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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 been so much fun to read. Herzog argues, with conventional wisdom, that the classic theory emerged in the 16th century as “an intelligible, intelligent response to the savage strife of the wars of religion.” The “idea of sovereignty” was: “a weapon of state-building, and a world soaked in blood, awash in cruelty, could well long for an all-powerful central authority to staunch the wounds of rebellion and stand up to international intrigue and war.” But whatever its original uses or motivation, the idea never matched reality. Herzog’s book shows how, contrary to the classic theory, sovereign authority after the sixteenth century, and increasingly over time, became limited, divided, and accountable,…

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Two Weeks in Review, 22 June – 5 July 2020

COVID related posts Rutsel Martha and Stephen Bailey note the recent moves by some states, as part of efforts to contain the transmission of COVID-19, denying the entry to their nationals. They examine whether it is lawful for a State…

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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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Attribution of Conduct to International Organizations in Peacekeeping Operations

Antonios Tzanakopoulos is a DPhil Candidate at St Anne's College, Oxford. He has an LLM from New York University Law School. During the 57th session of the International Law Commission (2005), he was research assistant to Professor Giorgio Gaja, Special Rapporteur on the Responsibility of…

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