Rainer Bauböck's work on popular
sovereignty, citizenship and the demos problem is an important touchstone for
contemporary political, and especially democratic, theory. Grounded in
attention to both the theoretical and empirical circumstances of individual and
collective political agency, Bauböck offers a highly sophisticated and, in
many ways, compelling approach to thinking through the philosophical and
the current state system, but my critique is more fundamental than this in
challenging the dominant interpretation of state sovereignty that underpins the
current state system. I should have stated this more clearly than I did.
Carens puts much weight on how the state system contributes to
global social injustice. I have little disagreement with him on this point.
What I would like to point out is again that we need to distinguish the
emphasized the link between individual and collective self-government. Pettit's
exclusive focus on domination defined as vulnerability to arbitrary
interference that fails to track one's interests (Pettit 1997, 2012 ) risks losing sight of the regulatory ideal of popular
sovereignty and its – always imperfect – realization through
democratic procedures for electing – rather than only controlling –
governments. This shortcoming makes neo-Roman republicanism a somewhat
alienation. But the newer writings register modernity’s magic
– and the interplay between the magical and the modern –
as more critically constitutive of social worlds. 4 Important strands of such work have
focused on the magic of capitalism and/or on the fetish of the state. 5 Still other
exercises have moved toward the simultaneous evocation and defacement of
power, pointing to the sacred character of modern sovereignty, in order
levels, and also calling for the
creation of supranational institutions and polities where the threat of
domination prevents collective decision-making or action (p. 60). “The
dispersal and pooling of sovereignty at substate and suprastate levels
reduces the risk of political domination within states and enhances
opportunities for democratic self-government beyond the state” (p.
a judge interpreting an eternal and unchanging law. Bodin asserted that
the monarch had the authority to enact new laws to his people and – equally
importantly (from a historical perspective) – that legislation was the first
and chief mark of sovereignty (Vile 1998: 29).
And then it changed. Absolutism gradually lost ground at the end of
the seventeenth century. It is difficult to point to one single book or event
that challenged the philosophical dominance of absolutism (indeed,
absolutism remained the dominant doctrine in practical politics
century – is thus not only the main theorist of popular sovereignty, but
also a theoretician of nationalism. Rousseau proves that nationalism did
exist before the nineteenth century, even by a modern definition (such as
that developed by Gellner). Rousseau developed a theory of society based
on cultural homogeneity and ‘participation in, and identification with
culture’ as well as he evidently sought to establish a political culture (based
on national sentiments), which were ‘co-extensive with an entire political
unit’ – as required by Gellner’s definition
(Washington DC: The World Bank, 2000), p. 29.
8 For a thorough study of Helvétius’ influence upon Bentham and Marx see
Irwing Horowitz’s essay ‘Helvétius, Bentham and Marx’ (Horowitz 1954:
9 There is considerable literature on Rousseau and Kant. For a recent, balanced,
account see Richard L. Velkley, Freedom and the End of Reason (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1999).
10 In not seeking divine justification for moral judgements Rousseau is probably
closer to Iris Murdoch. See Murdoch, The Sovereignty of the Good (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2000).