State Sovereignty is Not Withering Away: A Few Lessons for the Future
The Westphalian system of nation-states remains the system that we have. State sovereignty, though not unfettered, is not withering away. States have pooled, shared, delimited, or delegated away some of their powers through treaties, but they but can always take back powers that they have previously negotiated away. Now nations are reasserting their ‘sovereignty’ vis-à-vis foreign investors through changes to their national laws or their treaties. Three lessons can be drawn for the future. To the extent there are choices to be made between global regulation and sovereign control, the outcome may not reflect a progress narrative but a historical dialectic that periodically swings back and forth as international norms encounter resistance at the national level, thereby triggering re-evaluation and modification of the international regime or its rules. All international regimes, no matter how well constructed, ultimately rely on states to implement them at the domestic level; how that implementation occurs is subject to considerable state discretion; and much can occur to an international regime as its rules are translated for domestic consumption or application. We need to remain vigilant when it comes to the North/South dimensions of international regimes and reactions to them.
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