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States before relations: On misrecognition and the bifurcated regime of sovereignty

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Minda Holm*
Affiliation:
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI)
Ole Jacob Sending
Affiliation:
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI)
*
*Corresponding author. Email: mh@nupi.no

Abstract

The symbolic structure of the international system, organised around sovereignty, is sustained by an institutional infrastructure that shapes how states seek sovereign agency. We investigate how the modern legal category of the state is an institutional expression of the idea of the state as a liberal person, dependent on a one-off recognition in establishing the sovereign state. We then discuss how this institutional rule coexists with the ongoing frustrated search for recognition in terms of sociopolitical registers. While the first set of rules establishes a protective shield against others, regardless of behaviour, the second set of rules specify rules for behaviour of statehood, which produces a distinct form of misrecognition. States are, at one level, already recognised as sovereign and are granted rights akin to individuals in liberal thought, and yet they are continually misrecognised in their quest to actualise the sovereign agency they associate with statehood. We draw on examples from two contemporary phenomena – fragile states, and assertions of non-interference and sovereignty from the populist right and non-Western great powers, to discuss the misrecognition processes embedded in the bifurcated symbolic structure of sovereignty, and its implications for debates about hierarchy and sovereignty in world affairs.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© British International Studies Association 2018 

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References

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21 See Portmann, Roland, Legal Personality in International Law, Vol. 70 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 250 CrossRefGoogle Scholar . This is the perspective of the state as a ‘fact’, whereby legal personality is defined through a set of criteria mirroring the development of sovereignty, codified through The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States in 1933, which states that ‘a state exists when it possesses ‘(a) a permanent population, (b) a defined territory, (c) government, and (d) capacity to enter into relations with other States’.

22 Weber, ‘Performative states’, p. 78; see also Ringmar, ‘How the world stage makes its subjects’, p. 101; Jackson and Nexon, ‘Relations before states’, p. 293.

23 Oppenheim, International Law, pp. 168, 170, 171, emphasis added.

24 The state as a person is based on an analogy, but it is also real, in the sense that the unified thinking of statehood as a Person/entity permeates how both scholars and political actors think, organise, and act in the international realm. In contrast to human embodiment, then, the juristic category is indeed an ‘as if’, but it is one that real consequences for how statehood is performed. The legal-historical background and thus implications of which are largely bypassed in the otherwise excellent discussion of ‘state as person’ in this journal; see Jackson, Patrick T., ‘Forum introduction: Is the state a person? Why should we care?’, Review of International Studies, 30:2 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

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45 Ibid.

46 Ibid., p. 81.

47 Ibid., p. 87.

48 Ibid.

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50 See also Nexon, Daniel and Musgrave, Paul, ‘American liberalism and the imperial temptation’, in Noel Parker (ed.), Empire and International Order (London and New York: Routledge, 2016), pp. 131149 Google Scholar . Nexon and Musgrave speak of the ‘two extremes’ of liberal ideas of governance – liberal enlargement, and liberal intergovernmentalism – but stop short of discussing how these are also institutionalised within the very concept of state subjectivity in the international system, and thus what consequences they have for broader ideas of sovereignty.

51 Laruelle, Marlene (ed.), Eurasianism and the European Far Right: Reshaping the Europe-Russia Relationship (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015)Google Scholar ; Shekhovtsov, Anton, Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir (London: Routledge, 2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

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56 Official Internet Resources of the President of Russia, ‘70th Session of the UN General Assembly’ (28 September 2015), available at: {http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/50385}, emphasis added. The paradox, of course, is that this vision also coexists with an idea of Russia having a particular ‘right’ of influence in its ‘Near Abroad’, echoing geopolitical ideas of Schmitt and others.

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65 Wendt, Alexander, ‘Anarchy is what states make of it: the social construction of power politics’, International Organization, 46:2 (1992), p. 400 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

66 Ibid., p. 412.

67 Ibid., p. 413.

68 Zarakol, ‘What made the modern world hang together’; Zarakol, Ayşe and Mattern, Janice Bially, ‘Hierarchies in world politics’, International Organization, 70:3 (2016), pp. 623654 Google Scholar .

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