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date: 23 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Sovereignty has borne too many conflicting meanings over the centuries. Nevertheless, there arguably exists a definition of sovereignty that is flexible enough to accommodate much of the concept's historical diversity yet concrete enough to be meaningful: supreme authority within a territory. Authority—“the right to command and correlatively, the right to be obeyed,” in Robert Paul Wolff's definition—implies that sovereignty is a matter of right or legitimacy, not one of mere power. But authority alone does not specify sovereignty; plenty of holders of authority exist who do not have sovereignty. Another ingredient is crucial: supremacy. The holder of sovereignty's authority is highest and may not be questioned or opposed. Supremacy was stressed by sovereignty's first modern articulators, sixteenth-century French philosopher Jean Bodin and seventeenth-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, and has been reflected widely by users of the concept ever since. A final ingredient is territoriality. This is the principle that defines the set of people who live under the holder of sovereignty, or the supreme authority.

Keywords: Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, sovereignty, authority, supremacy, territoriality

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