Free Evolution of Nation-State Sovereignty Essay Sample

This research paper attempts to look at the issue of nation-state sovereignty. The paper exposes how this concept has changed over the years as a result of economic globalization of the world and the efforts made by the United States to spread democracy. Types of sovereignty and contemporary examples of each have also been provided. The paper also exposes the strengths and weaknesses of the changes in sovereignty form a global perspective. In general, the paper attempts to analyze the issue of nation-state sovereignty in terms of the adjustments which have been made after the treaty of Westphalia.

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Sovereignty encompasses the quality of having supreme, independent power over an area. This concept can be applied in ruling and making law an idea that can be regarded as a political fact for which no legal explanation can be provided. Over the years, particularly from the time of the Romans to date, people have talked, debated, and made enquiries on this idea. The concept has changed over the years in terms of definition, general idea, and application. This was largely evidenced during the Age of Enlightenment. Presently, the notion held on sovereignty was conceived in the Treaty of Westphalia made in 1648. This notion was seen as a codifying factor of the fundamental principles of border inviolability, supremacy and territorial integrity of the states. The treaty saw sovereignty as a supreme legislative authority.

Literature Review

Sovereignty is the organizing principle of the states systems. This concept of sovereignty is not well understood in international relations. This is basically due to the fact that sovereignty is a relatively new term which has been closely associated with the emergence of nation-state when viewed as the basic unit of political organization. Moreover, several modern day issues have limited the scope of sovereign authority. The above factors have raised questions on the ideas held by international relations scholars concerning the fixity of the concept. A modern view of sovereignty encompasses actors from states and those from without in discussing the nature of sovereignty. The actors are actively involved in redefining the concept of sovereignty by accounting for the issue that surrounds it. Internationally, sovereignty has been defined as a fundamental element of the structure of the states (Jones 96).

Typically, the concept has been taken to stand for the acquisition of supreme authority within a bounded territorial space. There are two dimensions of sovereignty; internal and external. Internally, a sovereign government is a standard authority with a settled population that has agreed upon the use of force. Externally, sovereignty is the avenue leading to the society of states. Once other states recognize the need to honor this concept, then this will ensure territorial integrity and at the same time serve as the permit to participating in issues to do with diplomacy and international organizations parallel with those of other states (Kapferer 56). 

Historical development

Earlier, the issue of sovereign states was not always observed by the international systems. In the middle ages, other feudal arrangements ruled over Europe and city states up until the modern era. The year 1648 saw the end of the development of a sovereign state system in Europe. This agreement gave the ruler authority to establish the religion within his borders; in addition, it stood for both internal and external elements of sovereignty. The spread of the state system across the globe was enhanced by the fact that Europe colonized a big portion of the rest of the world precisely from the 15th to 19th centuries. During this time, sovereign authority was only popular among the Europeans as it had not been extended to the non-Europeans. Nevertheless, to critically define sovereign states, the process of drawing boundaries in an attempt to plainly define borders would be critical.

The current movement seems to be the gradual revolution around the sovereign state. This movement began after World War II and goes on even today. A big portion of international law was devised to reinforce sovereignty. However, incidents such as the Nazi genocide and the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal forced society of states to falsify a series of accords with the aim of protecting the rights of the citizens. After the war, international organizations grew dramatically, these organizations helped to administer interstate relations in various areas such as trade, finance and security. Concurrently, decades after World War II, most of the developing countries attained their independence creating a scenario whereby a majority of the newly formed states were not fully sovereign.

Once the former colonies were granted freedom and recognized as sovereign states, they bonded with intergovernmental organizations and were considered equals of the European States. Concurrently, the lack of capacity to govern the state and the randomly drawn borders made different groups to be doubtful of the government's ability to provide supreme authority. In the modern day world, sovereignty is basically defined on the basis of borders rather than the government's capacity. This idea was embraced since it provided a quick means for many colonies to become independent quickly. Today, sovereignty also gives developing states the right development assistance. Following this, states that were under the colonial rule have not shown any signs of internal dimension of sovereignty.

Many people see economic globalization as a factor that limits the behavior of nations or states presently. The withdrawal of the nation-states and the growing powers of atypical market forces and the international organizations necessitate the need for adjustments. It is evident that the growth of multilateral institutions in an attempt to control the global economy hinders the state from taking any actions. Today, the increase in mobility of capital had forces many states to pursue similar policies alongside the neo-liberal model. The intensification of globalization has forced government's budget and revenue generation to continue to be constrained. All states have equal power in the process.

Recently, concerns have been raised over the negative effects of economic globalization in the sovereignty of states. This phenomenon has been pointed out as an undermining factor to the sovereignty of the state. This aspect was evidenced in 1999 in New Zealand by the APEC which is one of the leading agencies in promoting economic globalization, although this was a big company as compared to bigger organizations such as World Bank and IMF, the government paid attention to it as part of its reelection strategy since it was hosting the annual conference in September in Auckland, this move gave the organization undeserved importance. Generally, there were serious public discussions that reflected people's concerns and conflict since the organization was not for the interest of New Zealand, contrary, the government expressed its faith in the ability of the organization to bring meaningful benefits.

Economic globalization is a popular phenomenon. It can be argued that the degree of globalization in the 20th Century was higher particularly when the issue of migration was easier, at the same time the governments did not have much power to control the flow of capital and goods since they has limited political power and fewer policy tools. Nevertheless, the last half of the 20th Century has seen drastic changes in terms of the strengthening globalization. This came after a period where there were major barriers to economic interaction earlier. In addition, the process appears to be step up at a first rate. Apprehension about the outcomes of globalization has become a major concern in many countries regardless of the fact that the intensification may not shed some light on how the coming generations will judge the current times.

The idea of globalization may not be well defined since it can stand for many things; one thing that appears clear is that individual states are slowly losing their sovereignty of economic management hence putting the public at risk. Most colonies do not have much autonomy since factors such as dependence or overdependence on foreign capital. Formerly, some portions of the economy were secluded from the rest of the world, possibly this bore the effect of exposing the remaining portions to the world economy further (Pani%u0107 117).

Another issue that may have sparked the changes in the nation-state sovereignty is the attempt by the United States to spread democracy. This idea has been criticized by many writers who claim that the US should either abandon or carry out to a small degree the efforts to foster global democratization. Some writers such as Robert Kaplan have reasoned that democratic elections may discourage the efforts to maintain ethnic peace, economic development and social sustainability. Some have stated that liberal democracies are created by elections in countries that lack liberal values, these aspects pose great danger to autonomy.

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The spread of liberal democracy is an important aspect since people living in liberal governments lead better lives. The spread of democracy has had positive impacts on nations that have embraced it. Citizens living under such governments enjoy a great deal of benefits as compared to those that live in non-democracies. The policies have improved the well being of people since aspects such as freedom and political stability are taken care of. These are among the most important factors that can help in enhancing lives in any given state. The move to spread democracy promotes many sectors of the economy in many aspects of life, for instance, one individual liberty and political stability are present then people are capable of participating in any economic actions. This is beneficial both to the state and to individual citizens.

The United State's attempt to spread democracy has seen much change over the years. In the middle ages, there were various systems that were concerned with elections or assemblies. These systems however granted a small population the right to take part. Participation was therefore restricted to a small population. This was what the US was strongly opposed to hence it put social pressure in an attempt to encourage conformity and at the same time discourage individualism. The US was of the view that every person has a right to participate in decision making process on issues that affected them. This was an initial step towards promoting democracy in many states. The embracement of this democracy would provide a new dawn for many states as the citizens can voice their views. The people who were regarded as leaders would no longer be seen as the overall decision makers since the new democratic rights gave others the chance to air their views (Baker, Epstein & Pollin 79).

The United States constitution which was adopted in 1788 called for an elected government that protected the civil rights and liberties of a section of the population. Before 1776, only white male property owners were allowed to vote. Africans who had been taken as slaves, free blacks, and women were not allowed to vote. Widespread economic, social and political equality was advocated for at the American Frontier. Nonetheless, slavery continued to prevail, this led to the formation of different organizations which advocated for the transfer of black people to places where they could enjoy their freedom as well as equality. This initiative was upheld by the US since democracy remained a priority issue in the development of the states. Black people could now enjoy their freedom courtesy of the democracy that advocated for their rights, this was a big step since the issue of segregation has spread at a first rate hence denying the Blacks equal rights as their white counterparts.

Transitions of liberal democracy in the 20th Century saw the successive changes in democracy that resulted from wars, decolonization, revolutions among others. The waves of democracy reflected the various efforts that were put in place to make democracy a way of life. In the 1920s, the efforts paid off since democracy flourished, however, the severe international economic depression commonly known as the Great Depression brought disappointments. Following this, most of the countries came under dictatorship rule. Fascism and dictatorship were common in these regimes. The issue of democracy therefore played a big role in regime change. This is one of the most negative effects that the spread of democracy had since under these regimes, citizens were treated like puppets, they were to follow what those in authorities demanded or else they would face serious consequences. The dictatorship regimes mostly flourished in Nazi Germany Spain, Italy and Portugal.

The World War II reversed the state of these regimes in Western Europe. America was successfully democratized hence serving as a model for regime change. It has since demonstrated that democracy could be successfully implemented to cater for the welfare of the citizens. Having demonstrated this, the US was in a good position to emphasize the importance of democracy. This democratization served as a model theory of regime change. It was now possible for this state to preach the importance of observing democracy in any state.

Decades after WW II, most of the democratic nations from the west had mixed economies and initiated a welfare state; this was a reflection of accord among the electorates and political parties. India came become known as the word's most democratic state and it continues to be so. By 1960, majority of the states were regarded as democratic even most nations experienced deceptive elections and other forms of unfairness. This was common among communist nations and former colonies (Holton 98).

After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in September 2001, terrorism became a US foreign agenda. This agenda remains a priority to date. The declaration of war on terror by President Bush was aimed at spreading democracy to nations which pose dangers to the western world. The main message that the president intended to pass was that democracy is the very initial step towards realizing a peaceful world. Military invasions have been a common phenomenon. These invasions are undertaken in the hope of restoring a good image of these states so that future threats can be avoided. The only question that is yet to receive a satisfactory answer is whether the US-led initiative has been effective in the creation of strong democracies. Efforts to preach democracy in Iraq and other states that are associated with terrorism have been fruitless. The media is ever reporting of new incidents of terrorist attacks. States such as Iraq have not responded positively to democracy since they continue to execute innocent people, recently a British soldier was shot dead in Babaji hence heightening the tension since the groups are known to attack arbitrarily.

Peace and stability can be attributed to the desire for autonomy. The most recent presidential election in Afghanistan is a good indication. According to observes, the lections were free and fair and it saw successful participation although votes continue to be counted from an election that was carried out a month ago. The likelihood of Afghanistan to be declared a sovereign state is uncertain. Its possibility of attaining peace and stability is not yet known. This clearly shows that although other states have embraced the spirit of democracy, some still ignore it. This is a significant change that has brought about rivalry among nations, a good example is that of the US and Iraq. While the US is in the forefront in advocating for democracy, Iraq is opposed to democracy and does not support the efforts made by the US.    

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Types of sovereignty

The modern subject of internal relations categorizes sovereignty into two; internal and external sovereignty. Internal sovereignty refers to an association between a sovereign power and its own subjects. This basically looks at the extent to which a sovereign body exercises its authority when it comes to dealing with its subjects. It represents the legal authority of a state to establish and implement laws within its authority. In the US, states are given the privilege to retain laws that are not granted to the federal government, this is always the case as long as these rules do not conflict with federal laws and regulations. For a state to be regarded as having internal sovereignty, it must have been elected by the people having popular legitimacy.

Legal sovereignty falls under internal sovereignty and it represents the power to make laws and to make adjustments to existing laws. In the modern day society, the legislature is responsible for the formation and modification of existing laws. The amendments are done systematically to cater for the needs of the citizens. This gives the legislature the authority to make new laws for the state. Rules are made to govern the conduct of citizens; this is basically for the local population since the laws of another state are not applied in other states. Each state makes laws that govern the conduct of both locals and foreigners who may be in the country but are not applied outside the country (Rüttimann 154).

Political sovereignty is another example of internal sovereignty. This implies that politics will is obeyed by citizens of that state. The citizens of a given state are expected to respect the political activities that are conducted in the state. This is the political sovereignty that is closely associated with international law. This makes it mandatory for citizens to act according to the political fields. The citizens are for instance expected to respect the authorities even if they do not support that particular candidate.

As stated earlier, external sovereignty entails the recognition that individual states have equal powers. It entails the relationship between sovereign power and other states. This is generally connected with international law in dealing with global matters. International law gives states and governments authority over its territory. External sovereignty therefore gives states and governments power to govern its geographical states as well as have a chance to air views on global issues. Each state however small is recognized as a key player in issues that affects the citizens, as such, the state is given a chance to solve issues locally without having to involve the international community unless it is considered necessary (Reinert 126).

An example of a present day external sovereignty is a state's ability to enter into economic arguments. The state is eligible to air its views on the issue; all states are given a chance to take place in such matters that affect the state. A states point of view can be considered provided that the suggested is seen as valid. The state is recognized as an independent body that can effectively take part in international discussions and debates without having to go through a process of consultation in an attempt to gauge its ability to take part in such dialogues.

Both categories of sovereignty may be recognized even in instances where the sovereign body does not own a territory or when the territory is fully or partially occupied by another power. A good example of this is that of the Holy See, it was in this situation between the invasions of Papal State by Italy in 1870. It was recognized as a sovereign nation despite the fact that it possessed no territory. The issue of sovereignty is therefore an old ideology that is deep rooted into the past hence linking the present day incidents with the past. The issues surrounding sovereignty touch on matters that are of great importance to any nation or state.

The threats to the success of any state can be looked at from different perspectives. These threats can be broadly grouped into three areas namely, human rights, the growth of supranational institutions and economic globalization. The presence of human rights as an issue that needs focus in international law affects sovereignty since the accord which places clear restrictions on the issue of government acting within their borders. The growth of multinational corporations coupled with the free flow of capital hinder the states from focusing on economic development, fashion social and the economic policy. The supranational organizations on the other hand act to limit and to facilitate state sovereignty. Although it is not yet clear, latest developments have shown that sovereignty will be forced further in the fight against terrorism following recent US action in Afghanistan and Iraq (Biersteker & Weber 103).   

While the United Nations Charter presents a contradiction that has continued to be troublesome after the end of Cold War, it also contains a clear defense that covers the territorial reliability of states. This charter is also of great value since it has continually shown commitment to protection of human rights as well the showing freewill to accomplishing the set goals. In limiting sovereignty, human rights advocate for respect of individual rights by the state. The charter therefore acts as a mediator between the state and the citizens in the sense that it calls for fair treatment of the citizens. This is one of the accomplishments that the charter can be praised for, however, during the cold war, the act paralyzing the Security Council by the US-Soviet rivalry was left unattended to, and the charter did not act in defense of the council. The human rights activist can be praised and at the same time blamed for incidents that pass without their protest.

Economic globalization is viewed as a factor that controls nation-states. The continued growth of multilateral institutions has a negative impact on state action since it limits the state in carrying out such actions. The increase in mobility of capital has made many states to embrace similar policies as those of neo-liberal model. Following the heightening of global competition, the government faces challenges when it comes to spending and revenue generation.

Supranational organizations have been established to oversee upcoming issues that affect the state. The emergence of many issues across the borders such as globalization and terrorism calls for a body that can handle such issues effectively since they affect the public. Organizations such as United Nations (UN), World Trade Organization and European Union are state based and they can effectively solve trans-border issues. These organizations are state based hence states are in control of its business. The problem is that the organization may attempt or even assign itself some powers or authority. This can however have positive impacts states after ceding authority to supranational authorities (Cavanagh 98).

 Nation-state sovereignty is used to refer to the organizing principle of a state's system. Sovereignty entails that act of having power over a territory. This concept has evolved over the years to bringing about changes in the nation-state sovereignty. The changes mostly been brought about by economical globalization and attempts by the US to spread democracy. There are two main categories of sovereignty; internal and external. The changes have has implication to states and governments.


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