Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

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

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.