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Sovereignty and the LawDomestic, European and International Perspectives$
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Richard Rawlings, Peter Leyland, and Alison Young

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199684069

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199684069.001.0001

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‘A Sort of Farewell’: Sovereignty, Transition, and Devolution in the United Kingdom

‘A Sort of Farewell’: Sovereignty, Transition, and Devolution in the United Kingdom

(p.120) 8 ‘A Sort of Farewell’: Sovereignty, Transition, and Devolution in the United Kingdom
Sovereignty and the Law

John Morison

Oxford University Press

Developing Michel Foucault’s famous remark about cutting off the King’s head this Chapter considers the persistence of sovereignty in constitutional discussion, particularly in the area of devolution. It suggests that sovereignty can be put aside in order to develop an alternative way of looking at how power actually operates within the changing constitution in the UK. This involves developing a governmentality analysis where sovereignty and the state are demoted from the centre of analysis. It is argued that such an approach offers a better understanding of how constitutional power actually operates within a wider and more complex idea of governance than is appreciated in traditional constitutional theory. Using the example of the transition in Northern Ireland, where power can be seen in a range of constitutional spaces beneath the formal architecture of the Belfast Agreement, the Chapter argues for the value of a “non-sovereignty” approach for understanding devolution more generally.

Keywords:   sovereignty, non-sovereignty, governmentality, Foucault, devolution, transition, Northern Ireland, Belfast Agreement

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