Sovereign Paradox

Free «Sovereign Paradox» Essay Sample


To start with, it has to be assumed that at the center of the rule of law in democratic societies stands the sovereign paradox.  A number of researchers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Carl Schmitt, Franz Kafka, and Giorgio Agamben accepted the fact that the rule of law has its place within the democratic state, which emphasizes the sovereign power. The rule of law is usually formed through practicing sovereignty. Historically, sovereignty was the organizing principle. This notion presupposes putting the primary emphasis on the decision made by powerful authorities. For a long time, it has been a source of power and monopolistic violence. It was marked by the paradox since, despite the fact that power was outside the law, it demanded total compliance and stated that nothing could be outside the law. This paradox was the major source of misunderstanding and resulted in law violations conducted by the ruling power. In the course of time, the situation has changed, and sovereignty was influenced by bargains and coercion. This work aims at understanding the gist of the sovereign paradox and explaining it with the help of bargaining and coercion.

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Paradox of Sovereignty

To understand the role of the sovereignty paradox in politics, it has to be discussed in detail. The gist of this paradox is the transformation of the effect into the cause. This transformation has resulted in the change of an individuals’ place in society as some people found themselves above the law. It means that the power defines the people’s place within the society before the introduction of regulations, which confirm the rightfulness of this decision. Sovereign paradox presupposes the occurrence of the policy of self-rule, which is nourished by the spirit. The sovereignty obtains the monopoly of absolute decisions, and, in this way, stands on the border of law and life, which is essential. Sovereignty is located simultaneously inside and outside the law. On the one hand, the sovereign actions are marked by the power of law, and, on the other hand, this power is manifested outside the law. Thus, it is the gist of this paradox. Researcher Pusterla discusses this issue and points out, “At this point, the very essential definition of sovereignty starts to clearly appear. Sovereignty is not literally a decision on the state of exception yet, as in Schmitt’s well-known definition, but a promise of a decision on the state of exception” (92).

It has to be admitted that sovereignty provides credibility to all the actions even despite the fact that these actions may violate of the law. The paradox here is hidden in the fact that sovereignty is the temporal perspective with longitudinal timeline (Pusterla 92). In such a way, despite hat theoretically, sovereignty is supposed to bring peace to society, the increased powers obtained by the representatives of higher authorities, who find themselves on behalf of the sovereign democratic state, might result in anarchy. Sovereignty, which is aimed at preventing the violation of laws, becomes the source of the law violation. At the first sight, it seems to be a tautology. However, an accurate consideration of the situation reveals the gist of the paradox of sovereignty.

One of the first researchers who made an attempt to investigate this issue was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Moreover, he even tried to solve this paradox. He assumed that the provision of sovereignty could be possible through the appointment of a wise legislator who would “imbue people with the spirit of self-rule before they begin to rule themselves” (Calarco 24). In general, such a position might be useful if efficiently applied. However, the major problem in this particular case lies in the fact that it is impossible to accomplish in practice. When the masses are not inspired by the mutual feeling of community, the written constitution will be unable to guide the unpredictable circumstances.

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Giorgio Agamben was another researcher who clearly understood the paradox related to the issue of sovereignty. Agamben emphasized that fact that the state required the final authority to solve the legal issues with the help of pagan logic.  In Agamben’s viewpoint, sovereignty allows the supreme power to “annihilate a whole minority in the name of national unity” (Calarco 27). While discussing the practical manifestation of the Agamben’s viewpoint, the German Nazi policy has to be mentioned as a bright example. Nazis considered that their atrocities and judicial violations were conducted rightfully. They were ruled by the officials who only took into account their personal viewpoint. Their word was the law, and they neglected the fact that their law was a crime in the eyes of the international community. Their rule was marked by their anarchy. In that particular case, sovereignty and anarchy were two sides of one coin. In his ideas, Agamben considered the idea of sacred and stated that sovereignty and sacred where historically united aspects.

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Nowadays, the issue of sovereign paradox is closely connected to bargaining and coercion. These tools have transformed its gist meaning and effect.

Bargaining in the Light of Sovereign Paradox

With the course of time, it was understood that less power for one group of individuals results in more power for the other. Thus, to achieve the maximal efficiency in politics, the political bargains were introduced to ensure useful and efficient cooperation. It has to be emphasized that bargains presuppose sticking to the universal laws and regulations voluntarily. People obtain the desire to follow the rules due to the sense of respect and moral acceptance of the proposed jurisdiction. Bargains are generally marked by positive connotations since people appreciate them and consider compliance with its regulations and their civil duty.

Constitutions have become the bargains nowadays. Stephen Holmes admits in his work that even the kings understood the archenemies of constitutionalism (115). Constitutions have become the sources that grant the freedoms and powers to all the individuals. Modern times have led to the occurrence of a new paradox, which presupposes that abandonment of the sovereign right finally leads to the effective global community formation. Bargains play the groundbreaking role in this process since they determine the rights and legacies and create equality. The main effect of the bargains on the sovereignty is that local citizens stop being powerless. The bargains take into account the interests of all the individuals but not particular officials and result in the occurrence of significant benefits.

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Nowadays, bargains transform the role of sovereignty. Douglas Roche emphasizes that sovereignty performs a vital function as it exists in the form of sovereignty bargains, which contribute to disarmament, social development and environmental protection (73). Rey Kolowski ads that sovereign paradox today alters into sovereignty bargains, which apply the voluntary limitations for certain benefits with the trade-offs as an example (100). Kolowski also emphasizes the fact that these bargains assisted in increasing the border management and resulted in the creation of innovative secure and “semiamalgamated community” (100). It has to be emphasized that under the rule of bargains, the benefits significantly exceed their cost.

Coercion and Sovereign Paradox

To start with, it has to be stated that coercion results in an emphasizing on the safeguarding the freedom of a man. The law presupposes coercion of the wishes and desires of an individual, and, for that reason, it leads towards the violation of human freedom. Kant emphasized the negative role of coercion on the human performance and stated that it is appropriate only in case when it was a necessary condition for the civilization.

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Sovereignty presupposes sticking to the rules initiated by the higher authorities. Thus, coercion might be perceived as one of its compounds, and it makes people legally abide to the lawful regulations. Reiss stated that coercion, which is exercised in accordance to the universal principle, is the law (Kant and Reiss 21).

Also, it has to be stated that coercion has much in common with sovereignty, and it partially explains the occurrence of sovereign paradox. Researchers Sammadar and Sen discuss it and mention the following:

The paradox consists of the asymmetrical relation between domination and hegemony- one would require coercion, and the other would call for techniques of persuasion, in particular social legislation and social jurisprudence, who aim will be to produce the consensus needed to make persuasion successful (272).

The relation of the coercion to the sovereign paradox lies in the fact that it presupposes dealing with the methods that are not favored by the society. Coercion can be compared to forcing an individual to stick to laws and regulations. Although it results in compliance, it is marked by the use of threats, and such methods are morally unjustified.

Comparing and Contrasting Bargaining and Coercion

Both bargaining and coercion have the same goals. They require sticking to the existing legal regulations to achieve the efficient and peaceful functioning of the community. This feature is inherent in both tools.

Another common aspect is the provision of the legal rights to all the individuals. The theme of equality unites these two notions. However, at the same time, there is a peculiarity that makes bargaining and coercion entirely different. It is the attitude. Coercion is often perceived as an infringement of human freedom whereas bargaining is considered by people as a tool that brings the mutually advantageous adjustment. Bargains can be viewed as the set of mutually efficient and convenient compromises, which appear as a natural desideratum.  In the light of sovereign paradox, the bargains come as measures that help to solve the existing problematic issues that are omnipresent.

The difference between coercion and bargaining lies in the fact that bargaining limits sovereignty and results in a more efficient distribution of power and increased level of satisfaction among the vast majority of people. In the case of coercion, the situation is drastically different. It is often considered to be part of sovereignty and forced attempts to make the individuals follow the law.

Another common feature that unites coercion and bargain is compliance. Both notions if applied result in individuals’ compliance with the existing rules and laws provided by the higher authorities. However, the difference here is the nature of this compliance it and the issue of morality being related. In the case of bargaining, the compliance is voluntary, based on the sense of obligation, which arises from the feeling of acceptance and respect for the authority. In coercion, compliance is achieved as a result of force application. People stick to the laws involuntarily based on fear of possible side-effects or consequences of the laws’ violation. This method of making people abide by the law is efficient, however, immoral. Moreover, it raises the human desire to oppose.


In conclusion, in the course of history, sovereignty has resulted in the increased use of power by the authorities. As a result, there occurred a paradox since, by its nature; sovereignty is supposed to apply to the whole society, as well as its separate units. However, it has been observed that when a particular ruler comes to power, there occurs the sovereignty paradox since the power or ruling sources are represented inside and outside the law. The authorities begin to declare that they are sovereign and above the law, however, at the same time, stating that nothing can be outside the law. It resulted in the provision of the higher officials with unlimited possibilities, which negatively affected the lives of the ordinary people. The coercion and bargains became the tools which resulted in actions’ restrictions (these were the things, which the individuals were obliged to do in order to stick to the regulations and laws accepted by the community) and brought equal rights to all the citizens of the society. Their main benefit was that they transformed the meaning of sovereignty and applied it for the well-being of the nations. There appeared the new notions, such as sovereign bargains, which resulted in the improvement of the general conditions of the separate groups and individuals within the society.

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Coercion has boosted people to follow the rules and increased the fear of the consequences coming from law violation. In general, these tools have resulted in the normalization of societal attitudes towards the politics and formation of equality among the citizens. However, bargains were marked by the positive attitude as these included the connotations of persuasion and warning, whereas coercion has been considered as the violation of individual’s freedom due to the necessity to conduct the non-willful actions.


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