none of which is mutually exclusive, argue that these qualifiers provide a more accurate representation of political and legal developments on the world stage.

Over the last fifteen years, the importance of the institution of sovereignty has become more firmly acknowledged within the discipline. The introduction of qualifiers represents a critical juncture in which sovereignty undergoes both normative and structural reconsideration. Thus, its functionality is rising rather than declining. Whether this trend is beneficial or perilous for the future of world politics and international law has yet to be determined.

Notes & References

The authors wish to thank the following individuals for their insightful comments on earlier drafts: Antje Wiener, Debbie Lisle, Michael Clarke, Matt Powers and participants in the international politics core modules at Queen’s University Belfast, autumn 2006.

  1. Louis Henkin, cited in Winston P. Nagan and Craig Hammer, “The Changing Character of Sovereignty in International Law and International Relations,” Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 43, no. 1 (2005): 142.
  2. Noting especially: Joseph Camilleri and Jim Falk, The End of Sovereignty?: The Politics of a Shrinking and Fragmented World (Aldershot: Edward Elgar, 1992); James Rosenau, Turbulence in World Politics: A Theory of Change and Continuity (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990); Thomas Christiansen, European Integration between Political Science and International Relations Theory: The End of Sovereignty (Florence: EUI Working Paper Series, 1994); Francis Fukuyama, State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004); C. H. Schreur, “The Waning of the Sovereign State: Toward a New Paradigm for International Law?,” European Journal of International Law 4, no. 4 (1993): 447-71.
  3. See supra note 2.
  4. Jens Bartelson, A Genealogy of Sovereignty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
  5. Friedrich Kratochwil and John G. Ruggie, “International Organisation: A State of the Art on an Art of the State,” International Organization 40, no. 4 (1986): 753-75.
  6. Some important exceptions include, among other constructivist analyses, Thomas J. Biersteker, “State, Sovereignty and Territoriality,” in Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse and Beth Simmons, eds., Handbook of International Relations (London: Sage, 2002), 163; Thomas J. Biersteker and Cynthia Weber, eds., State Sovereignty as Social Construct (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Georg Sørensen, “Sovereignty: Change and Continuity in a Fundamental Institution,” Political Studies XLVII (1999): 590-604.
  7. James G. March and Johan P. Olsen, “The Institutional Dynamics of International Political Orders,” International Organization 52, no. 4 (1998): 943-69. For an excellent discussion of institutions in international relations, see Robert Keohane, International Institutions and State Power (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1989), 162-65. Others who have referred to sovereignty as an institution include: J. G. Ruggie, “Continuity and Transformation in the World Polity: Toward a Neorealist Synthesis,” in Robert Keohane, ed., Neorealism and Its Critics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 131-57; Stephen Krasner, Sovereignty: An Institutional Perspective (Stanford, CA: Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, 1987).
  8. F. Kratochwil, “Souveränität Und Moderne. Eine Begriffliche Analyse Des Semantischen Feldes,” in Markus Jachtenfuchs and Michele Knodt, eds., Regieren in Internationalen Institutionen (Opladen: Leske and Budrich, 2002): 29-51.
  9. Sørensen affirms that sovereignty is a “remarkably flexible institution which has adapted to the transformations of statehood.” See Georg Sørensen, Changes in Statehood: The Transformation of International Relations (London: Palgrave, 2001), 145.
  10. Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink, “International Norm Dynamics and Political Change,” International Organization 54, no. 4 (1998): 891.
  11. Jim George, Discourses of Global Politics: A Critical (Re)Introduction to International Relations (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1994), 29-30.
  12. The normative consensus parallels the work of others who have discussed fundamental norms or normative structure in world politics. See Antje Wiener, “Contested Compliance: Interventions on the Normative Structure of World Politics,” European Journal of International Relations 10, no. 2 (2004): 189-234; Antje Wiener, “Contested Meanings of Norms: A Research Framework,” Comparative European Politics forthcoming special issue (2007); Christian Reus-Smit, “The Constitutional Structure of International Society and the Nature of Fundamental Institutions,” International Organization 51, no. 4 (1997): 555-89.
  13. For an excellent discussion of the process of adoption of these norms and the means by which they move on the diagram from the right-hand side of the horizontal plane to the left, see Finnemore and Sikkink.
  14. Many of these principles are outlined in the UN General Assembly’s Declaration on the Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (1970). It should be noted that the norm of self-determination has lost much of its salience and normative weight, though it is still articulated in certain well-known contexts.
  15. Wiener, 2004, 191; Antje Wiener, “Constructivism: The Limits of Bridging Gaps,” Journal of International Relations and Development 6, no. 2 (2003): 268.
  16. Anthony Giddens, cited in Antje Wiener, The Invisible Constitution: Making Normative Meaning Accountable, unpublished manuscript (Belfast, 2006). Emphasis added.
  17. See inter alia Christian Reus-Smit, “Human Rights and the Social Construction of Sovereignty,” Review of International Studies 27, no. 4 (2001): 519-38; Nagan and Hammer; Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967); Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (New York: Random House, 1979); Alan James, Sovereign Statehood: The Basis of International Society (London: Allen and Unwin, 1986); Robert Jackson, “Sovereignty in World Politics: A Glance at the Conceptual and Historical Landscape,” Political Studies XLVII (1999): 431-56; H. L. A. Hart, The Concept of Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961); Cynthia Weber, Simulating Sovereignty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994); Biersteker and Weber, respectively. J. D. B. Miller has famously asserted: “Just as we know a camel or a chair when we see one, so we know a sovereign state. It is a political entity which is treated as a sovereign state by other sovereign states.” See: J. D. B. Miller, The World of States: Connected Essays (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981), 16.
  18. Numerous cases, such as those of Kurdistan, Quebec, Scotland, South Ossetia, Taiwan and Tibet, lend themselves to particularly contentious debates on sovereignty.
  19. Tony Snow, White House Press Briefing, 16 August 2006, Office of the President of the United States.
  20. “Reid Welcomes Saddam Verdict,“ London: BBC News, 5 November 2006.
  21. See references to “self-determination” in Article 1 of the UN Charter and territorial integrity in Article 2. Countless multilateral conventions and resolutions of the General Assembly or Security Council uphold particular sovereignty norms, though not necessarily at the expense of other correlative norms. See, for instance: the Draft UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Doc. E/CN.4/1995/2) and Resolution 1803 on Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources, 17 UN GAOR Supp. (no. 17), 15, UN Doc. A/5217 (1962). Note the careful language used in UN Security Council Resolution 1244, for example, in justifying the creation of a UN Mission in Kosovo while upholding the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (S/Res/1244, 10 June 1999).
  22. See supra note 18.
  23. See further discussion with respect to “contingency qualifiers” in the next section, as well. Taylor documents the changing UN agenda indicative of this trend in the post-Cold War era. See Paul Taylor, “The United Nations in the 1990s: Proactive Cosmopolitanism and the Issue of Sovereignty,” Political Studies XLVII (1999): 538-65.
  24. These should not be confused with “shared sovereignty” (see Stephen Krasner, “Sharing Sovereignty: New Institutions for Collapsed and Failing States,” International Security 29, no. 2 (2004): 85-120), which refers to the inclusion of international actors in domestic institutions of new and emergent states. Shared sovereignty does not fit well into any of the three categories of qualifiers as it neither divides sovereignty among institutions, nor does it capture a cooperative initiative among many sovereign actors, nor does it threaten the normative framework of sovereignty. It is, perhaps, the ultimate misnomer in that it does not refer to an element of the institution of sovereignty that is shared, but, rather, depicts the integration of external experts in a newly emergent state’s governance structure.
  25. Robert Keohane, “Ironies of Sovereignty: The European Union and the United States,” Journal of Common Market Studies 40, no. 4 (2002): 748-49.
  26. Stuart Elden, “Contingent Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity and the Sanctity of Borders,” SAIS Review 26, no. 1 (2006): 11-24.
  27. Robert Keohane, “Political authority after intervention: gradations in sovereignty,” in J. L. Holzgrefe, ed., Humanitarian Intervention: Ethical, Legal and Political Dilemmas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 277.
  28. Ruth Lapidoth, “Sovereignty in Transition,” Journal of International Affairs 45, no. 2 (1992): 345.
  29. See, for instance, Anne-Marie Slaughter, “Security, Solidarity and Sovereignty: The Grand Themes of UN Reform,” American Journal of International Law 99, no. 3 (2005): 619-31.
  30. Neil Walker, “Late Sovereignty in the European Union,” in Neil Walker, ed., Sovereignty in Transition (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2003), 3-32.
  31. Michael Scharf, “Earned Sovereignty: Juridical Underpinnings,” Denver Journal of International Law and Policy 31, no. 3 (2004): 373-87.
  32. Jean Cohen, “Whose Sovereignty? Empire Versus International Law,” Ethics and International Affairs 18, no. 3 (2004): 1-24.
  33. Harold J. Laski, The Foundations of Sovereignty and Other Essays (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1921).
  34. Paul R. Williams, “Earned Sovereignty: The Road to Resolving the Conflict Over Kosovo’s Final Status,” Denver Journal of International Law and Policy 31, no. 3 (2004): 387-430.
  35. Paul R. Williams, Michael Scharf and James R. Hooper, “Resolving Sovereignty-Based Conflicts: The Emerging Approach of Earned Sovereignty,” Denver Journal of International Law and Policy 31, no. 3 (2004): 349-55.
  36. Elden.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Slaughter.
  39. Paul R. Williams and Francesca Jannotti Pecci, “Earned Sovereignty: Bridging the Gap between Sovereignty and Self-Determination,” Stanford Journal of International Law 40, no. 1 (2004): 4.
  40. Gerard Kreijen, State Failure, Sovereignty, and Effectiveness (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2004), 26.
  41. Krasner proposes “shared sovereignty” as a long-term, even permanent option for prospective state entities. In fact, this structural design does not demonstrate an alternative to sovereignty, but rather a mechanism for effective governance within an internationally recognized state. See supra note 20.
  42. The external entity varies depending on the case; examples include intergovernmental organizations, other states or another designated regulative corporation.
  43. Keohane, 2003, 276.
  44. The United Nations confronted this dilemma in its 2004 Report: “A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility.” The Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change shed light on the UN’s ongoing dilemma with these competing norms. The report offers a complex blueprint for change, requiring a revision of sovereignty as enshrined in the Charter. The report endorses the conclusion of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty that all states have a “responsibility to protect” their own citizens and to meet their international obligations at threat of sanction. For a more detailed explication of this shift, see Slaughter.
  45. See supra note 18.
  46. For an overview of this debate, see Holzgrefe.
  47. For a comprehensive look at these policy statements, see Elden.
  48. Ibid.
TIMOTHY NICHOL is an M.A. candidate in international politics at Queen’s University Belfast. He received his B.A. in history and anthropology from Gettysburg College in 2006. KATHLEEN CLAUSSEN is pursuing her graduate degree at Queen’s University Belfast, concentrating on international politics and conflict resolution. She holds a B.A. in comparative social policy and ideology from Indiana University.