The Social Power of Bodin's 'Sovereignty' and International Law
The word ‘sovereignty’ provides a forceful example of the social power of language as an organic instrument playing a leading role in the continuous and continuing process of creating and transforming human reality. The paper examines a pivotal episode in the history of the word ‘sovereignty’ — its formal introduction in the 16th century by Jean Bodin in his Six Livres de la Republique. It focuses on the social effects ‘sovereignty’ has had on the shared consciousness of humanity, including that of the international community. The proposed metalogical inquiry adopts a method that draws from the hermeneutic school of historical knowledge. The argument is that Bodin used ‘sovereignty’ for the purpose of attributing to the ruler (the French king) supreme power in the hierarchical organisational structure of society. This idea of a pyramid of authority is found in different elements of the discourse in Six Livres de la Republique, which is examined in the immediate context of Bodin’s personal background as well as the extended social, political and intellectual context of 16th century France. The conclusion shows that Bodin’s work was the first seminal step in the development of contemporary ideas of ‘internal sovereignty’ and ‘external sovereignty’. It is thus part of the history of the true power that the word at hand has exercised in framing the international state system and hence the international legal system.
Publisher(s)Melbourne Journal of International Law
BEAULAC Stéphane, « The Social Power of Bodin's 'Sovereignty' and International Law » (2003) 4 Melbourne Journal of International Law 1-28.