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John Austin's Theory of Sovereignty

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John Austin's Theory of Sovereignty

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1.1 What is sovereignty?
The concept of sovereignty is one of the most complex in political science, with many definitions, some totally contradictory. Usually, sovereignty is defined in one of two ways. The first definition applies to supreme public power, which has the right and, in theory, the capacity to impose its authority in the last instance. The second definition refers to the holder of legitimate power, who is recognized to have authority. When national sovereignty is discussed, the first definition applies, and it refers in particular to independence, understood as the freedom of a collective entity to act. When popular sovereignty is discussed, the second definition applies, and sovereignty is associated with power and legitimacy.

Sovereignty and Political Authority
On the international level, sovereignty means independence, i.e., noninterference by external powers in the internal affairs of another state. International norms are based on the principle of the sovereign equality of independent states; international law excludes interference and establishes universally-accepted rules. Thus, sovereignty is eminently rational, if not dialectical, since the sovereignty of a state depends not only on the autonomous will of its sovereign, but also on its standing vis-a-vis other sovereign states. From this perspective, one can say that the sovereignty of any single state is the logical consequence of the existence of several sovereign states. It is thus a serious mistake to assume that sovereignty is possible only within the framework of the classic type of state, i.e., a nation-state, as do representatives of the “realist” school, such as Alan James and F. H. Hinsley, or neo-Marxist theoreticians like Justin Rosenberg. One should not confuse the concepts of nation and state, which do not necessarily belong together, or assume that the concept of sovereignty was formulated clearly only in terms of the theory of the...

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