This essay presents an argument against Mathew Smiths position on the philosophical understanding of sovereignty. In his paper, the authors challenge dominant views on revolution and sovereignty, which are interlinked while seemingly distinct. The author challenges the notion that ‘there cannot be two sovereigns simultaneously governing a single territory; and (ii) that sovereignty is paradigmatically realized in centralized and hierarchical authority structures governing well-defined geographical territories’(pg. 405).
He proposes a politically decentralized global sovereign and a traditional centralized national sovereign simultaneously governing the population. This structure would enable the decentralized global sovereign to authorize a legal right to revolution if the national sovereign does not work in the interests of individual rights. He envisions political decentralization through distribution of authority from a single hierarchical institution that has the authority to decide all political questions to many institutions that have the authority to decide a specific domain of questions for the entire population (pg. 425-6). This implies many heterogenous institutions take decisions for the entire population in specialized domains, through consensual commitment to a juridical human rights regime, which would be the overarching framework that facilitates integration of these institutional decisions.
The author names organizations such as the United Nations (UN), WTO, WHO, and many others as probable candidates to become these decentralized global sovereigns in disparate domains. His view is that this kind of global decision making would not be tantamount to encroachment on national sovereignty, but should rather be viewed as a compromise of autonomy with respect to a restricted domain.
My first argument to counter this line of thinking is that it has been shown time and again that decentralization of any kind has not necessarily led to betterment either in the form of improved government efficiency or better governance. Decentralization could affect political and economic issues such as equitable distribution of resources, macroeconomic performance, the development of social capital, and cause a trade-off between efficiency and accountability.
The second argument is with regards to the overarching judicial framework. ‘Human rights’ is contentious at best and very political and is seen as analogous to law. The overarching judicial framework would itself be subject to constant evolution with changing times. The principles underlying “universality” is subject to interpretation, as economic superpowers, or the “Western:” view would push the contemporary liberal European construct of society. This might not be the best solution for the developing countries. National sovereigns might align human rights with broader geopolitical priorities, undermining the construct of global decentralization bound by a judicial framework aligned to human rights.
In conclusion, the view proposed by Smith might be a weak defense based on the idea of re-packaging an existing inefficient system in a new form with more complexity and less accountability at all levels.