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In this essay paper I choose the topic; What is Sovereignty? What are its normative underpinnings and what are its danger?

Term Paper Introduction

Write the introduction to your research paper. 

1) Statement of topic: what is the paper about?

2) Pertinence: Why is this topic important?  What is more research needed?  What are the leading debates or questions going on right now about this topic?  Has there been some important event lately that has raised the issue again?

3) Thesis Statement: Your argumentative statement that you will test and try to support throughout your paper.

4) Method/outline: A brief overview of how your research was undertaken and how your paper will proceed.  

Term Paper Introduction

Determination of Sovereignty, its aspects and endemic ramifications.

Sovereignty is not just a term to command authority as it transcends it. It gives discretion on actions and decisions to nations or non-states etc. Sovereignty’s significance can’t be undermined and understated as it let the comity of nations to govern their affairs without outside interference. Some say sovereignty is derived from divine while other say it is restored to authority to let it mediate between different-minded people and to balance everyone’s interest. States hesitate, shirk and are resistant to derogate their sovereignty which often clash with various International law objectives in varied ways. Above normative and ethical perspective was tailor-made to ensure the social welfare as well as to grant certain authorities the power to administer from the perspective of International law. This however was not completely impregnated with absolutisms as certain cherished fundamental and foundational restrictions of respect to human rights etc. were also to be ensured and in case of violation of it, prosecution and punishment in accordance with international law was thought out.

The topic for research is important because of its somewhat mixed causal link to human rights violation, threat to globalization, inward-looking nations and protectionism etc. States are turning inward-looking, protectionist and violating human rights to maintain their sovereignty and also to counter globalization and prevent dilution of sovereignty, it does not join international institutions.

In the research writing below, the author will be deliberating over various theories and facets of sovereignty, its normative underpinnings and its danger when it is exercised and construed in pejorative and narrow sense and along with that discussion would also involve brief commentary on certain recent past incidents where nature of sovereignty is principally challenged from hallowed normative beliefs and construed in myopic sense.

The UN Charter in its Article 2 (1) guarantees sovereign equality of member state provided it is exercised within their territories by respective states and even UN is indirectly based on sovereignty principle. This necessarily implies immunity provided to member state from other States’ own jurisdiction. This meaning has been altering due to new alignments among members states of UN and across political and historic contexts. This change is visible in the institutional structures like EU which limits, restricts and shares etc. the authority thereby impairing and contexting the concept of state sovereignty in favor of transnational or supranational political organization (Office of Legal Affairs: United Nations 2019).

Determination of Sovereignty

Through the treaty of Westphalia in 1648, principle of territorial demarcation of state authority and principle of non-interference were laid (Sotirovi? 2017). The philosophers like Jean Bodin and Thomas Hobbes were worried with forming the acceptability of a single hierarchy of domestic authority and they recognized the existence of natural and divine law as they believed the word of sovereign was law. They argued no rights of revolt with subject though it would have given unrestricted and absolute power to the sovereign and thereby inviting tyranny, however to maintain domestic order in the world fragmented by factional discord, they eschewed concerns of absolute power (Scott 2018) .

As the respect for sovereignty was possible only if one sovereign state equally respect the sovereignty of other independent state and for that internal behavioral rules and laws were required. Sovereignty is to extent affected by International law thereby sovereignty is fundamentally limited and according to legal theory of Kelsen, sovereignty is a legally normative concept and not a moral or political one (Priel 2011).

The concept emphasizes on good value-based sovereignty. The values like human rights, justice, self-determination etc. are constituent parts of a good polity. When the state put values at higher pedestal and implements them in practice, there is said to exist sovereignty which is value based and normative (Delcourt 2006). There are various instances of challenges to sovereignty of member states and it is important to understand that sovereignty loses ethics when it becomes the tool of oppression and disrespect of sentiments of the large group of people (Fanoulis and Musliu 2017).

There are self-determination demands of the Catalonia from the Spain and sovereignty from normative point of view respect such self-determination demands because it reflects the will of large group of people either casted away/aloof from the spirit of mainland. These demands of self-determination will be reflective of normative when it is raised with genuine feelings through genuine struggle (Padilla and Olalla 2018). Though sometimes there may be conflict between different normative views, it is necessary that necessary adjustment or accommodation is given to the view that is widely and pervasively respected in the cases.

Legal/Political Sovereignty

Both of these are intrinsically linked except in rare circumstances as there cannot be political sovereignty without legal rules determining how it is to be exercised with due process etc. Similar is the case of Legal Sovereignty as rules without political body or state having sovereign powers cannot be conceived (Besson 2011). Therefore mix of both political and legal sovereignty is there. Kelsen has gone on to argue that legal sovereignty subsumes political sovereignty and it is difficult to put them in the position of superiority (Suganami 2007).

Sovereignty: Not Just a Term to Command Authority

These are different from domestic and international sovereignty. In Internal sovereignty relate to political and legal matters internally whereas in external sovereignty to establish rule of law, mutual understanding among different sovereign entities. Through domestic sovereignty, state regulates both its internal affairs and external relations and vice versa (Salmon and Imber 2005)

When state to certain extent is subordinated to supranational institution like EU etc., certain decisions making powers are not available with states surrendering their power to higher body or supranational institution or non-state entity etc. Therefore in limited sovereignty, state has to cooperate with supranational body due to state surrendering its sovereignty to such supranational body through agreements or treaties and even in internal affairs if one see the political authority in Britain, political authority was divided between king and parliament and even constitution of nations provide checks and balances constitutional structure which are inconsistent with supremacy and hierarchy.

 In Absolute sovereignty, there is no such supranational body over the state and state has unlimited power though to certain extent restricted by international bodies in general interest of comity of nation when sovereignty affect human rights etc. (Núñez 2014). States usually dilute the part of sovereignty to heal their economy after collapse and in troubling times and to take part in multilateral trade and economic opportunities.

Sovereignty is necessary for a state to effectively and efficiently exercise its powers without the law bound system. It would be desirable to uphold sovereignty of the state to pursue actions based on value-based polity and policy system. However, when the expansionist mindset of the state overpowers her reasoning, sovereignty becomes questionable as this would disturb the agreed position of non-disturbance in the exercise and realization of mutual respect of each other’s position or of other countries. The expansionist mindset was overwhelming when the Russia provokingly annexed Crimea to raise its stake in the area and thereby undermined the agreed principles of mutual respect of sovereignty of others (Milanovic 2019). Sovereignty could be defended only when it is participative and collective that is respecting the fundamental human rights of others and self-determination etc.

However above issues cannot understate or undermine the importance of sovereignty as sovereignty helps bring certainty and delineate to certain extent the responsibility of political sovereign to work within the structure of rule of law. Though sovereignty of member state could be limited or absolute depending upon the historical surrender of it in favor of some supranational body however this cannot take away the fact that sovereignty is still a well-recognized characteristics of a nation-state.  

The Importance and Challenges of Sovereignty

Sovereignty is restricted by membership of International organization, authority of the constitution, foreign aids, power of pressure groups, the influence of power nations, power allocation and assignment, International laws and obligations and globalization and means of enforcement etc. (Onwe 2015)

The higher insistence on sovereignty has its own dangers of bypassing respect for basic and fundamental human rights, incursion into other’s domain of sovereignty and perpetuation of self-interest over collective interest. Sovereignty risks undermining international standards and law if the unilateral and non-value based action is condemned by members of comity of nations and unreasonable retort is fired. The subjective point of view of state often clashes with real normative concept of sovereignty. There are instances of suspension of civil rights, detention etc. when state overreaches in the name of sovereignty.

There are nations like US and China which do not separate economic interest from geopolitical interests. There are some groupings like EU for whom the primary sovereignty is economic sovereignty which shows their ability to participate in defining the rules of the game for global economy. The annexation of Crimea by Russia and sovereignty status is another stark example of sovereign overreach and for which Russia was denounced by members of comity of nations and sanctions were imposed on Russia (Charron 2016). Similarly the issue between Republic of Cyprus and Turkey is also the issue where sovereignty is overreached and north of Republic of Cyprus is deceitfully and forcefully annexed by Turkey through its supported and self-declared puppet nation of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (Chan 2016).

Absolute dominion over a domestic was the crux of sovereign dominus. Self-determination could also be imperfect principle for action which fosters a kind of integral nationalism that is exclusionary and perilous.  The concept hobbles between unity and peace on one hand and violence and war on the other. The determining symbol of sovereign is that it cannot be in any manner subject to command of another and only it has the power to make, revoke or amend law (Elshtain 2014).

Sovereignty has many shades which do not stand the test of democracy. There are varied aspects of it which if not construed in an internationally recognized manner, risk the abuse of it. There are incessant questions surrounding the prohibition on usage of force with respect to annexed purported sovereignty as well as sovereignty claim. The relevant considerations to be kept in mind while using force are whether to use force after the consent from sovereign government of nation in which the force is used or just because the country national is in danger in troubled country or the excessive human rights violations are carried out in troubled and imperiled nation would justify violence and force etc. (Biersteker 2002) 

The Normative Underpinnings of Sovereignty

Defensiveness on sovereignty plays the key role in determining intention for application of force to defend purported and assumed sovereignty (Krasner 2009).


For acceptance in International society, sovereignty is at the core for such membership and acceptance. Some define it as an opposition between state and its society. Sovereignty plays a key role in International relations. It is attributed as a greater curse and source of muddle. In cases of sovereign excesses, there are large possibilities of wicked exaggerations of aggressive chauvinism and nationalism. Nation-states only remain a sensible mechanism to try to make everlasting harmony. There is a justification provided by nations, for their wickedness in pursuing aggressive nationalism that it is to fight against foreign wickedness.

Sovereignty is between shades of grey as it is necessary along with its overreach implications. Therefore, the limited sovereignty is the best course to chart the future of the nation as absolute sovereignty is a utopian thought. Due to limited sovereignty, there are pressures on the sovereign nations to respect ethics and ensure justice for all.

Besson, Samantha. 2011. “Sovereignty.” Oxford Public International Law. April. Accessed Novemebr 14, 2019.

Biersteker, Thomas J. 2002. “State, Sovereignty and Territory.” Handbook of International Relations 157-167.

Chan, Sewell. 2016. “Cyprus: Why One of the World’s Most Intractable Conflicts Continues.” The New York Times, 7 November.

Charron, Austin. 2016. “Whose is Crimea? Contested Sovereignty and Regional Identity.” Slavica 225-256.

Delcourt, Barbara. 2006. “The Normative Underpinnings of the Use of Force. Doctrinal Foundations and Ambiguities in the CFSP/ESDP Discourse.” Baltic Yearbook of International Law Online 157-183.

Elshtain, Jean Bethke. 2014. “Sovereign God, Sovereign State, Sovereign Self.” Notre Dame Law Review 2-25.

Fanoulis, Evangelos , and Vjosa Musliu. 2017. “Sovereignty a-venir: Towards a Normative Understanding of Sovereignty.” Global Society 70-87.

Krasner, Stephen D. 2009. “Think Again: Sovereignty.” Foreign Policy. 20 Novemeber. Accessed November 15, 2019.

Milanovic, Marko. 2019. “Does the European Court of Human Rights Have to Decide on Sovereignty over Crimea? Part II: Issues Lurking on the Merits.” Blog of the European Journal of International Law. 24 September. Accessed November 15, 2019.

Núñez, Jorge Emilio. 2014. “About the Impossibility of Absolute State Sovereignty.” International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 645-664.

Office of Legal Affairs: United Nations. 2019. “Charter of the United Nations.” Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs. Accessed November 15, 2019. Office of Legal Affairs: United Nations.

Onwe, S O. 2015. “Conceptual Issues and Theoretical Analysis of Sovereignty .” Research on Humanities and Social Sciences 19-23.

Padilla , Javier , and Sergio Olalla. 2018. “The Catalan Crisis: Is There a Right to Self-Determination in the International Context?” The London School of Economics and Political Science. 3 April. Accessed Novemebr 14, 2019.

Priel, Dan. 2011. “Towards Classical Legal Positivism.” Comparative Research in Law & Political Economy 3-33.

Salmon, Trevor C, and Mark F. Imber. 2005. Issues In International Relations. Routledge.

Scott, Xavier. 2018. “Repairing Broken Relations by Repairing Broken Treaties: Theorizing Post-Colonial States in Settler Colonies.” Studies in Social Justice 388-405.

Sotirovi?, Vladislav B. 2017. “Global Politics, Global Security and the History of International Relations (IR). The Role of the Peace Treaty of Westphalia (1648).” GlobalResearch. 25 November. Accessed November 15, 2019.

Suganami, Hidemi. 2007. “Understanding Sovereignty through Kelsen/Schmitt.” Reveiw of International Studies 511-530.

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