This means that the states have a certain amount of sovereignty, but not complete autonomy to simply do as they wish. States are free to adopt their own laws, but they must do so within the confines of the larger body.
The development of the United States and the Civil War resulted in a new definition of sovereignty. If one compares the philosophy that arose in the United States to that of feudal England it appears that there are different levels of sovereignty. Once could consider feudal England to be a case of complete sovereignty of the King over the local peasants. However, the Civil War proved that complete state sovereignty and complete unity cannot exist side by side. The end result was a case where the Federal law still has sovereignty over state law, but the states do have some form of sovereignty and self-determination. One could consider this case one of "limited sovereignty." The states have the rights of self-determination, but only within the limits allowed by Federal law.
Let us consider the recent argument over homosexual marriage. This is an issue that re-hashes many of the issues that were present during the Civil War. However, it is no longer an all or nothing arrangement. Some states decided to recognize the civil union between homosexuals as a legal union. However, some states still consider the only legal union to be one between a man and a woman. The acceptance of homosexual marriage in some states led to them becoming a haven for homosexuals that wish to marry. If these persons did not agree with the laws of their state, they were free to move to a location where the laws were more compatible with their beliefs and desires. This is a case of state sovereignty.
The real question in this case is the adoption of federal laws regarding this issue. At the time of the state adoption of laws allowing homosexual marriage, there were no known federal laws that deal with the issue. The debate has become one of sovereignty. There are those that wish to adopt legislation banning or promoting homosexual marriage on a Federal level. There are others that feel that federal government should stay out of it and allow the states to decide the issue for themselves, called deregulation. If Federal legislation is adopted, then the individual states will have to change their laws to comply with it. If the states are allowed to retain control, then the states will have to decide the issue themselves, but are completely free to do so. This issue has become central in the sovereignty argument.
Matter of Degree
If one examines the arguments for sovereignty thus far, one thing should be apparent. The individual represents the lowest level of a hierarchy that extends to a larger and larger body of society. Each level is subjugated by the next higher level. We are members of societies within societies. The first level is that of the family. Our family is a member of the community. The community is a member of the county or parish. The county is a member of the state and the states are a member of the nation. The nation is a part of the global community. All of the arguments made in the previous section can be applied as nations make a conscious effort to become one nation.
We have demonstrated that one cannot have complete sovereignty and complete unification on the same level of society at the same time without conflict (Nye, 2004). Each subsequently lower level can only have a limited amount of sovereignty. It cannot make laws that contradict the larger body of society above it. This make a strong case that sovereignty is not complete, unless one happens to be at the top level. We can talk about "degrees" or "levels" of sovereignty at the lower level, but we cannot achieve complete sovereignty by its strictest definition.
Globalization is simply the addition of another level of authority to the hierarchy. The key reason for this level of global awareness stems from advances in technology that make it possible. Let us once again simplify things. People were limited to local villages by a lack of transportation that allowed them to engage in trade with other communities. As technology advanced, they were able to travel larger distances and increase their world. Now we have reached the point where we are no longer limited by technology in our ability to communicate, travel and conduct commerce anywhere in the world. Even remote islands can stay globally connected through technology. Globalization is just the next step in integration due to the ability do so. This brings us to our final conclusion.
Thus far, we have examined the idea of sovereignty from many different standpoints. From a human rights standpoint, we have found that the individual has certain rights that are considered inherent with our simply being alive. However, we have also found that at times these individual rights were violated. We found that in order to understand sovereignty, we first had to define the various levels of society within which we must exist. We found that the ideals of the different levels of society cannot conflict. We found that there are different levels of sovereignty and that a state, or nation state, can have greater sovereignty when issues do not concern the larger governing body. In issues that create concern for the larger body, the individual state or nation will have sovereignty that is restricted by the boundaries set by the larger body.
If one examines the laws governing the nations that are part of the United Nations they will find that the terms of sovereignty and self-determination of the nations are clearly defined (Bayfesky, 2000). It would appear that the larger body has the right to determine how much sovereignty the lower body is allowed. The same can be found in the limits set on the individual by society. We have laws to prevent theft, murder, and harm to others. The individual is not simply allowed to do as they wish to another. This is similar to the relationship between various nations and the newly emerging set of Global governance.
The original premise of this research was that globalization will result in reductions of the sovereignty of nations. It is difficult to make a case that nations will be able to retain complete sovereignty and complete unity at the same time. As we found, these two principals cannot coexist. Globalization must result in a loss of sovereignty to some degree if unity is to be achieved. Nations will have to give up some control for the greater good. However, how much they must give up largely depends on how different their laws are currently from international standards. Those that already have laws that are close to international laws will not feel as greater loss of sovereignty as those that have laws that differ from the larger body. It is all a matter of degree, but no matter how one chooses to look at it, globalization cannot happen without at least some loss of sovereignty on a national level.
Bayefsky, Anne F., ed. 2000. The UN Human Rights Treaty System in the 21st Century. The Hague: Kluwer Law International.
Brooks, S. And Wohlforth, W. 2002. American Primacy in Perspective. Foreign Affairs,
July/August 2002. 81: 21-33.
Donnelly, J. 2006. State Sovereignty and Human Rights. Accessed January 12, http://www.du.edu/~jdonnell/papers/hrsov%20v4a.htm.
Hofstede, G. 2001. Culture's Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations across Nations, 2nd edition, London: Sage Publications.
Kay, S. 2005. Globalization, Power, and Security. Security Dialogue, 35 (1): 11.
Nye, J. 2004. Understanding International Conflicts: An Introduction to Theory and History, 5th ed, New York: Longman, p. 37.
Senarclens, P. 2003. The Politics of Human Rights. In The Globalization of Human Rights, edited by J.-M. Coicaud, M.W. Doyle and A.-M. Gardner. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.
Steinberger, H. 2000. Sovereignty. In Encyclopedia of Public International Law, edited by R. Bernhardt. Amsterdam: North-Holland Elsevier.
Vayrynen, R. 2001. Sovereignty, globalization and transnational social movements.
International Relations of the Asia-Pacific; 2001:227-246.
Weissbrodt, D. And Kruger, M. 2003. Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations…