Review Essay

Rethinking the Nation-State: The Many Meanings of Sovereignty

In This Review

Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy

Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy
By Stephen D. Krasner
Princeton University Press, 1999, 264 pp. $49.50 Purchase

In international politics, no concept is less understood and more misused than that of sovereignty. The term carries at least three meanings in everyday language. First, it denotes "supreme power" -- as in Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "Oenone," which celebrates "self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-restraint" as the only way to a "life to sovereign power." In a similar vein, Robert Burton, tongue in cheek, praises tobacco as a "sovereign remedy to all diseases." A second meaning of the word denotes autonomy, freedom from constraint, or independence. And the third definition can be found in John Keats' "Hyperion":

For to bear all naked truths And to envisage circumstance, all calm That is the top of sovereignty.

Setting aside the poet's sense of sovereignty as a serene, Stoic state of mind, we are left with two basic, everyday meanings for the word: supreme power and autonomy or independence. This is how most people think

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