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Why is Sovereignty Now Viewed as an Outdated Concept?

Updated on May 31, 2011

Historical Context

According to Bodin, sovereignty is “the state’s supreme authority over it’s citizens and subjects”, and it can be broken down in to four subdivisions. These are: legal, political, economic and military sovereignty. The supremacy of state sovereignty was established by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648; this restricted the ability of international force to intervene in the domestic affairs of a state, thus making sovereignty still a necessary and working concept.

Sovereignty in Decline?

Over the years the global community has changed to such a great extent that sovereignty is becoming less and less of a respectable phenomenon. Globalization (often referred to as a “double edged sword”) has been a reason why sovereignty is in decline, through the increase in economic growth, the spread of new technology and an increase in living standards, a sacrifice has had to be made. This sacrifice was on sovereignty. Globalisation assaults national sovereignty through by creating one “McWorld”, thus forcing numerous countries to lose their social and cultural identities.

International Organisations

The increase in international organisations such as the EU means that state sovereignty is becoming more difficult to maintain. Through joining these organisations, you are clustered with numerous other countries, and have to accept the legislation of that organisation; this takes away a state’s political sovereignty, thus proving that sovereignty is becoming more and more outdated.

Military Intervention

Military intervention is another reason why sovereignty is viewed as an outdated concept because in countries such as Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq, military forces have gone in (without permission), thus destroying that state’s sovereignty. This indicates that states are less concerned with other states’ sovereignty, and therefore that the concept of sovereignty is outdated.

Sovereignty Lives On...

On the other hand, sovereignty is a key concept to global order. It is clear that sovereignty is very often not viewed as outdated, due to the intergovernmental nature of some organisations such as the UN. The UN should be more supranational, but is not, because it doesn’t want to threaten the sovereignty of it’s nation states. Also, the rise of nationalism across the world has re-submerged states in sovereignty, as members of that state fight to keep their sovereignty intact, and keep themselves “as an island”, as it were.


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