Juridical State Sovereignty: A Futile Search for Regular or Regulated State Behavior

  • Ersun N. Kurtulus


In the sphere of international relations, some political entities are endowed with specific prerogatives and responsibilities that are connected to juridical sovereignty,1 while such a position is denied to others, sometimes even after decades of intense, more or less successful struggles. What is the immediate factor that distinguishes these two groups of entities, that draws, as a matter of actual legal fact rather than of pure normative right, the demarcation line between the privileged and the debarred, the member and the outsider, the enfranchised and the disentitled? In the writings of international lawyers and political scientists it is possible to identify three types of answers to this question: two of these refer to endogenous features, to constitutional independence and empirical attributes of statehood, respectively, while the third points to an exogenous factor, namely, recognition as a state by other states, as the determinant of sovereign legal status. In what follows, these explanations will be explored in some detail and with reference to classic monographs, contemporary studies, and modern textbooks. As it shall be seen in due course, apart from a sheer correlation between recognition as a state and sovereign legal status, none of these explanations provide a satisfactory answer to the question under investigation. In the sphere of international relations, it is not possible to identify any regular or regulated state practice that would warrant the claim that any of these factors causes acquisition of juridical state sovereignty.


Malaysia Alan Preven Angola 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Alan James, Sovereign Statehood-The Basis of International Society (London: Allen & Unwin Publishers Ltd., 1986) p.203.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    W. J. Rees, “The Theory of Sovereignty Restated,” in Peter Laslett (ed.), Philosophy, Politics and Society (Oxford: Basil Blackwell & Mott Limited, 1956) p. 57.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Joseph A. Camilleri and Jim Falk, The End of Sovereignty?—The Politics of Shrinking and Fragmenting World (Aldershot, Vermont: Edward Elger Publishing Limited, 1992) p. 22.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Cf. John Hoffman, Sovereignty (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1998) pp. 28–29.Google Scholar
  5. David Long, “Book Review of ‘Sovereign Statehood—The Basis of International Society’” Journal of International Studies (Vol.16, No.2 Summer 1987) p. 386.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    See Ibid., p.270. See also Alan James, “The Practice of Sovereign Statehood in Contemporary International Society,” in Robert Jackson (ed.), Political Studies—Sovereignty at the Millennium (Vol.47, No.3 Special Issue 1999) p. 466.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Cf. Malcom Shaw, Title to Territory in Africa-International Legal Issues (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986) p. 168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 14.
    This, for instance, seems to be the case at least in sub-Saharan Africa during the decolonization of that continent. Robert H. Jackson, “Juridical Statehood in Sub-Saharan Africa,” in Journal of International Affairs (Vol. 46, No. 1 1992) pp. 4–5.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    Ian Brownlie, Principles of Public International Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, Fourth edition, 1990) p. 58.Google Scholar
  10. 23.
    William Edward Hall, A Treatise on International Law, edited by A. Pearce Higgins (Oxford: Clarendon Press, Eighth edition, 1924) pp. 19–20.Google Scholar
  11. 26.
    James Leslie Brierly, The Law of Nations An Introduction to the International Law of Peace, edited by Sir Humphrey Waldock (Oxford: Clarendon Press, Sixth edition, 1963) p. 162.Google Scholar
  12. 29.
    Cf. Louis Henkin, International Law: Politics and Values (Dordrecht, Boston, and London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1995) p. 14.Google Scholar
  13. See also J. Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law, p. 119 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979).Google Scholar
  14. and D. P. O’Connell, “The Status of Formosa and the Chinese Recognition Problem,” in The American Journal of International Law (Vol. 50 1956) p. 415.Google Scholar
  15. 31.
    See Mary C. Turnbull, A History of Malaysia Singapore and Brunei (Sydney, London, Boston Wellington: Allen & Unwin Inc., 1989) p. 259.Google Scholar
  16. Richard Clutterbuch, Conflict and Violence in Singapore and Malaysia 1945–1983 (Singapore: Graham Brash [Pte] Ltd., 1984) pp. 282–284.Google Scholar
  17. For a differing view see Chan Hen Chee, “Political Developments, 1965–1979,” in Ernest C. T. Chew and Edwin Lee (eds.), A History of Singapore (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1991) p. 157.Google Scholar
  18. 34.
    Jackson and Rosberg, “Why Africa’s Weak States Persist: The Empirical and Juridical in Statehood,” in World Politics (Vol.35 1982) p.12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 47.
    Janice E. Thomson, “State Sovereignty in International Relations: Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Empirical Research,” in International Studies Quarterly (Vol. 39, No. 2 1995) p. 219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 48.
    Richard K. Ashley, “The Poverty of Neorealism,” in International Organization (Vol.38 1984), p.272, footnote 101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 50.
    Murray Forsyth, Union of States-The Theory and Practice of Confederation (New York: Leicester University Press, 1981) p. 11.Google Scholar
  22. See also Paul Taylor, “The United Nations in the 1990s: Proactive Cosmopolitanism and the Issue of Sovereignty,” in Robert Jackson (ed.), Political Studies-Sovereignty at the Millennium (Vol.47. No.3 Special Issue 1999) p. 558.Google Scholar
  23. Thomas M. Franck, The Power of Legitimacy Among Nations (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990) p. 112.Google Scholar
  24. Stephen D. Krasner, Sovereignty-Organized Hypocrisy (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1999) pp.14–20 and passim.Google Scholar
  25. 51.
    Lassa Oppenheim, International Law -A Treatise, edited by H. Lauterpacht (London, New York, and Toronto: Longmans, Green and Co., Eighth edition, 1955) p. 286.Google Scholar
  26. 53.
    Georg Schwarzenberger, A Manual of International Law (Abingdon: Professional Books Ltd., Sixth edition, 1976) pp.7, 35–36, 52, and 56.Google Scholar
  27. 55.
    See Hans Kelsen, Principles of International Law revised and edited by Robert W. Tucker (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., Second edition, 1967) p.249; for Kelsen’s reservations as regards sovereignty see ibid., pp.194 and 243–250.Google Scholar
  28. 65.
    Herbert W. Briggs, “Recognition of States: Some Reflections on Doctrine and Practice,” in The American Journal of International Law (Vol. 43 1949), pp. 118–119.Google Scholar
  29. E. J. Cohn, “Book Review of ‘Recognition in International Law,’” in The Law Quarterly Review (Vol. 64, No. 255 1948), pp. 406–407.Google Scholar
  30. 77.
    Stephen D. Krasner, Sovereignty—Orgnanised Hypocrisy (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1999) pp.5–6, 70–71, and passim.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ersun N. Kurtulus 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ersun N. Kurtulus

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations