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Sovereignty and the New Executive Authority$
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Claire Finkelstein and Michael Skerker

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190922542

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190922542.001.0001

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Sovereignty and Executive Power

Sovereignty and Executive Power

(p.85) 5 Sovereignty and Executive Power
Sovereignty and the New Executive Authority

Christopher W. Morris

Oxford University Press

States claim sovereignty, that is, to be the ultimate source of political authority in their realm. The classical conception of sovereignty defended by early modern thinkers such as Hobbes and Rousseau would give the sovereign extraordinary powers, the authority to rule on just about any matter concerning its subjects and territory. Few today defend this classical conception of sovereignty as unconstrained authority; most everyone thinks that the powers of the state are constrained and limited. Constrained states can still be very powerful, and today many argue that the power of the executive branch of government, in particular, ought to be less constrained than it is thought to be. This chapter argues that the concept of the sovereignty of the state, whether understood in a classical way or as limited, gives little support to those who argue that the executive branch ought to be relatively unconstrained in the realm of security and foreign affairs. The doctrine of the sovereignty of the state does not single out any branch of government for distinctive powers. While there may be reasons intrinsic to sovereignty to attribute greater powers to states, these reasons don’t privilege the executive branch of government. Our executive branches are not sovereigns.

Keywords:   Hobbes, Rousseau, authority, sovereignty, executive branch

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