To send content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about sending content to .
To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about sending to your Kindle.
Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Much of the criticism levelled against European policymakers since the eurocrisis has centred around the claim that the adoption of a common currency was an essentially political project which courted disaster by decoupling monetary from political integration. According to what has become a popular narrative, the European leadership chose political grandstanding and symbolism over pragmatism in recklessly pushing forward with a fatally deficient scheme of monetary union. Little wonder, then, that the hubris of political fiat found its nemesis in the hard facts of economics.
I shall argue that this narrative is in many ways incomplete as it leaves out entirely the intellectual background to the steps that have furthered the development of the EU. From the 1950s, the integration process has been underpinned, or at least accompanied and justified, by what might be called the theory of ‘self-fulfilling Europe’: the idea that economic integration, once set in motion, can remove political resistance to European unification by creating factual interdependence and a consciousness of solidarity.
The status of sovereignty as a highly ambiguous concept is well established. Pointing out, or deploring, the ambiguity of the idea has itself become a recurring motif in the literature on sovereignty. As the legal theorist and international lawyer Alf Ross put it, ‘there is hardly any domain in which the obscurity and confusion are as great as here’. The concept of sovereignty is often seen as a downright obstacle to fruitful conceptual analysis, carried over from its proper setting in history to ‘plague and befog contemporary thought’. It seems to bring with it so many hidden meanings and connotations of absolutist forms of government that a more moderate age, committed to international law and increasingly enmeshed in the web of global interdependence, simply has no use for it. So contested is the concept that, rather than pursuing the contestation, many political theorists think we should give up so protean a notion. Granting that the debate on the relevance of sovereignty frustratingly oscillates between claims that it will either continue to exist or that it is about to disappear, forgetting it altogether, and thereby escaping this seemingly endless argument, can easily appear as the most urgent task for political theory. ‘In order to think in a consistent manner in political philosophy’, wrote Jacques Maritain between the two World Wars, ‘we have to discard the concept of sovereignty’.
Sovereignty is often seen as a liminal concept. It is thought to inhabit the frontier territories between law, ethics and political science, where, as James Bryce once put it with Victorian verve, ‘the limits of conterminous sciences or branches of learning have not been exactly drawn’ and which therefore have been ‘infested by a number of vague or ambiguous terms’. The fact that the word ‘sovereignty’ has found its way into the vocabulary of various disciplines is hardly very interesting in itself. There is, however, a more fundamental sense in which the concept of sovereignty can be thought of as a liminal one. It has often been taken to stand for the rootedness of law in factual power that ultimately determines the limits of its reach. Hence the double nature of sovereignty as a quality somehow poised between facts and norms, simultaneously both political and legal. Thinking along these lines, one could say that the reason why sovereignty is a liminal concept is because it points to the paradoxical possibility that, when illegality becomes extreme, it can convert itself into a new standard of legality. One sovereignty is replaced by another so that what was before a punishable act of resistance becomes the founding act of a new state.
For a long time, lawyers, and especially international lawyers, have been interested in the question as to whether the formation of a new state is a fact or a legal fiat.
The political make-up of the contemporary world changes with such rapidity that few attempts have been made to consider with adequate care, the nature and value of the concept of sovereignty. What exactly is meant when one speaks about the acquisition, preservation, infringement or loss of sovereignty? This book revisits the assumptions underlying the applications of this fundamental category, as well as studying the political discourses in which it has been embedded. Bringing together historians, constitutional lawyers, political philosophers and experts in international relations, Sovereignty in Fragments seeks to dispel the illusion that there is a unitary concept of sovereignty of which one could offer a clear definition. This book will appeal to scholars and advanced students of international relations, international law and the history of political thought.