Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Power determines the ruler from the ruled, strong versus weak, or dominant versus suppressed. Power exists in almost all species, and humans are no exception. Power is often dictated by strength. Teleologically, strength as power enhances the species. The strongest male lion mates with all the females of the region. The offspring should be stronger. Through the middle ages it was similar in many human societies: they were ruled by the strong. However, what happens if the strongest lion is not very smart at finding food or water for his pride. Perhaps his strength codes genetically with the fatal flaw that wipes out the entire group. 

Similarly, sovereign nations exist in many forms. Granting sovereignty does not confer success or failure upon a nation. There is nothing inherently good or bad about the concept of sovereignty. Sovereignty implies a social order that allows for independent government. How one grades the success of sovereignty, as a concept, is open for discussion. Many nations, granted sovereignty, have performed atrocities on a grand scale. 

Finally, the results of nation-building have been very mixed. Colonial Great Britain divided up a large part of the world and artificially declared boundaries and sovereignty upon nations over the past two centuries. People who had nothing in common, and who did want to live together, were bound as one sovereign nation. The results have led to numerous civil wars, genocide, and other horrible atrocities. Granting these nations sovereignty did little to help the people living within their confines and harmed many. 


Virginia Beasley said...

My comment regards the last paragraph in this blog post. It is extremely true that the granting of sovereignty to many nations, especially in places such as Africa has led to many atrocities. However, the idea of sovereignty itself is not what should be blamed in these cases. It is the way sovereignty was "given" to these people in a cut and run fashion after the country had been sliced up in ways only beneficial to the European overlords. Sovereignty needs to be self determined, and not forced on people for it to be valid and successful in a country. An example of this is Nigeria. Nigeria has many ethnic groups that were forced together and told they had to somehow make themselves a sovereign nation. It is hard for these groups, with cumulative cleavages of religion, ethnic groups etc to have a sense of nationality when the only real cross cutting cleavage is desire for profits from oil. These many groups, the three main ones being the Hausa-Fulani, the Igbo, and the Yoruba, live in separate regions of the country and would be very happy to separate from each other if that didn't mean they would be cut off from the oil producing sections of the country. This is a sovereign nation, but one forced to be this way, and it simply does not work unless it is self determined.

Paul Bendor-Samuel said...

Could you define power and strength? I found their meanings somewhat ambiguous in the first paragraph. You say that sovereignty is neither inherently good nor bad. I would agree with you there, but I would ask the question as to whether or not sovereign countries are a good thing for the rest of the world. Having many different sovereign countries allows for continued war since many of those countries have competing interests, and will strive to satisfy their interests.