Defining State Sovereignty Essay

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State sovereignty is a broad concept…it is actually a two-in-one concept – state and sovereignty. In order to get a proper meaning of the concept I will therefore break it up and define each concept separately. I will start by defining state which in simple language means a community of people living together in a confined territory with an internally and externally recognized institution to protect them.
Sovereignty on its part can be defined as externally recognized right and freedom of a state (the unit of analysis of sovereignty) to conduct its affairs. Sovereignty provides the state with territorial integrity and enables it to enjoy recognition in the international politics.
If we now join the two
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The latter is considered as the first formal step towards the establishment of a sovereign state system (Biersteker and Weber 1996, pp 86).
In the middle age, sovereignty was compounded in various layers of suzerainty. There was no distinction between internal and external realms but a complex system of overlapping hierarchies (ibid). During that period (medieval) princes, kings and emperors had acknowledged a higher authority than themselves in the form of God – the ‘King of Kings’ – and the Papacy (Heywood, 2004, pp90).
Moreover, authority was divided between spiritual and temporal sources of authority. However, as feudalism faded in the 15th and 16th centuries, dynasty emerged and replaced transnational institutions such as the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire and for the first time secular rulers were able to claim to exercise supreme power… and this was done in new language of sovereignty (ibid).
The Treaty of Westphalia (1648) which marked the end of the Thirty -Years War (1618–1648) in the Holy Roman Empire, and the 80 Years War (1568–1648) between Spain and the Dutch Republic thus outlined the tenets of sovereignty and equality and marked the epoch of sovereign nation-state.
Since the late 19th century, almost the entire world's inhabitable land has been divided into areas with distinct boundaries claimed by various states. This

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