Sovereignty, RIP


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Don Herzog

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Has the concept of sovereignty outlived its usefulness?

SSocial order requires a sovereign: an actor with unlimited, undivided, and unaccountable authority. Or so the classic theory says. But without noticing, we’ve gutted the theory. Constitutionalism limits state authority. Federalism divides it. The rule of law holds it accountable. In vivid historical detail—with millions tortured and slaughtered in Europe, a king put on trial for his life, journalists groaning at idiotic complaints about the League of Nations, and much more—Don Herzog charts both the political struggles that forged sovereignty and the ones that undid it. He argues that it’s no longer a helpful guide to our legal and political problems, but a pernicious bit of confusion. It’s time, past time, to retire sovereignty.

Don Herzog is the Edson R. Sunderland Professor of Law at the University of Michigan. His many books include Defaming the Dead, Household Politics, and Cunning.

“In his characteristically bravura style, Don Herzog combines history, logic, and withering wit to argue not just that we’ve gotten sovereignty wrong all these years, but that the very idea has passed its expiration date. Sovereignty, RIP is poised to upend the conversation about one of the key terms of modern political life.”—Sophia Rosenfeld, author of Democracy and Truth: A Short History

"Don Herzog has written a brilliant book that we all must read immediately. He demonstrates in clear, precise, and witty prose, chock-full of telling historical examples, that the notion of sovereignty as unlimited, undivided, and unaccountable is long past its sell-by date and has become 'a threat to social order.'"—Steven Pincus, University of Chicago

“An extraordinary new book....Tackling an immensely important subject, Herzog writes with a mordant wit that makes its pages fly by. He has a flair for telling quotations that illustrate exactly what is at stake.”—Sanford Levinson, Balkinization

“Don Herzog obliterates the ‘classic theory of sovereignty’—the view that ‘every political community must have a locus of authority that is unlimited, undivided, and unaccountable to any higher authority.’ And he does so in a thoroughly enjoyable way, with deep learning worn lightly and conveyed with enormous wit. Never has a serious book of political theory been so much fun to read.”—Jack Goldsmith, EJIL: Talk!–Blog of the European Journal of International Law

“Herzog’s book is a hair-raiser of a read, especially in light of the last four years of headlines.... Despite all the blood, as Herzog narrates in his wonderfully but grimly memorable way, the affection for sovereignty theory and practice has retained believers.... Since brain-teasers are worthwhile, and the book is a great read, providing little primers on history and bloodshed along with plenty of pedagogical oomph, it is a gift to readers.”—Mae Kuykendall,
ISBN: 9780300247725
Publication Date: April 21, 2020
320 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
Household Politics

Conflict in Early Modern England

Don Herzog

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