INTRODUCTION TO SOVEREIGNTY


 

UNIT STRUCTURE

1. Learning Objectives
2. Introduction
3. Sovereignty

1. Meaning and Characteristics of Sovereignty
2. Kinds of Sovereignty

4. Austin’s Theory of Sovereignty or the Legal-Monistic View
5. The Pluralist Theory of Sovereignty
6. Let Us sum Up
7. Further Readings
8. Answers To Check Your Progress
9. Possible Questions

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

 
After going through this unit, you will be able to:
explain the meaning of the concept of sovereignty
list out the characteristics of sovereignty
describe the different kinds of sovereignty
discuss Austin’s theory of sovereignty
discuss the Pluralist theory of sovereignty

INTRODUCTION


In the previous unit, we discussed the concept of the state. While explaining the meaning of the state, we dealt with its four essential constituent elements. Of all the four essential elements of the State-Population, Territory, Government and Sovereignty-the last one is the most important and most distinctive element.

Sovereignty exclusively belongs to the state. It is by virtue of sovereignty of the state that its government exercises authority and makes and implements authoritative and binding laws and policies for its citizens.The study of sovereignty therefore assumes special significance in the field of Political Science.


SOVEREIGNTY


Sovereignty is the most essential element of the state as there can be no state without it.


Meaning and Characteristics of Sovereignty


Meaning of Sovereignty:

The word “sovereignty” is derived form the Latin word “superannus” meaning supreme.It means the supreme power of the state over all individuals and associations within its own territorial limits.This is internal sovereignty of the state whereby the state is the final authority to make laws, issue commands and take political decisions which are binding upon all individuals and associations within its jurisdiction.It has the power to command obedience to its laws and commands and to punish the offenders who violate the same.

At the same time, sovereignty also involves the idea of freedom from foreign control, i.e., the independence of the state from the control or interference of any other state in the conduct of its international relations.This is what is called external sovereignty whereby a state has the power to independently determine its own foreign policy and has the right to declare war and make peace. At the same time, external sovereignty implies that each state, big or small, by virtue of its sovereign status is equal to every other state.It can command no other state and it cannot itself be commanded by any other state.

Accordingly, sovereignty of the state has two aspects, namely, internal and external sovereignty.

LET US KNOW

Sovereignty is an essential element of the state and with every change in the conception of the state, the concept of sovereignty has also varied from age to age. The Greek philosopher Aristotle spoke of the “supreme power” of the state.The Roman jurists were also familiar with the notion. During the Middle Ages, the idea of sovereignty was associated either with the authority of the king or with the Pope.


Characteristics of Sovereignty:

There are many characteristics or attributes of sovereignty. These are discussed below :

Absoluteness: Sovereignty is regarded as absolute.This means that neither within the state nor outside it , is there any power which is superior to the sovereign.The will of the sovereign reigns supreme in the state.His obedience to customs of the state or international law is based on his own free will.

Permanence: The sovereignty of a state is permanent. Sovereignty lasts as long as an independent state lasts.The death of a king or president or the overthrow of the government does not mean the destruction of sovereignty as the ruler exercises sovereign power on behalf of the state and therefore, sovereignty lasts as long as the state lasts.
Universality: Sovereignty is a universal, all-pervasive or all-comprehensive quality in the sense that it extends to all individuals, groups, areas and things within the state. No person or body of persons can claim exemption from it as matter of right. The immunity granted to diplomats from other countries is only a matter of international courtesy and not of compulsion.

Inalienability: Sovereignty is inalienable.It means that the state cannot part with its sovereignty.The state as a sovereign institution ceases to exist, if it transfers its sovereignty to any other state.

Indivisibility: As sovereignty is an absolute power, it cannot be divided between different sets of individuals or groups. In every state, sovereignty must be vested in a single legally competent body, to issue the final commands. Division of sovereignty is bound to give rise to conflicting and ambiguous commands.

Impresciptibility: This implies that sovereignty can neither be destroyed nor lost if it has not been exercised for a long period. A people may not have exercised sovereignty for sometime due to control by a foreign power. But non-exercise of sovereign power does not put an end to sovereignty itself. It can only shift to a new bearer.

Originality: The most important characteristic of sovereignty is its original character. Sovereignty cannot be manufactured. Dependence on another for supreme power cannot make a state a sovereign one. Sovereignty is in-built and grows automatically from within.

LET US KNOW

The United Nations came into being on October 24, 1945, after the end of the Second World War(1939-1945). It is based on the principle of equality of all its member states. The United Nations Charter states that the nited Nations “is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members.”




 
 

Kinds of Sovereignty



Different kinds of sovereignty exist in the world. These are discussed below:

Titular and Real Sovereignty:

A titular sovereign is one who is sovereign only in name and not in reality. Although outwardly, the power is vested in one person, the real power is enjoyed by another. Such a situation prevails in parliamentary democracies. The King or Queen in England is the Titular head and he/she does not enjoy any real power. Actual powers are enjoyed by ‘King/Queen-in-Parliament’ which constitutes the real sovereign. In case of India, the President of India is the titular sovereign and the real power lies in the hands of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister which constitutes the real sovereign.

De facto and de jure Sovereign:

Sometimes, the existing regime in a state is overthrown through unconstitutional means, as in the case of a military takeover. In such a situation, until the new sovereign is legally established and recognised, there may exist two sovereigns-one in the legal sense, who has lost his real powers; the other in the practicall sense who has not yet been legally established. The de-facto sovereign may not have any legal claim to obedience, but he is a practical sovereign whose authority is based on physical force or moral persuasion and the people are compelled to obey him. Under such circumstances, the legal or formal sovereign retains de-jure sovereignty while the actual sovereign is said to be the de-facto sovereign. In the present-day world there have been several instances where military generals have overthrown constitutionally elected governments, thereby usurping all powers of the state. Such a takeover makes the military general the de-facto or actual sovereign possessing real powers, while the dethroned regime, which still is the legal or formal sovereign, retains de-jure sovereignty. In course of time, the de-facto sovereign, by securing the consent of the people through elections or otherwise, may become a de-jure sovereign. The best example of de-facto sovereignty, in modern times, is furnished by the case of Spain under General Franco who captured the authority of the State by defeating the Republican Government of Spain. Though he began to rule by force, gradually he was trying to be a de-jure sovereign by winning the consent of the people. Historically too, there have been several examples of the emergence of de facto sovereignty. Some of these are : the authority exercised by Cromwell in England, by Napolean in France and the Bolshevist group in Russia after 1917.

Legal and Political Sovereignty:

The legal sovereign is the supreme law making body. In every independent state, there are some laws which must be obeyed by the people and there must be a power to issue and enforce these laws. The power which has the legal authority to issue and enforce these laws and final commands is the legal sovereign. It may vest in one person or a body of persons. It alone declares, in legal terms, the will of the state.Law is a command of the sovereign and he who violates it is liable to be punished.The King/Queen-in-Parliament is the legal sovereign in the UK.

Political sovereignty is vested in the electorate, public opinion and all other influences of the state which mould or shape public opinion.The political sovereign is represented by the electorate or the body of voters in the state. The electorate, that is, the political sovereign, elects the legal sovereign in the form of the members of the parliament. Accordingly, the political sovereign controls the legal sovereign. It lies behind the legal sovereign. According to A.C.Dicey, “Behind the sovereign which the lawyer recognises there is another sovereign to whom the legal sovereign must bow.”

Popular Sovereignty:

The concept of popular sovereignty regards people as the source of all authority in the state.All organs of the government, whether it is the executive, the legislature or the judiciary, derive their power and authority from the will of the people taken as a whole.Accordingly, the idea of popular sovereignty implies that the supreme power in the state rests with the people. The Preamble to the Constitution of India contains the idea of popular sovereignty. It begins with the phrase, “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA,......” and ends with the phrase, “...HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT, AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.”

ACTIVITY


Read the Preamble to the Constitution of India and try to relate it to the idea of popular sovereignty



CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


1. The word sovereignty is derived form the ..............word superannus meaning supreme.
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2. Legal sovereignty is vested in the electorate (True/False)
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3. What are the two aspects of sovereignty?
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4. Mention any four characteristics of sovereignty.
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5. Explain in your own words, the meaning of absoluteness of sovereignty.(within 40 words)



AUSTIN’S THEORY OF SOVEREIGNTY OR THE ......LEGAL-MONISTIC VIEW


In modern times, the development of sovereignty as a theory coincided roughly with the growth of the state in terms of power, functions and prestige.In the nineteenth century, the theory of sovereignty as a legal concept (i.e. sovereignty expressed in terms of law) was perfected by John Austin, an English jurist. He is regarded as the greatest exponent of the Monistic theory of sovereignty.It is called the Monistic Theory of Sovereignty because it envisages a single sovereign in the state.The sovereign may be a person or a body of persons.Furthermore, as sovereignty is considered to be a legal concept, the theory is called the Legal-Monistic theory of Sovereignty. John Austin, in his famous book, Province of Jurisprudence Determined (1832), stated his views on sovereignty in the following words: “If a determinate human superior not in the habit of obedience to a like superior receives habitual obedience from the bulk of a given society, that determinate superior is sovereign in that society and that society (including the superior) is a society political and independent.”

On an analysis of the above definition, we could find the following implications:

Firstly, sovereignty must reside in a “determinate person” or in a “determinate body” which acts as the ultimate source of power in the state.
Secondly, the power of the determinate superior is unlimited and absolute. He can exact obedience from others but he never renders obedience to any other authority.

Thirdly, the obedience rendered by a people to an authority occasionally will not turn the authority into sovereign power.

Fourthly, obedience rendered to sovereign authority must be voluntary and as such undisturbed and uninterrupted. Austin also points out that it is not necessary that all the inhabitants should render obedience to the superior. It is enough if the “bulk”, i.e., the majority of a society renders habitual obedience to the determinate superior.

Fifthly, The sovereign is the supreme law maker. Laws are the commands of the sovereign which are binding upon all within the territorial jurisdiction of the state. Breach or violation of these commands leads to punishment from the sovereign.

Sixthly, sovereignty is one indivisible whole and as such incapable of division between two or more parties. There can be only one sovereign authority in a state.


LET US KNOW

According to Austin’s theory of sovereignty, the state is a legal order in which there is a determinate authority acting as the ultimate source of power.

Critical Evaluation of Austin’s Theory :
The theory of Austin has been strongly criticised by many writers like Sidgwick, Sir Henry Maine and others.The main point of criticism against Austin’s theory is that the theory is inconsistent with the modern idea of popular sovereignty.In his fascination for the legal aspect of sovereignty, Austin completely loses sight of popular sovereignty according to which the ultimate source of all authority is the people.
It is also pointed out that sovereignty may not always be determinate.It is very difficult to locate the sovereign in a federal state. For example, in the federal state of USA, sovereignty resides neither with the President nor with the legislature, namely, the Congress.It resides with the people as expressed in the constitution.The same is the case in India.
Furthermore, Austin has been criticised for defining law as the command of the sovereign.But in many countries, customary laws are supreme and they are not issued in the form of commands.But such laws influence the conduct of even despots to a great extent. Sir Henry Maine cites the example of Ranjit Singh of Punjab who fits the Austinian conception of human superior.But even a despotic ruler like Ranjit Singh dared not change the customary laws which regulated the conduct of his people.
According to the advocates of the Pluralist theory of sovereignty, the state is an association like various other associations.

However, inspite of the criticisms levelled against the monistic view of sovereignty as propounded by John Austin, it must be mentioned that Austin is an exponent of absolute and unlimited sovereignty purely from the legal or formal point of view. Fundamentally, he does not prescribe for an irresponsible sovereign, but maintains that the sovereign cannot be formally made responsible to any authority similar to himself: His authority is legally superior to all individuals and groups within his jurisdiction. Austin has done a distinct service by clearly distinguishing the legal from the political sovereign.

CHECK YOUR PROGRESS



1. John Austin, is regarded as the greatest exponent of the Monistic
theory of sovereignty.(True/False)
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2. According to Austin’s theory of sovereignty, sovereignty is
divisible.(True/False)
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3. Name the book in which Austin stated his views on sovereignty.
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3. Why is the Monistic theory of sovereignty called so?
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4. Point out a crtiticism of the Austin’s theory of sovereignty.

THE PLURALIST THEORY OF SOVEREIGNTY:




Pluralism or the Pluralist theory of sovereignty emerged as a reaction against the Monistic theory of sovereignty which we have discussed in the previous section.The Pluralist theory emerged in response to the undue emphasis on the power of the state as advocated by the monists. Some of the leading exponents of the Pluralist theory include Emile Durkheim, Otto von Gierke, F.W.Maitland, G.D.H.Cole, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Miss M.P.Follet and Prof. Harold Laski. The Pluralist theory of sovereignty rejects the monistic theory of sovereignty and denies that sovereignty is the absolute and indivisible supreme power of the state.

LET US KNOW

The pluralist challenge to state-sovereignty coincided with the conditions created by the First World War(1914-18). During war-time the state required its citizens to sacrifice everything including their near and dear ones and even their own lives for the sake of the state. Though the people made enormous sacrifices, yet the question began to be asked as to whether the state was entitled to make such huge demands.The Pluralistic theory found expression in the writings of the German jurist, Otto Gierke and in England the theory was advocated by writers like Figgs, Maitland, Lindsay, Barker, Laski and MacIver. Moreover, the pluralist theory was considerably influenced by the formation of powerful economic organisations which emerged in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.These organisations demanded autonomy in their own spheres in order to protect their group interests.The state was faced with the problems of adjusting its relations with these groups.


Principles of Pluralism:

Pluralistic Nature of Society:
The Pluralist theory recognises the role of several associations in the society, formed by men in pursuance of their varied interests.Such associations include the church and other religious organisations, trade unions, cooperative societies, voluntary associations and the like. At best, the state is but one of these associations, standing side-by-side with them and not above them.The state is not distinct from these associations.

Role of the State as Coordinator:
Just as an association coordinates the activities of its members, the state also coordinates the activities of the other associations in the society.The state is a means of resolving the conflicting claims of these associations. It does so by evolving a common basis of their functioning, not by imposing its own will on them but by way of harmonising and coordinating their several interests so as to secure the “common good” or the interest of the society at large.

The Pluralist theory maintains that the claim of the state to superior authority cannot be taken for granted. The state enjoys a privileged position in the sense that its jurisdiction is compulsory over all individuals and associations within its fold. It is equipped with coercive powers so that it can punish those who defy its commands. But the state must justify the exercise of its special powers. As an association of associations, the state must fulfil its moral obligation of harmonising the interests of all associations operating in the society, without letting itself be influenced by any “vested interests” while exercising its authority.

Decentralisation of Authority:
The Pluralists hold that the complexity of the economic and political relations of the modern world cannot be dealt with by a monolithic view of the state.Therefore, the management and control of society must be shared by various associations in proportion to their contribution the social good. Accordingly,the pluralists stand for the decentralisation of authority so that all authority is not concentrated in the hands of the state.

Critical Evaluation of the Pluralist Theory :

The pluralist theory of sovereignty is criticised on the ground that if sovereignty is divided among the various associations existing in the society, this division will lead to the destruction of sovereignty. As a result, there will be chaos and anarchy in the society. Furthermore, some groups in the society may be more organised and vocal than other groups. In such situations, the interests of the dominant groups may prevail over the vulnerable sections of the society. Under such circumstances, the responsibility for protecting the common interests rests with the state, which has to harmonise the conflicting claims of different interest groups.

However, inspite of the criticisms levelled against the Pluralist theory of sovereignty, it must be mentioned that the pluralist theory was a democratic reaction against state absolutism. It pointed out the limitations on the authority of the state while acknowledging the role and importance of various groups and associations in the society.

LET US KNOW

Harold J. Laski is the most ardent exponent of the Pluralist theory of sovereignty. In the 1920s, Laski criticised very strongly, the theory of state sovereignty.However, in the 1930s, he started evolving a balanced view of pluralism. He accepted the importance of sovereignty as an essential element of state power as the state was needed for regulating class-relations in the society.


CHECK YOUR PROGRESS



1. The Pluralist theory of sovereignty emerged as a reaction to ................... (Fill in the Blank)
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2. Mention any two principles of the Pluralist theory of sovereignty.
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3. Mention the names of any two exponents of the Pluralist theory of sovereignty.
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4. Point out a crtiticism of the Pluralist theory of sovereignty.
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LET US SUM UP



In this unit, we have read about the meaning and characteristics of sovereignty. We have learnt that sovereignty means both internal and external sovereignty. We have also learnt about the various kinds of sovereignty.At the same time, the unit has also helped us to understand the two theories of sovereignty, namely, Austins’s theory of sovereignty and the Pluralist theory of sovereignty.

FURTHER READING


1. Political Theory – V.D.Mahajan
2. An Introduction to Political Theory- O.P. Gauba
3. Principles of Political Science-A.C.Kapur
4. Political Theory(Principles of Political Science)- R.C.Agarwal



ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGRESS



ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGRESS 1

Q no.1. Latin

Q no.2. False

Q no.3. Internal and External Sovereignty

Q no. 4. Absoluteness, Permanence, Universality and Indivisibility

Q no.5. Sovereignty is regarded as absolute. This means that neither within the state nor outside it , there is any power which is superior to the sovereign.The will of the sovereign reigns supreme in the state.

ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGRESS 2

Q no.1. True

Q no. 2. False

Q no.3. Province of Jurisprudence Determined (1832)

Q no.4. It is called the Monistic theory of sovereignty because it envisages a single sovereign in the state

Q no.5. The main point of criticism against Austin’s theory is that the theory is inconsistent with the modern idea of popular sovereignty.

ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGRESS 3
Q no. 1. The Monistic theory of sovereignty

Q no.2. a. The Pluralistic Nature of Society
b. The State Must Justify its Claim to Authority.

Q no.3. G.D.H.Cole and Prof. Harold Laski.

Q no.4. The Pluralist theory of sovereignty is criticised on the ground that if sovereignty is divided among the various associations existing in the society, this division will lead to the destruction of sovereignty.




POSSIBLE QUESTIONS




Q1. Explain the meaning of sovereignty with special reference to internal and external sovereignty.
Q2. Describe in brief any six characteristics of sovereignty.
Q3. Distinguish between Titular and Real sovereignty.
Q4. Distinguish between de-facto and de-jure sovereignty.
Q5. Critically examine Austin’s theory of sovereignty.
Q6. Explain the principles of pluralism. On what grounds is the Pluralist theory of sovereignty criticised?