Concepts for International Law
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Concepts for International Law

Contributions to Disciplinary Thought

Edited by Jean d’Aspremont and Sahib Singh

Concepts shape how we understand and participate in international legal affairs. They are an important site for order, struggle and change. This comprehensive and authoritative volume introduces a large number of concepts that have shaped, at various points in history, international legal practice and thought; intimates at how the many projects of international law have grappled with, and influenced, the world through certain concepts; and introduces new concepts into the discipline.
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Chapter 55: Sovereignty

Guglielmo Verdirame


The origins of sovereignty lie in the political and intellectual history of the Middle Ages, where a number of different, but not mutually exclusive, understandings of sovereignty emerged: ruler sovereignty, state sovereignty and popular sovereignty. At first international law was concerned almost exclusively with state sovereignty. In the twentieth century, however, the idea of popular sovereignty entered international law in the form of the principle of self-determination. In a normative sense – and increasingly a doctrinal one too – state sovereignty and popular sovereignty are intertwined. Arguments about the demise of the State and the irresistible rise of supranationalism have often failed to take into account the resilience of sovereignty and its transformation.

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