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Burying Sovereignty All Over Again: A Brief Review of Don Herzog’s Sovereignty RIP

Don Herzog’s Sovereignty RIP is a great read and I highly recommend it. It is extremely well written and it has a compelling argument. It focuses on what it refers to as the classic theory of sovereignty under which "every political community must have a locus of authority that is unlimited, undivided and unaccountable to any higher authority" (page xi). In this brief review, I argue that while the discussion in the book is compelling it left me wanting to see a broader exploration of issues of race and identity that have been central in the rewriting of international legal history in the last two or so decades. This rewriting of international legal history has inaugurated a rethinking of sovereignty particularly by showing its close association with orientalism, racism and slavery, a literature that the book does not engage with. As a separate point, I want to note that the book’s emphasis on problems and solutions rather than obscure theories brings to mind similar recent emphasis in the work of…

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Sovereignty – an Empty Vessel?

Sovereignty RIP? In his book, Don Herzog urges us to “bury” the concept of sovereignty. Since sovereignty has mutated, over the centuries, from the idea of an “unlimited, undivided, and unaccountable locus of authority” (at xi) to a concept of which we now think as limited, divided, and accountable, it has basically turned meaningless and should therefore be…

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Of Babies and Bathwater: A Comment on Herzog

Sovereignty has been the target of so many indictments over the years that it is a hard task to renew the case against it in a way that is fresh and interesting. It is a tribute to Don Herzog that he manages to pull this off in such fine style. ‘Sovereignty RIP’ is incisively argued, impressively documented, widely…

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Does Anyone Buy the Classic Theory of Sovereignty?

Don Herzog obliterates the “classic theory of sovereignty” — the view that “every political community must have a locus of authority that is unlimited, undivided, and unaccountable to any higher authority.” And he does so in a thoroughly enjoyable way, with deep learning worn lightly and conveyed with enormous wit. Never has a serious book of political theory…

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Rousing from Dogmatic Slumbers

Editor’s Note:  Over the next week, EJIL:Talk! is running a Book Discussion, reflecting on Don Herzog’s Sovereignty RIP. Reviewers include Jack Goldsmith, Neil Walker, Heike Krieger and James Gathii. We begin today with Don Herzog's introduction. Thank you to all of the contributors.  I’m a political theorist, not an international lawyer. (I’m not even…

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