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Sovereignty

  • By: Zachary N. Schulman
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

As a general term, sovereignty can be defined as the absolute authority of a state within its territory. As a theoretical construct, “sovereignty” can be deconstructed into two major components: (1) a state's self-perceived, inalienable right to universal authority, particularly the use of force within its boundaries, and (2) the recognition of such authority and boundaries by the international community. Because sovereignty encompasses the most basic quality of a state—the right to exist—concepts of and conflicts over sovereignty have fundamental implications for international law. Sovereignty is also intrinsically geographic by the nature of its definition; it is contingent on geography not only for determining the literal extent of state power but also for providing the geopolitical context in which states exercise their sovereignty.

However, sovereignty can ...

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