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The self-referential semantics of sovereignty: a systems theoretical response to (post)sovereignty studies

Priban, Jiri ORCID: 2013. The self-referential semantics of sovereignty: a systems theoretical response to (post)sovereignty studies. Constellations 20 (3) , pp. 406-421. 10.1111/1467-8675.12046

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This article initially focuses on the proliferation of the sovereignty discourse and the normative expectations of some major and typical theories of sovereign and postsovereign politics and law. I subsequently engage in a conceptual analysis of sovereignty and highlight its persisting semantic value for modern politics and law. In the final part, I draw on the autopoietic systems theory’s distinction of social structures and semantics and consider sovereignty as part of the self-referential semantics of both the legal and political system. I argue that the concept of sovereignty can scarcely be discarded as useless if politicians, lawyers, constitutional judges, and the general public continue using it in their social communication. Despite significant structural changes in the systems of globalized politics and law, sovereignty persists as part of the current semantics of political and legal systems. I finally conclude that sovereignty cannot be understood as a fiction signifying the total unity of society ultimately governed and controlled by one power centre and its laws. Theories and images of social unity as political unity guaranteed by the sovereign’s power are unsustainable. They need to be replaced by the autopoietic social systems theory in which the concept of sovereignty is self-limiting and self-referring to the political and legal systems operating at national, supranational, and transnational global level.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Law
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science > JC Political theory
K Law > K Law (General)
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN: 1351-0487
Date of Acceptance: 2013
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2022 09:28

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