From the historic continental United States of America to the savannah lands of Africa through the oil regions of the Middle East to the Asian and Russian peninsula, the European Westphalia state system has become one of the dominant political systems that have taken shape across international society. It has been a central model that that can accommodate only the ‘real state; hierarchical, coercive, and sovereign’ but not federal or decentralized states.  Peter Strick interpreted the Westphalia state system as a product of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century realpolitik and nationalism.


Treaty of Munster1

Historically, Jessica Shadian puts the Westphalia State system as the construction of a political system where political identification became subsumed under jurisdiction of the state and accompanying territorial boundaries, with national identity and national movements for self-determination as fundamental pillars of statehood. The defeat of the British Empire in the American war of independence and the emergence of the United States of America (USA) as a sovereign state provides a parsimonious explanation along those paradigms. “The European expansion into the rest of the world, had by no means reached its climax when its second stage, decolonization, began in the second half of the eighteen century, with the assertion of independence by European settler states in the Americas.” Proliferation of independent states across Latin America and most of Africa in the 19th and 20th century was therefore no historical accident. The emergence of states across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East was evidence of the Westphalia state system epitomizing global governance. How that has strengthened the role of the state as primary actors across the international stage was therefore no hidden agenda. The future of the world has since then been shaped by the European state system across economical, political and social parables. By the end of the 19th century, it became clear that a reversal in the creation of the state system was unlikely.

With the proliferation of the state system, the principle of sovereignty took shape as a deeply rooted international doctrine calling for non-interference in the internal affairs of states. However, this doctrine has come under increasing scholarly debate, largely as a result of globalization and interdependence, nuclear-non-proliferation, security, survival and rising nationalism. These factors brought to light compelling realities of the changing nature of sovereignty across the global political spectrum. The question has sovereignty eroded, therefore took shape as a contentious debate for modern scholars of international affairs.

This paper questions sovereignty in two broad perspectives. In the first perspective, I looked at how globalization and economic interdependence have become the borderless source responsible for the contingent maneuvering of states with sovereignty. This section looks at how the single global capitalist economic system, the free global market economy, non-governmental organizations and Multinational cooperation are forcing states to either retreat or sharing power in the contemporary world. In the second part of the paper, I look at a resurging state authority or prominence in the global political landscape with specific examples on nuclear proliferation and rising nationalism for reasons of security and survival. This section specifically looks at the United States (US) military interventions in Iraq, Iran’s nuclear conundrum, and rising nationalism in Venezuela and the European Union (EU) with specific examples on the United Kingdom (UK) and Sweden. I then introduced my findings in a theoretical and empirical implication on the contested doctrine of sovereignty. This gives a pathway for further scholarly research as international politics continues paddling along unknown horizons.  I first start with a theoretical and literature review on the doctrine of sovereignty.


Published in Journal of Global Analysis (JGA) Vol. 3  No. 1