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Durham e-Theses
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A normative critique of the concept of sovereignty

Harris, Simon Edward (2004) A normative critique of the concept of sovereignty. Masters thesis, Durham University.



Sovereignty in contemporary international relations is facing a number of key nomiative challenges. The anarchic precepts of the Hobbesian system are too narrow to meet the demands of the international community. The cosmopolitan approach to international relations is one which is equipped to deal with these problems and an evolution of sovereignty may be seen to be occurring. The foundation of the International Criminal Court asserts the necessity for universal individual responsibility and, as such, pierces the shell of sovereignty. The 'climate change regime' questions a state's responsibilities to other states, peoples and individuals under the guise of 'trans-border obligations', whilst the case for according rights to indigenous peoples examines the sovereign state's ability to protect and welcome diversity within its borders whilst simultaneously remaining within a cosmopolitan framework. All three case studies ask questions of the sovereign state’s ability to deliver an acceptable level of justice for each global citizen. These three challenges are met via recourse to the theories of Andrew Linklater and John Rawls, in particular. What is argued for is a consistent notion of 'thin cosmopolitanism' which is able to guarantee fundamental rights for every individual. The idea of 'spatio-temporal justice', a concept which delivers duties and rights according to previous activities and policies, is also explicated. Spatio-temporal justice is viewed as a coherent liberal approach which is nevertheless able to accord different rights to different individuals on the basis of historical, economic and culture situatedness. Despite the intransigence of an international system embedded in notions of power politics and game theoretic elements, elements of cosmopolitanism can be seen to be emerging with regard to all three case studies and, indeed, in the wider international political life.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:2004
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2011 10:00

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