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Chapter: 11th Political Science : Chapter 3 : Basic Concepts of Political Science


Do you think you are powerful? How do you know you are powerful? But, you can say your country is powerful.



Let us discuss about Sovereignty

Do you think you are powerful? How do you know you are powerful? But, you can say your country is powerful. Do you know how? It is because we are a sovereign nation.

Sovereignty, the term has been derived from the Latin word ‘superanus’ which means supreme or paramount. Roman jurist and the civilians during the middle ages employed the term ‘summa’ potestas and ‘Plenitude potestas’ to designate the supreme power of the state. In political science the use of the term ‘sovereignty’ dates back to the publication of Bodin’s ‘The Republic’ in 1576.

The stability of a nation depends on the supremacy of the sovereignty the nation enjoys. Sovereignty as a concept represents the legal supremacy of the state. Constitution lays down rules and laws of the state and the constitution of the state is just the representation of the sovereignty. The word sovereign in the preamble of the constitution of India means that the state has the power to legislate on any subjects in conformity with constitutional limitations.

What is sovereignty?

“Sovereignty is the absolute and perpetual power of the state. that is, the greatest power to command.”- Jean Bodin


We shall now study the characteristics of Sovereignty. What are they?


1. Permanence

The chief characteristic of sovereignty is permanence. Sovereignty lasts as long as the state lasts. The death of the king or the overthrow of the government does not affect sovereignty. Hence, the people of England say ‘King is dead, Long live the king’.

2. Exclusiveness

Exclusiveness here implies that there cannot be two sovereign in one independent state and if it exists the unity of the state will be destroyed.

3. All comprehensiveness

Every individual and every association of the individual is subject to the sovereignty of the state. However rich or powerful association or group may be, it cannot resist or disobey the sovereign authority.

4. Inalienability

Sovereignty is the life and soul of the state and it cannot be alienated without destroying the state itself.

5. Unity and Everlasting

The spirit of sovereignty lies in its unity. Sovereignty is not bound by time and lasts until the state lasts.

6. Indivisibility

Indivisibility is the life line of sovereignty.

7. Absoluteness

Sovereignty is unconditional and unlimited. Sovereignty is beyond obedience and it is entitled to do whatever it likes.

8. Originality

Sovereignty wields power by virtue of its own right and not by anybody’s mercy.


What are the two aspects of Sovereignty?


Internal sovereignty: An assembly of people in every independent state has the final legal authority to command and enforce obedience. This sovereignty exercises its absolute authority over all individuals or associations of the individuals in the state.


External sovereignty: In simple terms external sovereignty means National Freedom. Every state enjoys absolute liberty to determine its foreign policy and join any power block it likes. External sovereignty implies that every state is independent of other states.

Types of Sovereignty


De-facto sovereignty

De-facto sovereign is one who has no legal claim to sovereignty but possesses it in fact and exercises necessary force to make and enfore its laws.


De-jure sovereignty

De-jure sovereign is one who has a legal claim to sovereignty but does not possess it in fact.


Here is an interesting piece of information!

Napoleon became the de facto sovereign after he had over thrown the directory. Franco became the de facto sovereign after he had dislodged the legal sovereign in Spain after Mussolini’s black shirt march on October 28, 1922. Mussolini became the prime minister in the legal manner. He ruled the parliament and ruled the country through parliament. Parliament remained the legal sovereign but he was the actual or de facto sovereign. Hitler also did the same in Germany. He controlled the legal sovereign and became the de facto sovereign.


For three decades, Stalin remained the actual sovereign in USSR. Military coup in Pakistan by Ayub reflects de facto sovereign. In 1977 when Zia-Ul-Haq over threw Bhutto, first he became de facto and later de jure sovereign. At times it happens that the de facto and de jure sovereignty ultimately coincide. Communist Government in Soviet Union became the de facto Government of the successful Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. But in course of time, it became the de jure government also.


What is Pluralism?

Pluralism is a powerful protest against the monistic theory of sovereignty, which endows the state with supreme and unlimited power. The pluralistic theory originated in the writings of Otto V. Gierke. The pluralist challenges the claims of the state to supremacy on the ground that the society consists of many associations and the state is one among them. Hence, the state cannot be endowed with sovereign power of the community. There exists many social, political, cultural and economic institutions in society and many of these institutions are prior to the state. For example, Family and church are prior to the state.

Exponents of pluralist theory

v Harold J. Laski

v J.N. Figgis

v Ernest Barker

v G.H Cole

v Maciver


The dawn of pluralist theory

In democracy, the authority of the ruler is confined, the cabinet becomes more powerful but the state remains sovereign and supreme. With the advent of the welfare state there came a rapid increase in the functions of the state and there remained no sphere of  life with which the state did not interfere, the sovereign and the supreme state also faced revolt and reaction. This reaction against the sovereign and supreme state resulted into the dawn of pluralism.


Is Pluralism important?

v  Pluralism upholds the importance of associations and claim more autonomy for it.

v  For democracy to flourish the sovereign state must not be subject to any legal authority.

v  Division of sovereignty leads to the destruction of sovereignty and in the absence of sovereignty, anarchy will prevail in society.


What are the criticisms for Pluralism?

v  Itis the Sovereign state that brings about unity and regulates all the associations existing in society.

v  Laws are framed by the state unlike the belief of pluralist.

v  State is needed for protecting people from the excess of associations.

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