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Problematic Sovereignty: Contested Rules and Political Possibilities

by Stephen D. Krasner

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.

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