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Some of the most pressing issues in the contemporary international order revolve around a frequently invoked but highly contested concept: sovereignty. To what extent does the concept of sovereignty-as it plays out in institutional arrangements, rules, and principles-inhibit the solution of these issues? Can the rules of sovereignty be bent? Can they be ignored? Do they represent an insurmountable barrier to stable solutions or can alternative arrangements be created? Problematic Sovereignty attempts to answer these and other fundamental questions by taking account of the multiple, sometimes contradictory, components of the concept of sovereignty in cases ranging from the struggle for sovereignty between China and Taiwan to the compromised sovereignty of Bosnia under the Dayton Accord. Countering the common view of sovereignty that treats it as one coherent set of principles, the chapters of Problematic Sovereignty illustrate cases where the disaggregation of sovereignty has enabled political actors to create entities that are semiautonomous, semi-independent, and/or semilegal in order to solve specific problems stemming from competing claims to authority.
The acceptance of human rights and minority rights, the increasing role of international financial institutions, and globalization have led many observers to question the continued viability of the sovereign state. Here a leading expert challenges this conclusion. Stephen Krasner contends that states have never been as sovereign as some have supposed. Throughout history, rulers have been motivated by a desire to stay in power, not by some abstract adherence to international principles. Organized hypocrisy--the presence of longstanding norms that are frequently violated--has been an enduring attribute of international relations Political leaders have usually but not always honored international legal sovereignty, the principle that international recognition should be accorded only to juridically independent sovereign states, while treating Westphalian sovereignty, the principle that states have the right to exclude external authority from their own territory, in a much more provisional way. In some instances violations of the principles of sovereignty have been coercive, as in the imposition of minority rights on newly created states after the First World War or the successor states of Yugoslavia after 1990; at other times cooperative, as in the European Human Rights regime or conditionality agreements with the International Monetary Fund. The author looks at various issues areas to make his argument: minority rights, human rights, sovereign lending, and state creation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Differences in national power and interests, he concludes, not international norms, continue to be the most powerful explanation for the behavior of states.