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Sovereignty (Bodin)

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Slides on Jean Bodin's notion of sovereignty for an undergraduate course in Political Thought that I taught between 2003-2005.

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Sovereignty (Bodin)

  1. 1. ON SOVEREIGNTY AND THE STATE
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Who was Jean Bodin? </li></ul><ul><li>What is a State? </li></ul><ul><li>What is Sovereignty? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the most dangerous cause of social revolution? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Context <ul><li>Intellectual Influences on Modern Political Thought: </li></ul><ul><li>Renaissance </li></ul><ul><li>Enlightenment </li></ul>
  4. 4. Context <ul><li>Socio-political Influences on Modern Political Thought </li></ul><ul><li>Industrial Revolution </li></ul><ul><li>American Revolution </li></ul><ul><li>French Revolution </li></ul><ul><li>Treaty of Westphalia </li></ul>
  5. 5. Jean Bodin (1530-1596) <ul><li>Catholic French jurist and natural law philosopher </li></ul><ul><li>Lived during a time of religious turmoil in France </li></ul><ul><li>Among the first philosophers to attempt a technical discussion of sovereignty </li></ul>
  6. 6. What is a State? <ul><li>“ The state is a lawful government with sovereign power, of different households and their common affairs.” </li></ul><ul><li>Jean Bodin </li></ul><ul><li>(The Six Books on the State) </li></ul>
  7. 7. What is a State? <ul><li>Hence, today we speak of the elements of a state </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Territory </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Government </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sovereignty </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Of these, sovereignty endows the state with its identity </li></ul>
  8. 8. What is Sovereignty? <ul><li>“ Sovereignty is the absolute and perpetual power of the state, that is, the greatest power to command.” </li></ul><ul><li>Jean Bodin </li></ul><ul><li>(The Six Books on the State) </li></ul>
  9. 9. What is Sovereignty? <ul><li>“ Sovereignty is the absolute and perpetual power of the state, that is, the greatest power to command.” </li></ul><ul><li>Jean Bodin </li></ul><ul><li>(The Six Books on the State) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Sovereignty: Absolute <ul><li>By absolute, we mean that no higher authority exists over the sovereign </li></ul><ul><li>Hence, rulers are not bound by laws </li></ul><ul><li>Rulers are bound by “contracts” </li></ul>
  11. 11. Sovereignty: Perpetual <ul><li>By perpetual, we mean that it is not bound by tenure </li></ul><ul><li>At its crudest, it means that sovereignty lasts as long as the lifetime of he who possesses the power </li></ul>
  12. 12. Other Characteristics <ul><li>Sovereignty resides in the people or absolute monarchs </li></ul><ul><li>Both have the right to recall the authority they bestow </li></ul><ul><li>All political authorities are but custodians/agents of sovereign power </li></ul>
  13. 13. On Social Revolution <ul><li>The most important cause of social revolution is excessive wealth and poverty within the state </li></ul><ul><li>Although equality is said to foster peace, absolute equality is equally problematic </li></ul>
  14. 14. Summary <ul><li>Sovereignty is the fundamental characteristic of a state </li></ul><ul><li>Sovereignty is both absolute and perpetual </li></ul><ul><li>Rulers are merely custodians of sovereignty </li></ul><ul><li>For a state’s stability, equity is more important than equality </li></ul>

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