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States Are Not People: Harold Laski on Unsettling Sovereignty, Rediscovering Democracy

Jeanne Morefield
Political Research Quarterly
Vol. 58, No. 4 (Dec., 2005), pp. 659-669
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of the University of Utah
DOI: 10.2307/3595651
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3595651
Page Count: 11
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States Are Not People: Harold Laski on Unsettling Sovereignty, Rediscovering Democracy
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Abstract

This essay examines the relationship between democratic theory and historical critiques of state sovereignty by analyzing Harold Laski's geneological approach to the history of political thought. This approach led Laski to conclude that the apparently "unified" character of soveriegn statehood made differences within states invisible, rendered similarities across states meaningless, obscured the liberal state's connections to capitalism, and supported order and authority over the less predictable qualities of democratic freedom. Laski's critique of sovereignty ultimately suggested that true democracy was impossible within the context of sovereingty and that real "international cooperation" could only happen under conditions in which individual states were prevented from speaking in the unified voice of their people. The esssay suggests that contemporary democratic theorists and international ethicists could have much to learn from Laski's refusal to relegate democracy to the internal boundaries of states.

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