chapter  I
19 Pages

The Contemporary Relevance of National Sovereignty

The irrelevance of national sovereignty is a popular contemporary theme. But it is evident, even from a brief survey ofsome ofits expressions, that those who espouse it are not agreed on what it is they all hold to be irrelevant. Someone speaking in these terms with reference to the danger ofwar, for example, might well mean by 'sovereignty' the right of individual States to possess armies and armaments; but a similar statement about sovereignty made in the context of a discussion regarding Britain and the Common Market probably employs the term to indicate the idea of economic autarky. These two instances, besides illustrating just part of the range ofmeanings given to the word 'sovereignty', also draw attention to the ambiguity which attaches to the word 'irrelevant'. Some use it to suggest the undesirability of an existing state of affairs; others to emphasize that the situation referred to no longer exists, or, if it does, is now unimportant. Correspondingly 'relevance' is used to mean either desirability or importance. This leads to a further point: claims regarding the relevance or otherwise of national sovereignty can by no means be assumed to be the result of disinterested enquiry; for sovereignty is an emotive word, and therefore valuable for tendentious purposes. The two assertions given above illustrate this, for it is clear that they introduce the concept of sovereignty. in an endeavour to increase the attractiveness and force of the causes which they so obviously desire to advance.