Today, as Wendy Brown laments, ‘with rare exceptions, political theorists take sovereignty to be a necessary feature of political life’ (added emphasis). Her charge relates to the fact that, in her words:
Sovereignty produces both internal hierarchy (sovereignty is always sovereignty over something) and external anarchy (by definition, there can be nothing governing a sovereign entity, so if there is more than one sovereign entity in the universe, there is necessarily an anarchy among them). Importantly, both hierarchy and anarchy are at odds with democracy, if the latter is understood as a modestly egalitarian sharing of power.
Yes, the notion of sovereignty allows us to think of a political unit as being necessarily both hierarchical and anarchic; yet it has a long (pre-)history that, importantly, does not have all its roots in the ancient Greek democratic polis, which had a tendency to disunion, faction, stasis; there, the binary relation of internal hierarchy and external anarchy lacked, as it were, the solid, omni-resistant anchor that is offered by our concept of sovereignty. The concept of sovereignty is unthinkable, we submit, following Agamben and some others, other than within a Western (Greek–Roman–Christian) paradigm that presupposes unity as, and entrusts it to, a flexible economic– anarchic ‘relationship’ of relative indifference between hierarchy and anarchy, which ultimately finds its model in the Trinitarian God. For said notion of unity as ‘relationship’ – which we call, following Agamben, oikonomia – is, we argue, epigenetically responsible for the fruits of modernity. Also, (1) it condemns lives and ‘forms-of-lives’ in ways that are iniquitous, and (sometimes) can be understood as ‘collateral damage’ or as the costs of modernity, if by the latter we mean something more glorious, more overwhelmingly attractive, than it is suggested by modernity's sternly self-restrained understanding as held by Max Weber or Michel Foucault; (2) it obfuscates the anomia behind the imaginary notion of sovereign will.