In This Review

Problematic Sovereignty: Contested Rules and Political Possibilities
Problematic Sovereignty: Contested Rules and Political Possibilities
Edited by Stephen D. Krasner
Columbia University Press, 2001, 502 pp

These essays focus on problematic cases of modern sovereignty -- such as Taiwan, Bosnia, and Palestine -- in which the international rules of sovereignty are difficult to apply. In addressing how these rules affect stable arrangements, Krasner and his colleagues offer mixed answers. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse, for example, notions of sovereignty helpfully guided that region's reorganization. But in other cases, political settlements require the artful abridgement of classical norms. Shibley Telhami argues that a future Palestinian state may need to give up some aspects of sovereignty to gain international recognition. In an essay on Tibet, Michel Oksenberg argues that it was easier to accommodate Sino-Tibetan relations within the old Chinese tributary state system than within prevailing Western notions of legal sovereignty. Another piece points out that Taiwan does not have sovereign legal recognition even though it has acquired the functional capacities of an independent state. The book nicely demonstrates that norms of sovereignty are prized and contested but also surprisingly malleable. Hence creative solutions to disputes over state sovereignty are possible -- if the parties are willing.