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Sovereignty

de Stephen D. Krasner

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511400,610 (3.5)1
The acceptance of human rights and minority rights, the increasing role of international financial institutions, and globalization have led many observers to question the continued viability of the sovereign state. Here a leading expert challenges this conclusion. Stephen Krasner contends that states have never been as sovereign as some have supposed. Throughout history, rulers have been motivated by a desire to stay in power, not by some abstract adherence to international principles. Organized hypocrisy--the presence of longstanding norms that are frequently violated--has been an enduring attribute of international relations. Political leaders have usually but not always honored international legal sovereignty, the principle that international recognition should be accorded only to juridically independent sovereign states, while treating Westphalian sovereignty, the principle that states have the right to exclude external authority from their own territory, in a much more provisional way. In some instances violations of the principles of sovereignty have been coercive, as in the imposition of minority rights on newly created states after the First World War or the successor states of Yugoslavia after 1990; at other times cooperative, as in the European Human Rights regime or conditionality agreements with the International Monetary Fund. The author looks at various issues areas to make his argument: minority rights, human rights, sovereign lending, and state creation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Differences in national power and interests, he concludes, not international norms, continue to be the most powerful explanation for the behavior of states.… (mais)
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I was a bit disappointed with this book even though the author makes a good point. He introduces four models of sovereignty and discusses "Westphalian sovereignty" in particular. According to this model, sovereign nations are "free to choose the institutions and policies they regard as optimal" (p.20). He also classifies the ways in which Westphalian sovereignty is compromised, e.g. voluntarily through constracts and involuntarily through coercion. The basic argument is that sovereignty, at least the "Westphalian" kind, is a question of brute force and logrolling rather than lofty ideals.

I liked the author's encompassing historical approach to his subject. He discusses examples from the 16th century to the 20th from matters such as minority human rights to international lending and the formation of new states. He seems to be well informed on European history and the examples are quite enjoyable in all their detail. They clearly support the main argument - state sovereignty has seldom stopped stronger nations from imposing their will on weaker ones.

But the book could have been better. The concept of "organized hypocrisy" is used repeatedly, but it remains a bit underdeveloped and unclear. The author says that organized hypocrisy is durable but not institutionalized (p.58), but it never became quite clear to me what this means. I wish he had spent more time on elaborating general consequences. How would we expect state leaders to interact if sovereignty is just organized hypocrisy?

The array of historical examples also becomes a bit too extensive towards the end when the author discusses state formation in the 20th century with a series of a rapid snapshots from across the globe. But I still give this book a partial recommendation. If you're looking for a critical book on sovereignty this will serve you well, but theoretically inclined readers might not feel quite satisfied.
  thcson | Jan 14, 2013 |
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The acceptance of human rights and minority rights, the increasing role of international financial institutions, and globalization have led many observers to question the continued viability of the sovereign state. Here a leading expert challenges this conclusion. Stephen Krasner contends that states have never been as sovereign as some have supposed. Throughout history, rulers have been motivated by a desire to stay in power, not by some abstract adherence to international principles. Organized hypocrisy--the presence of longstanding norms that are frequently violated--has been an enduring attribute of international relations. Political leaders have usually but not always honored international legal sovereignty, the principle that international recognition should be accorded only to juridically independent sovereign states, while treating Westphalian sovereignty, the principle that states have the right to exclude external authority from their own territory, in a much more provisional way. In some instances violations of the principles of sovereignty have been coercive, as in the imposition of minority rights on newly created states after the First World War or the successor states of Yugoslavia after 1990; at other times cooperative, as in the European Human Rights regime or conditionality agreements with the International Monetary Fund. The author looks at various issues areas to make his argument: minority rights, human rights, sovereign lending, and state creation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Differences in national power and interests, he concludes, not international norms, continue to be the most powerful explanation for the behavior of states.

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