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International Relations Statehood
by
Bridget L. Coggins

Introduction

States are the principal and most fundamental actors in world politics. Although supranational organizations and nonstate actors are growing in importance as a result of globalization, states have been the dominant form of political organization for the last two centuries. Because of the state’s centrality to modern political life, statehood is well studied, much sought after, and hotly contested. Political philosophers disagree about the rationale for the state and the nature of the international system. Political scientists debate the extent to which sovereignty influences political behavior and examine the dynamics of the beginning and end of statehood. In international law, the declaratory and constitutive nature of the state is debated both in theory and in practice. The major divide centers on the extent to which statehood depends on the intrinsic character of the actor or on its external legitimacy in the eyes of other states. Critical cases of claims to sovereignty show that, as a legal matter, statehood is not straightforward. Also, empirically statehood is not homogenous but varied; some present-day members of the international community scarcely resemble one another or, for that matter, the formal legal standards of statehood. Finally, faced with challenges to their sovereign statehood, governments have attempted a number of nonstate alternatives to accommodate diverse populations and other governance challenges.

Reference Works

The following works provide collections of nations, states, and would-be states across time. The Correlates of War dataset, arising from the project laid out in Singer 1972, provides the basis for a wealth of quantitative works in political science. Similarly, the membership rolls of intergovernmental institutions like the League of Nations and the United Nations are indicative of statehood. The Fund for Peace annual index and Foreign Policy yearly index rank states according to how well or poorly they perform the most important tasks of governance. For comparison purposes, Minahan 1996 and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization show the variety of actors that aspire to statehood, some of which are successful and others of which are not. Whereas the Correlates of War data are best suited to scholars and professionals with data analysis in mind, the others are accessible to all audiences. Minahan 1996, in particular, provides interesting, readable vignettes on each of the nations the author catalogues.

Pivotal Historical Moments in Statehood

The works listed here track the emergence of the modern state and pivotal changes in the character and composition of states throughout history. The 1648 Peace of Westphalia is seen as the precursor to the birth of the modern conception of statehood. The spread of nationalism in Europe and then throughout the rest of the world (and then again among European minorities) divided the globe into discrete states. Finally, with the end of the Cold War, secession and dissolution became the principal source of new statehood. In the 20th century, membership in the international community increased fourfold. During each period, there was a drive to create rules of conduct among states—if not to create the states themselves—that remedied the problems of the previous order.

Westphalia

The Peace of Westphalia, negotiated in Münster and Osnabrück marked the end of the Thirty and Eighty Years Wars in Europe, but the articles contained within the agreements also provided the first hints of the principles of domestic authority and nonintervention that would become the foundation of modern statehood and the current Westphalian state system. Colegrove 1919 describes the political wrangling leading up to the peace talks, and Parker 2001 provides a historical analysis of the negotiations and agreements themselves and their political implications. Also see works under The States System and Sovereignty for scholarly interpretations of Westphalia and the long-term implications of this historical event.

  • Colegrove, Kenneth. “Diplomatic Procedure Preliminary to the Congress of Westphalia.” American Journal of International Law 13.3 (1919): 450–482.

    DOI: 10.2307/2188262Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A dense but worthwhile summary of the years of negotiations that were required prior to the Peace of Westphalia. The arduous process leading up to the peace belies the instantaneous creation of the interstate system often implied by political scientists. Best for advanced readers.

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  • Parker, Geoffrey. Europe in Crisis, 1598–1648. 2d ed. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001.

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    An exploration of one of the most pivotal periods in the history of the modern states system: the Peace of Westphalia. Chapters 2 and 7 are particularly instructive insofar as statehood is concerned. Chapter 2 details state-society relations prior to the wars, and Chapter 7 discusses the wars’ resolutions and implications. This textbook is appropriate for college and postgraduate instruction.

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The Rise of Nationalism

At the end of the 18th century and throughout the 19th and 20th, nationalism, the idea that governmental authority ought to reside in the representation of a particular people, became widespread. Anderson 2006 and Gellner 2008 provide the authoritative analyses of nationalism and its rise to near synonymy with statehood (nation-states) in the modern era. Fink 2004, exploring a more limited timeframe, looks at how Great Power states attempted to deal with nations, nationalism, and governance in Europe.

  • Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 2006.

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    Anderson provides a macrohistorical account, tracing the spread of nationalism back to the proliferation of print media. Although most members of most nations cannot possibly know one another, print media helped to create “imagined communities” that have a tremendous impact on our political life.

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  • Fink, Carole. Defending the Rights of Others: The Great Powers, the Jews and International Minority Protection, 1878–1938. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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    Fink explores minority protections enacted prior to and following World War I in Europe. The author provides an excellent analysis of the way in which statesmen negotiated the difficulties of heterogeneous populations and predatory nationalism, both for themselves and for the new states of eastern Europe.

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  • Gellner, Ernest. Nations and Nationalism. 2d ed. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008.

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    Gellner traces the development of nations and nationalism through the lens of socioeconomic development. In the third, industrial stage of development, both nations and nationalism emerge as local identities are replaced by larger, more homogenous ones. First published in 1983.

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World War II, Anticolonialism, and the UN

When nationalist ideals took hold in colonies and other non-self-governing territories, the rejection of alien, imperial rule and calls for independent statehood multiplied. Ultimately, so did the number of states. Though not all scholars agreed, a growing discourse at the time suggested that the bar for statehood had been lowered for postcolonial states, or that the legal prerequisites for statehood were being ignored in favor of political expedience. Emerson 1960 provides a detailed analysis of these new members’ rise to statehood, and Cohen 1961 provides background on the international community’s decision making regarding the new states’ membership in the United Nations.

  • Cohen, Rosalyn. “The Concept of Statehood in United Nations Practice.” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 109.8 (1961): 1127–1171.

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    Rather than focusing on deviations from the letter of the law regarding statehood, Cohen advocates focusing on whether community standards are being advanced through membership decisions. Cohen contends that, when considered in context, decisions often taken as evidence of the abandonment of the legal standards are, in fact, evidence of their flexibility.

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  • Emerson, Rupert. From Empire to Nation: The Rise to Self-Assertion of Asian and African Peoples. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1960.

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    Emerson charts the independence of the postcolonial states as it happened. He argues that the newly independent states won by nationalists had not yet formed nations among their peoples. The author shows how the development of postcolonial states will be markedly different than the European experience and suggests further that democracy is not the solution to their problems. Controversial in its own time, the book remains provocative and worthwhile today.

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Post–Cold War Dissolutions

In less than a decade, the collapses of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia ushered over twenty new states into the international system. At the time, many believed that a new paradigm for statehood was being formed and perhaps that countries’ internal borders would form the basis for the next wave of new states. Ratner 1996 discusses the normative implications of that change. Before the dissolutions, and with the end of decolonization, many believed that the international system had reached a stable equilibrium of states. Yet nationalist movements in both places, and the international community’s response, would prove their expectations wrong. Suny 1993 and Bennett 1995 provide comprehensive analyses of separatism and collapse in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, respectively.

  • Bennett, Christopher. Yugoslavia’s Bloody Collapse: Causes, Course and Consequences. New York: New York University Press, 1995.

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    Explores the historical development of nations and nationalism and nationalist mobilization just prior to Yugoslavia’s collapse. A journalistic, but also exhaustively researched, account. Bennett proves prescient regarding the Milošević regime and its violent, exclusionary nationalism years before its ouster.

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  • Ratner, Steven R. “Drawing a Better Line: Uti possidetis and the Borders of New States.” American Journal of International Law 90.4 (1996): 590–624.

    DOI: 10.2307/2203988Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ratner observes that the international community is inconsistent regarding secession, dissolution, and new statehood. The author suggests that externalizing internal borders creates more problems than it resolves in some cases, and in the service of justice, the international community should scrutinize its political implications before implementing it.

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  • Suny, Ronald Grigor. The Revenge of the Past: Nationalism, Revolution, and the Collapse of Soviet Union. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993.

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    Detailed history of the internal ethnic politics of Russia and the Soviet Union. Nationalism, and the national policies of the Soviet Union, sowed the seeds of separatism and collapse.

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Statehood in Politics

States are the ultimate authority in the political world and the fundamental units of international relations. As a result, statehood has received a great deal of attention from scholars. Philosophers theorize about the origins and righteousness of different forms of the state; scholars study its consequences for international political life and further endeavor to understand how statehood influences the interactions among other actors.

Political Philosophy and Theory

Statehood has long been a topic for political philosophers and theorists. For many, the need for the state arises out of the difficulties people face in the state of nature. However, scholars disagree about how strong the state must be and about what type of governance is most righteous. Hobbes favored absolutist monarchy (Hobbes 1998). Locke favored a limited, representative institution (Locke 1980). Rousseau favored republicanism (Rousseau 1992). Jumping forward in time, Weber 2004 provides the authoritative definition of the modern state. These works provide but an introduction to the vast discourse on the subject. Each writing is considered foundational and is appropriate for an undergraduate curriculum.

  • Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Edited by J. C. A. Gaskin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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    Hobbes, a noted realist thinker, observes that in nature man’s life is nasty, brutish, and short. Although people are not perpetually at war, there is forever the potential recourse to war because nothing prevents it. However, human nature is inclined toward peace. Only through a social contract can man escape nature’s deleterious consequences. By submitting to a strong sovereign authority within the Leviathan state, man can resolve the problems he faces in anarchy.

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  • Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government. Edited by C. B. Macpherson. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1980.

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    For Locke, a liberal, nature also compels the creation of states, but of a different sort. The condition of man in a Lockean nature is suboptimal; while man is free in anarchy, he also faces uncertainty and danger. Therefore, man joins a society of like-minded men to “preserve their lives, liberty and estates.” As in Hobbes 1998, the social contract resolves the problems of anarchy, but in a different form.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. Translated by Donald A. Cress. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1992.

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    Rousseau rejects both Hobbes’s and Locke’s views of nature and its influence on man’s condition. For Rousseau, man’s existence in the state of nature is uncorrupted, but also morally neutral, since morality is a social construction. However, the social contract still holds potential benefits for man. Unfortunately, bad and good social contracts can be enacted; the state is not always an improvement.

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  • Weber, Max. “Politics as a Vocation.” In The Vocation Lectures. Edited by David Owen and Tracy B. Strong, 32–94. Translated by Rodney Livingstone. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2004.

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    In this writing Weber provides the authoritative definition of the state as an entity that claims “a monopoly of the legitimate forces within a given territory.” Although statehood is not the central focus of the lecture, the definition is ubiquitous in political science, as are Weber’s understandings of power and politics. First published in 1919.

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The States System and Sovereignty

The content of sovereignty and how it affects the behavior of states and other nonstate actors are contested by the major paradigms in international relations. For some, the influence of ideas is only epiphenomenal; material power is states’ primary motivator. For others, ideas exert a more significant, independent influence. March and Olsen 1998 frames the debate between materialist and idealists. Philpott 2001 and Krasner 1999 are theoretical counterweights on the subject of sovereignty, Philpott providing an idea-centric account and Krasner providing a decidedly materialist, power-based alternative. Osiander 2001, Teschke 2003, Walker 1992, and Biersteker and Weber 1996 take aim at the importance of sovereign statehood for contemporary theorizing in international relations. Osiander and Teschke deconstruct the myth of the history of Westphalia (see Westphalia) while Biersteker and Weber’s edited volume highlights the promise of constructivism (and other paradigms’ limitations) when it comes to current controversies over sovereignty. James 1986 and Wendt 2004 take on theoretical aspects of statehood and sovereignty.

  • Biersteker, Thomas J., and Cynthia Weber, eds. State Sovereignty as Social Construct. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    This volume begins from the premise that a constructivist lens offers potential insights into contemporary controversies over sovereignty that other theoretical perspectives in international relations cannot. Collected analyses of sovereignty and contingency, among them the American Civil War, pan-Arabism and state formation, and Cold War relations between East Germany and the Soviet Union, bring lucidity to the variance and resilience of the sovereign state.

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  • James, Alan. Sovereign Statehood: The Basis of International Society. London: Allen & Unwin, 1986.

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    James argues that the true test of sovereign statehood is constitutional independence, rather than other potential metrics. Carrying that notion of sovereignty forward, the author then details the ways in which sovereignty is interpreted in the practice of international society.

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  • Krasner, Stephen. Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

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    A provocative exploration of sovereignty and statehood written by a prominent realist scholar. Against the common wisdom, argues that sovereignty is not withering away, but is as robust as it ever was—not very. Explores four different understandings of sovereignty and finds that power and self-interest are more compelling explanations for interstate behavior than the principles undergirding statehood. Though a scholarly text, well written and suitable for an undergraduate course.

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  • March, James G., and Johan P. Olsen. “The Institutional Dynamics of International Political Orders.” International Organization 52 (1998): 943–969.

    DOI: 10.1162/002081898550699Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the fundamental articles in political science regarding the “logic” underlying the dynamics of the interstate system. Is the political behavior of states dictated by a consideration of the consequences that will result? Or is behavior driven instead by rules and identities? Accessible to undergraduate and more advanced audiences. Helps to frame debates between realists, liberals, and constructivists in international relations.

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  • Osiander, Andreas. “Sovereignty, International Relations, and the Westphalian Myth.” International Organization 55 (2001): 251–287.

    DOI: 10.1162/00208180151140577Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Osiander argues that international-relations theorists are wrong to view Westphalia as a formative moment in statehood. Essentially, he argues that seeing sovereignty in the Peace of Westphalian is anachronistic—the imposition of 19th- and 20th-century understandings on a very different reality. Further, this myth of Westphalia limits international relations’ potential to understand contemporary politics.

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  • Philpott, Daniel. Revolutions in Sovereignty: How Ideas Shaped Modern International Relations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

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    In a constructivist work, Philpott tracks ideational revolutions in sovereignty that changed the way in which the international system works. In particular, he argues that international society fundamentally changed the basis on which it accepted new members, or responded to claims of sovereign statehood, on two occasions: Westphalia and decolonization. Suitable for most undergraduates and more advanced audiences.

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  • Teschke, Benno. The Myth of 1648: Class, Geopolitics, and the Making of Modern International Relations. London: Verso, 2003.

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    A second critique of the Westphalian myth, this time written from a Marxist perspective; Teschke argues that modern international relations were not born at Westphalia. Instead, that supposed watershed moment did not change much at all by way of property relations. The author argues that the rise of capitalism and state formation in England were not complete until much later, around World War I.

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  • Walker, R. B. J. Inside/Outside: International Relations as Political Theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

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    Turning international-relations theory itself inside out, Walker, a critical theorist, argues that the modern state created international-relations theory; the two are nearly inextricably linked. The state is not as contested a concept as it ought to be. International-relations theory is a manifestation of contemporary politics; it does not explain it. Although provocative, Walker’s argument is also dense and therefore best suited to graduate students and scholars.

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  • Wendt, Alexander. “The State as Person in International Relations Theory.” Review of International Studies 30.2 (2004): 289–316.

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    Wendt provides a defense of the anthropomorphization of the state in international relations. Based on scientific realism, contends that the collective intentions of states are real and therefore may be treated like persons in international politics. However, the analogy can only be pursued so far, since states are decidedly not organisms or conscious and therefore not persons in those dimensions.

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Dynamics of Statehood

The principal focus of international-relations scholarship in political science is explaining the interactions among states in the international system. Surprisingly, there are relatively few works that deal with the dynamics of statehood itself within this literature; states tend to be taken for granted. Therefore, statehood’s “beginning” and “end,” or the “birth” and “death” of states, have not received much attention. Fazal 2007 represents an important exception to this rule regarding state death, while comparative theory offers more by way of explaining the causes and process of state birth and the state’s rise to dominance as an organizational institution. Tilly 1990 and, more recently, Spruyt 1994, Spruyt 2005, and Roeder 2007 are particularly noteworthy. These works are most appropriate for graduate-level students and scholars.

  • Fazal, Tanisha M. State Death: The Politics and Geography of Conquest, Occupation, and Annexation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.

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    Fazal investigates the significantly overlooked question “Why do states die?” Uses large-N data analyses and case studies to explore the conditions under which statehood goes away. Argues that states sandwiched between rivals—literally caught in the middle of interstate conflicts—are more likely to die. Also finds that violent exits have declined as a cause of state death due to an American-led normative opprobrium against conquest. Advanced undergraduate.

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  • Roeder, Philip. Where Nation-States Come From: Institutional Change in the Age of Nationalism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.

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    In the 20th century, three out of every four states entering the international system were ethno-national segment states just prior to obtaining independent statehood. Through a combination of large-N analyses and case studies, Roeder argues that ethnic groups empowered by ethnic segment states are both more likely to demand independence and more likely to achieve it than other state seekers. Roeder’s argument is strongest in the post-Soviet case studies.

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  • Spruyt, Hendrik. The Sovereign State and Its Competitors: An Analysis of Systems Change. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.

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    Spruyt explains why sovereign statehood prevailed over competing institutions in Europe. He argues that differential trade favored distinct institutional forms, that states offered a comparative advantage in the protection of property rights, and that conquest and mutual recognition helped to eliminate the state’s rivals. And yet Spruyt’s analysis serves as a reminder that the sovereign state’s dominance is contingent on circumstances that will not endure forever.

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  • Spruyt, Hendrik. Ending Empire: Contested Sovereignty and Territorial Partition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005.

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    In this book Spruyt seeks to explain the variation in violence accompanying decolonization and other ends of empires. The author argues that the internal organization of the metropole and, to a lesser extent, changes in the international environment explain why some powers willingly devolved power to their colonial holdings where others forcefully resisted their independence.

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  • Tilly, Charles. Coercion, Capital and European States, AD 990–1990. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1990.

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    In contrast to most theories of European state formation, which posit a linear path, Tilly suggests that European governments were a motley crew for most of their histories. Convergence on the centralized state was relatively recent. The emergence of the centralized state was driven by the imperative to raise capital and make war. Variation within Europe’s states was caused by environmental differences: capital-intensive, coercive-intensive, and blended settings.

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Statehood in Law

States in international law are equivalent to individuals in domestic law; therefore, a great deal rests on what constitutes international legal personality, or statehood. There are two prominent theories of statehood and recognition in international law: the declaratory view and the constitutive view. The weight of legal opinion favors the declaratory theory. The practice of statehood variously favors the declaratory and constitutive positions, occasionally within the same case. A number of rulings on cases on the margins of statehood offer insights into legal practices as they evolve.

Legal Doctrine

The following entries outline legal guidelines regarding the existence and exercise of statehood in international law. Grant 1999 is included to provide historical and political context to the Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, known colloquially as the Montevideo Convention, the definitive definition of statehood in international law. Thornberry 1989 details the legal instruments available to nonstate actors in their pursuit of self-determination. More recently, the European Community (now European Union) set special guidelines for its members regarding recognition for the states of the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia (European Community 1992). Once membership in the international community of states is established, the United Nations Helsinki Declaration provides guidelines for how states ought to interact with one another—a code of conduct of sorts. The laws themselves are best considered in conjunction with Thornberry 1989, Grant 1999, and/or the legal-theory citations under Legal Theory.

  • “Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (Inter-American).” In Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America 1776–1949. Vol. 3, Multilateral, 1931–1945. Compiled by Charles I. Bevans. Department of State Publication 8484. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1969.

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    Known as the Montevideo Convention and widely considered customary international law, this agreement lays out four criteria that must characterize an actor in order for it to receive diplomatic recognition from other states: (1) population, (2) territory, (3) government, and (4) the capacity to engage in international affairs. While scholars and diplomats do not seem content with the Montevideo criteria, they cannot agree on an alternative.

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  • European Community: Declaration on Yugoslavia and on the Guidelines on the Recognition of New States (December 16, 1991) International Legal Materials 31.6: (November 1992): 1485–1487.

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    The criteria established by the European Community for granting recognition to the aspiring states of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. An early attempt at collective recognition by the European states that produced mixed results in practice. At the time, many argued that the criteria would herald a new era of collective recognition of new states.

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  • Grant, Thomas D. “Defining Statehood: The Montevideo Convention and Its Discontents.” Columbia Journal of International Law 37 (1999): 403–457.

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    The Montevideo Convention is considered the authoritative definition of the state. Grant shows, however, that it is a highly contested, and in many ways unsatisfactory, standard for recognition and statehood; at times it is too inclusive and at others not inclusive enough.

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  • Thornberry, Patrick. “Self-Determination, Minorities, Human Rights: A Review of International Instruments.” International and Comparative Law Quarterly 38 (1989): 867–889.

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    The author reviews the meaning of self-determination vis-à-vis statehood and national minorities (including indigenous peoples) in international law. He concludes that self-determination in international law is limited to “peoples” of a particular sort and does not extend to minorities. Fundamental human rights may provide a better legal basis for demands for autonomy, self-government, and/or secession.

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  • United Nations General Assembly. Declaration on Principles of International Law, Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. 24 October 1970.

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    Passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1970, and known colloquially as the Helsinki Declaration, this agreement puts forward a best-practice manual of sorts for state-to-state relations.

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Legal Theory

There are two principal theoretical approaches to the question of statehood and legal personality in international law. One is the dominant declaratory view of recognition and the other is the less popular, constitutive view. Proponents of the dominant, declaratory school argue that recognition is merely a declaration of the achieved fact of statehood. Recognition does not cause statehood; the state exists independent of its external recognition as such. Proponents of the minority constitutive school argue that recognition constitutes statehood. In other words, unless and until an actor exchanges mutual recognition with other states in the system, it is not a state. In this sense, recognition consecrates statehood for members of the international community. Proponents of the declaratory view decry its elevation of power politics at the expense of legal principles. Von Glahn 1992 is a general textbook on international law, and Menon 1994 provides a detailed analysis of the laws of recognition. Crawford 2006 exemplifies the declaratory perspective, while Oppenheim 1955 and Kelsen 1941 detail the constitutive view. Lauterpacht 1947 articulates a middle ground between the two extremes. These are all graduate-level works and are written in a specialized, technical manner.

  • Crawford, James. The Creation of States in International Law. 2d ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 2006.

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    Outlines and discusses the criteria for statehood international law. Author is a declaratory proponent, but also argues that the declaratory criteria ought to be reformed so that independence is emphasized. The second edition includes a wealth of new cases to consider, including Chechnya, Quebec, East Timor, Kosovo, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

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  • Kelsen, Hans. “Recognition in International Law: Theoretical Observations.” American Journal of International Law 35 (1941): 605–617.

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    Kelsen provides a compelling characterization of the constitutive perspective on recognition in international law, though he also criticizes the logic of the constitutive view.

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  • Lauterpacht, Hersch. Recognition in International Law. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1947.

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    Lauterpacht advocates a hybrid view of recognition and statehood, blending the basic constitutive model with the principled legal judgments of the declaratory school.

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  • Menon, P. K. The Law of International Recognition in International Law: Basic Principles. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1994.

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    An exhaustive analysis of the laws of recognition in particular. Menon details not only the laws regarding the recognition of statehood but also discusses the recognition of belligerency and insurgency and nonrecognition. Relevant to any study of statehood pursued by violent means. Probably the most accessible of the texts in this section.

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  • Oppenheim, Lassa. International Law: A Treatise. 8th ed. Edited by Hersch Lauterpacht. London: Longmans, 1955.

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    Oppenheim provides an important, if not definitive, analysis of international law. Particularly good discussion of the constitutive view of statehood.

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  • Von Glahn, Gerhard. Law among Nations. 6th ed. New York: Macmillan, 1992.

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    Introduction to public international law. Details the nature of legal personality (statehood) in international law and outlines the role that external recognition plays in securing personality.

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Comparative Practice

Best read as a complement to the theoretical camps outlined previously, the texts in this section all provide detailed comparative legal case studies of self-determination, secession, recognition, and statehood. Grant 1999 takes the next logical step in the declaratory versus constitutive debate and empirically tests them with case studies. Pavković and Radan 2007 surveys secessionist state emergence, the most common source of new states today. And finally, Raič 2002 follows the legal and normative trends among members of the international community regarding statehood.

  • Grant, Thomas D. The Recognition of States: Law and Practice in Debate and Evolution. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999.

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    Grant authoritatively surveys the theory and practice of recognition. After thoroughly summarizing the terms of the “once-great debate” between the constitutive and declaratory schools, Grant moves the debate forward, suggesting that the most important contemporary axes of contention concern whether (1) recognition is a political or a legal act, and (2) whether recognition ought to occur via a unilateral or a collective process. The cases are particularly noteworthy.

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  • Pavković, Aleksandar, and Peter Radan. Creating New States: Theory and Practice of Secession. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.

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    Specifically examining statehood emerging from secession, Pavković and Radan provide an introductory comparative analysis focused on the factors explaining variation in violence in secessionism. They use case studies to isolate factors that may predispose some attempts to secure independent statehood to violence. A great primer on the subject, as it blends case studies with theoretical insights from both politics and law.

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  • Raić, David. Statehood and the Law of Self-Determination. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2002.

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    In a vast macrohistorical sweep, Raić studies the changes in the meaning of statehood over time as interpreted by the international community. The author places particular emphasis on the emergent norm of self-determination and its influence on the outcome of various claims to statehood.

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Court Decisions

The following entries are formal court decisions, either domestic or international, on the issue of statehood and independence. As in the American (Texas v. White) and Canadian (Clarity Act) cases, most legal decisions regarding statehood occur within domestic courts. However, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) occasionally offers advisory opinions on international legal aspects of statehood. In 2010, the International Court of Justice concluded that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence was legal under international law. Earlier, in the Western Sahara case, the court determined that the Western Sahara was not terra nullius at the time of its colonization and that, while both Morocco and Mauritania shared legal ties with the territory, neither had sovereignty.

Critical Case Studies

The cases listed here represent expert opinions—both legal and scholarly—on the statehood of various aspiring states. Many more cases exist than those given. These cases were selected because they are prototypical examples or because they are politically relevant. Note that the authors use different criteria, and alternative interpretations of the same criteria, in making their judgments. The cases presented include Biafra (Ijalaye 1971); Chechnya (Tappe 1995); Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, and Nagorno-Karabakh (King 2001); Kosovo (Redman 2002); Somaliland (Schoiswohl 2004); Taiwan (Copper 2009); and Tibet (Sautman 2010 and Goldstein 1997).

  • Copper, John F. Taiwan: Nation-State or Province? 5th ed. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2009.

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    Copper provides a comprehensive introduction to the unique status of Taiwan, which is neither an independent state nor effectively under the control of the People’s Republic of China. The book is ideal for undergraduates and is organized similarly to a textbook.

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  • Goldstein, Melvyn C. The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

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    Goldstein, an anthropologist, provides a brief but thorough history of the relationship between China, Tibet, and its political and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. An excellent primer for those who have heard both sides of the Tibetan-statehood debate and would like more context. Unlike many advocacy pieces, the book takes a relatively unbiased approach. Good for undergraduate courses.

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  • Ijalaye, David A. “Was ‘Biafra’ at Any Time a State in International Law?” American Journal of International Law 65.3 (1971): 551–559.

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    Examining the evidence under both the declaratory and the constitutive theories of recognition and statehood, Ijalaye concludes that Biafra cannot be said to have been a state at any time. Although Biafra was recognized by five other states, those recognitions were premature; hostilities with Nigeria were still clearly ongoing.

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  • King, Charles. “The Benefits of Ethnic War: Understanding Eurasia’s Unrecognized States.” World Politics 53 (2001): 524–552.

    DOI: 10.1353/wp.2001.0017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Surveying the so-called frozen conflicts of Eurasia, King argues that the persistence of the status quo there—neither peace nor war, neither state nor subject—is because of the benefits it provides to both sides. A particularly thought-provoking article in light of the 2008 military conflict in Georgia and Russian recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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  • Kupchan, Charles A. “Independence for Kosovo: Yielding to Balkan Reality.” Foreign Affairs 84.6 (2005): 14–20.

    DOI: 10.2307/20031773Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Writing principally for a policy audience, Kupchan argues that Kosovo ought to be independent because independence is more pragmatic than attempting to merge Kosovo and Serbia back together. The realities on the ground are too compelling to ignore.

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  • Redman, Michael. “Should Kosovo Be Entitled to Statehood?” Political Quarterly 73 (2002): 338–343.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-923X.00474Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Writing in the early years of the international administration, Redman asks whether Kosovo ought to be granted statehood and whether it meets the standards of statehood established by international law. The author concludes that Kosovo only partially meets the requirements of statehood. However, state practice sometimes subordinates legal considerations to more pressing political and security concerns.

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  • Sautman, Barry. “Tibet’s Putative Statehood in International Law.” Chinese Journal of International Law 9.1 (2010): 127–142.

    DOI: 10.1093/chinesejil/jmq003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author argues that the oft-cited indicators of Tibetan statehood prior to Chinese rule are not compelling according to historical practice or law. Tibet cannot be said to have been an independent state. Best for advanced students and scholarly readers.

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  • Schoiswohl, Michael. Status and (Human Rights) Obligations of Non-Recognized and De Facto Regimes in International Law: The Case of Somaliland; The Resurrection of Somaliland against All International “Odds”—State Collapse, Secession, Non-Recognition, and Human Rights. Leiden, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 2004.

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    Schoiswohl does not study Somaliland’s statehood per se but its potential obligation to protect human rights within its territory given its nonrecognition. However, Part 1 of the book is dedicated to the effect of nonrecognition on Somaliland’s legal personality. In it, he concludes that Somaliland should be considered a state regardless of its lack of external legitimacy.

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  • Tappe, Trent N. “Chechnya and the State of Self-Determination in a Breakaway Region of the Former Soviet Union: Evaluating the Legitimacy of Secessionist Claims.” Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 34 (1995): 255–295.

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    Tappe evaluates the legitimacy of Chechnya’s demand for independent statehood with reference to the successful Lithuanian case. The author argues that in the Chechen case the international community erred on the side of caution and respect for sovereignty at the expense of principled judgment. He concludes that the Chechens are a “people” and have a conditional right to secession and self-determination.

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Variations in Statehood

Even among actors whose statehood is uncontroversial, the character of statehood and the extent to which states are able to exercise sovereignty vary widely. Some states are tiny, occasionally less than 100 square kilometers. Some have populations numbering only in the tens of thousands. Some states are unable or unwilling to control the territory and populations under their jurisdiction. In other cases, even relatively strong states have significantly reduced their sovereignty in response to economic globalization or ceded parts of their sovereignty to supranational authorities.

Microstates

Microstates are the smallest and least populous states in the international community. Typically, they have close relationships with their neighbors, including ceding sovereignty over some of their internal affairs. Eccardt 2005 introduces the casual reader to the benefits and pitfalls of microstatehood. Duursma 1996 explores the many difficulties that the world’s smallest states face when it comes to self-determination.

  • Duursma, Jorri. Fragmentation and the International Relations of Micro-States: Self-Determination and Statehood. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    In this scholarly legal text, Duursma analyzes self-determination and the problems attendant to statehood for five of the world’s microstates. The book’s strength lies in the case studies in its second part, where questions probing the veracity of microstatehood are answered.

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  • Eccardt, Thomas. Secrets of the Seven Smallest States of Europe: Andorra, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City. New York: Hippocrene Books, 2005.

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    A brief, engaging analysis of the realities of statehood in the European microstates. Eccardt begins by defining microstatus and explicating the benefits and limitations of sovereignty that go along with it. He then provides relatively detailed historical and socio-cultural analyses of each state. Accessible to all audiences, and particularly potential travelers.

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Weak States and Failed States

The experience of independent statehood in Africa has been markedly different than that in western Europe. Indeed, most of Africa’s states are only around fifty years old and were former colonies, and many were granted independence without the fundamental bases of sovereignty in place. The most important question for these young, weak, and contested states is whether or not stable and legitimate statehood can be built (or rebuilt), and, if so, what the best means of doing so is. Scholars’ opinions differ over the fundamental causes of failure and its likely solutions. For Bates 2008, skewed incentives and predatory leadership doom the state. For Herbst 2000, it is a more fundamental incompatibility between current boundaries and state power. Somewhat similarly, Clapham 1998 questions whether the state can ever be a viable institution in some parts of Africa. Herbst 2000 and Jackson 1990 argue that the international community is at least partially at fault. Rotberg 2004 brings together a collection of area experts to examine causes and solutions. Kaplan 1996, by a journalist, provides the most dystopian view based on the author’s on-the-ground observations in weak and failing states.

  • Bates, Robert H. When Things Fell Apart: State Failure in Late-Century Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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    Bates explores state failure in Africa in the late 20th century using game theory, quantitative analysis, and case examples. He argues that state revenues played a pivotal role in state collapse, prompting leaders to seek their own private gain instead of providing public goods. Predatory governance then led to political instability. And democratic reforms will not help to create stability within Africa’s failed states. Pitched at an expert audience.

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  • Clapham, Christopher. “Degrees of Statehood.” Review of International Studies 24 (1998): 143–157.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0260210598001430Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Clapham argues that rather than the question of statehood being a dichotomy, it is more accurately conceptualized by degrees of statehood. An Africanist, the author argues that in some parts of Africa, the current requisites of statehood may not be achievable, while in others there is surprising strength and resilience. The states on the continent demonstrate wide variation in their degree of statehood, which must be considered in theory and practice.

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  • Herbst, Jeffrey. States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

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    Herbst traces the problems of African statehood to the continent’s history and its economic and institutional development. He argues that the process that led to state consolidation in early modern Europe simply did not occur in most of Africa. One potential strategy toward the problem of state failure in Africa for outsiders is revoking recognition—withholding the benefits of international legitimacy until more legitimate institutions and governance take hold.

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  • Jackson, Robert H. Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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    Jackson observes that while juridical (de jure, negative) sovereignty in Africa is quite strong, empirical (de facto, positive) sovereignty tends to be relatively weak. It is not merely that these units fail to live up to the idealized state, but that they often lack one or more of its fundamental components. Better suited for experts than novices.

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  • Kaplan, Robert D. The Ends of the Earth: A Journey at the Dawn of the 21st Century. New York: Random House, 1996.

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    Kaplan, a journalist, travels to the ends of the earth, only occasionally finding much good to say about governance and government in the developing world. At the dawn of the 21st century, globalization is challenging both the lines on maps and national identities, creating porous borders with the spread of technology and transportation, fueling misguided development, creating overpopulation, and taxing the environment. Appropriate for all audiences.

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  • Rotberg, Robert I., ed. When States Fail: Causes and Consequences. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.

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    Rotberg and contributors explore the nature of state failure in the developing world, assessing what can be done to prevent failure and what can be done to fix states when they do collapse. Divided into sections on each topic, this volume brings together a wealth of area expertise, and Rotberg offers a compelling framework for analyzing failed states. Could be used in undergraduate or graduate seminars, in whole or in part.

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Post-Westphalian States

Many authors contend that sovereign statehood has changed to such an extent that international laws and practice need to be reformed to accommodate it. Schreuer 1993 notes sub- and supranational changes and recommends commensurate changes in international law. Paul, et al. 2003 and Lyons and Mastanduno 1995 examine whether challenges to the nation-state are occurring through the lens of political science. Wæver 1995 deals specifically with the European Union’s potential divergence from Westphalian statehood. Rosecrance 1999 and Strange 1996 offer economic perspectives on the changing nature of the state and sovereignty, the former in a popular format and the latter with a more scholarly bent.

  • Lyons, Gene M., and Michael Mastanduno, eds. Beyond Westphalia? State Sovereignty and International Intervention. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

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    The contributors consider whether an international community has emerged that is able to intervene and enforce international norms in sovereign states. A good text elaborating both sides of the argument about whether the nation-state is in decline and being replaced by something new. The authors conclude that statesmen are more willing to intervene in each other’s sovereign affairs, but that the international community cannot do so effectively. Accessible to most audiences.

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  • Paul, T. V., G. John Ikenberry, and John A. Hall, eds. The Nation State in Question. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.

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    The authors of this edited volume come together as a follow-up to the 1990s contention that the nation-state was under attack by globalization and supranationalism from above, and by nonstate actors and localism from below. They explore four primary themes related to statehood: national identity, state capacity, autonomy, and security. Detailed case studies by international experts fill each section.

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  • Rosecrance, Richard. The Rise of the Virtual State: Wealth and Power in the Coming Century. New York: Basic Books, 1999.

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    Focusing on economics and interdependence, Rosecrance argues that territory is becoming less significant for statehood. The globalization of trade makes territory and populations less worth fighting for and simultaneously raises the costs of violence to secure them. As virtual states become further dependent on one another, war will become less frequent. A quick, popular book addressing the changes underway for sovereign states.

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  • Schreuer, Christoph. “The Waning of the Sovereign State: Towards a New Paradigm for International Law?” European Journal of International Law 4 (1993): 447–471.

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    Owing to the international community’s diversity and the limitations of the law, Schreuer argues, reform is necessary. Using mostly examples from Europe, he argues that a more complex legal framework permitting a variety of actors’ participation should be considered.

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  • Strange, Susan. The Retreat of the State: The Diffusion of Power in the World Economy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    In a more scholarly treatment of the economics of globalization than Rosecrance 1999, Strange explores the workings of the global economy.

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  • Wæver, Ole. “Identity, Integration and Security: Solving the Sovereignty Puzzle in E.U. Studies.” Journal of International Affairs 48 (1995): 389–431.

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    The author begins by asserting that contests over whether the EU is postsovereign or whether the state-centric system has transformed are premature. Instead, he investigates whether EU practice seems pointed in those directions and whether this might ultimately lead to meaningful integration.

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A World State?

Although it has not yet occurred, one potentially interesting outcome of the increasing ties among states and supranational institutions is the creation of a world state (Wendt 2000) or, alternatively, world governance without centralized authority (Slaughter 2004). Lu 2006 provides an excellent discussion of the normative desirability of world government from a variety of philosophical and theoretical perspectives.

  • Lu, Catherine. World Government. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2008.

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    Offers a thorough philosophical analysis of the major political paradigms regarding world government. Is world government or global governance a normatively good idea? Can it be put into practice successfully? A great review essay. Best suited for those at the graduate level.

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  • Slaughter, Anne-Marie. A New World Order. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.

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    Slaughter sets out a pathway for creating a truly global law without creating centralized institutions, like a state, to enforce it. For many of the problems facing the international community, global governance is required, but the creation of a world government is not. Slaughter’s analysis, by a lawyer and political scientist in one, is best for intermediate audiences with some existing understanding of international institutions and policy networks.

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  • Wendt, Alexander. “Why a World State Is Inevitable.” European Journal of International Relations 9.4 (2003): 491–542.

    DOI: 10.1177/135406610394001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Taking a long-range view, Wendt argues that a global monopoly on the use of legitimate violence (one common definition of statehood) is inevitable.

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Alternatives to Statehood

Because statehood itself has a special place in political life, governments are keen to maintain their authority. As a result, special arrangements short of independence are sometimes made with minority groups, indigenous peoples, secessionists, or other geographically concentrated groups. Five important forms of shared sovereignty are condominium (Samuels 2007), autonomy (Hannum 1990), indigenous sovereignty (Duthu 2008, Anaya 2004), and commonwealth (MacCormick 1999). Finally, two studies of pre-statehood of a sort, Zaum 2007 and Wilde 2009, explore international administration and state building: Zaum from a political perspective and Wilde from a legal one. Each of the following readings is acceptable for use at an advanced undergraduate level, except Samuels 2007, Anaya 2004, and Wilde 2009, which are more scholarly.

  • Anaya, S. James. Indigenous Peoples in International Law. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    As the title suggests, the author surveys international legal developments with respect to indigenous peoples in international law. The text provides a strong, international complement to the analysis of the American case in Duthu 2008.

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  • Duthu, N. Bruce. American Indians and the Law. New York: Viking, 2008.

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    Duthu presents an exhaustive survey of law and policy with respect to Native American sovereignty in the United States. Writing from an advocate’s perspective, Duthu explores the limits of sovereignty for those who do not have statehood (American Indians) in their interactions with those that do (the American government).

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  • Hannum, Hurst. Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990.

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    Argues that there is an emergent right for minorities and indigenous peoples to exercise self-determination. Case studies include India and the Punjab, Northern Ireland, Hong Kong, the Basque country, and Catalonia.

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  • MacCormick, Neil. Questioning Sovereignty: Law, State, and Nation in the European Commonwealth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    A wide-ranging book about the United Kingdom, its relationship to the EU, the interrelations among its parts, and the various ways in which these relationships are transforming. Most appropriate for readers with basic knowledge of the system and its laws, as MacCormick is a legal theorist.

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  • Samuels, Joel H. “Condominium Arrangements in International Practice: Reviving an Abandoned Concept of Boundary Dispute Resolution.” Michigan Journal of International Law 29 (2007): 727–776.

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    Samuels advocates reviving the historical use of condominium arrangements, in which two or more states share sovereignty over the same territory, in order to reach durable settlements to disputes over borderlands.

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  • Wilde, Ralph. International Territorial Administration: How Trusteeship and the Civilizing Mission Never Went Away. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    Wilde argues that the civilizing mission inherent in the United Nations trustee system, created to help colonies transition to functional independence after World War II, is still apparent today in the international administrations (EU and UN) of Kosovo and East Timor. Calls into question whether self-determination is truly being achieved.

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  • Zaum, Dominik. The Sovereignty Paradox: The Norms and Politics of International Statebuilding. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    In cases of civil conflict, the international community sometimes intervenes to create order and stability. Zaum investigates the normative framework underlying the international community’s efforts at state building in these places. Cases of suspended sovereignty and international administration include Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and East Timor.

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LAST MODIFIED: 03/02/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199743292-0032

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