Research Handbooks on Globalisation and the Law series
Edited by Sabino Cassese
Chapter 22: The future of sovereignty: the nation state in the global governance space
Since its modern genesis, the claim to sovereignty has been inherently tied to the notion of freedom: freedom from the Church, freedom from empires, freedom from colonial powers. Sovereignty epitomized the freedom of each people to ‘freely determine [its] political status … freely pursue [its] economic, social and cultural development … [and] freely dispose of [its] natural wealth and resources’. More specifically, the freedom that sovereignty promised was, following Isaiah Berlin’s important distinction, the ‘freedom from’, namely, the freedom ‘to be left to do or be what he is able to do or be, without interference by other persons’. The underlying premise of this ideal was that unfettered sovereignty, the freedom from external intervention, was a necessary and sufficient condition for the collective and for the individuals within it to enjoy the truly important freedom, which is – again using Berlin’s terms – the ‘freedom to’, namely the freedom ‘to do, or be, this rather than that’. Democracy will be possible only within independent states. And with democracy, as stated by John Stewart Mill, justice will prevail, because citizens will have ‘a voice in the exercise of that ultimate sovereignty [and] an actual part in the government’. Democracy will provide guarantees not only for collective freedom, but also for individual freedom, where the personal right to autonomy and ‘self-authorship’is ensured. As Martti Koskenniemi succinctly put it, ‘[s]overeignty articulates the hope of experiencing the thrill of having one’s life in one’s own hands.
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