(redirected from Sovereign nation)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Financial.


sovereignty, supreme authority in a political community. The concept of sovereignty has had a long history of development, and it may be said that every political theorist since Plato has dealt with the notion in some manner, although not always explicitly. Jean Bodin was the first theorist to formulate a modern concept of sovereignty. In his Six Bookes of a Commonweale (1576) Bodin asserted that the prince, or the sovereign, has the power to declare law. Thomas Hobbes later furthered the concept of kingly sovereignty by stating that the king not only declares law but creates it; he thereby gave the sovereign both absolute moral and political power. Hobbes, like other social-contract theorists, asserted that the king derives his power from a populace who have collectively given up their own former personal sovereignty and power and placed it irretrievably in the king.

The concept of sovereignty was closely related to the growth of the modern nation-state, and today the term is used almost exclusively to describe the attributes of a state rather than a person. A sovereign state is often described as one that is free and independent. In its internal affairs it has undivided jurisdiction over all persons and property within its territory. It claims the right to regulate its economic life without regard for its neighbors and to increase armaments without limit. No other nation may rightfully interfere in its domestic affairs. In its external relations it claims the right to enforce its own conception of rights and to declare war.

This description of a sovereign state is denied, however, by those who assert that international law is binding. Because states are limited by treaties and international obligations and are not legally permitted by the United Nations Charter to commit aggression at will, they argue that the absolute freedom of a sovereign state is, and should be, a thing of the past. In current international practice this view is generally accepted. The United Nations is today considered the principal organ for restraining the exercise of sovereignty.

In the United States, the nation (i.e. the federal government) and each state are considered sovereign. Among conflicts in which the concept comes into play are those between the federal and state governments (see states' rights) and those between citizens and either the federal or a state government. Governments are generally held to be immune from suit for consequences of their sovereign acts (those acts the government was constituted or empowered to perform). This “sovereign immunity” must be waived to permit suit against the government. It is also encountered in claims that government officials, in pursuance of their duties, be immune from having to give evidence before a tribunal or inquiry.


See C. E. Merriam, History of the Theory of Sovereignty since Rousseau (1900, repr. 1968); H. J. Laski, Studies in the Problem of Sovereignty (1917, repr. 1968); B. de Jouvenel, Sovereignty (tr. 1957); J. L. Brierly, The Law of Nations (6th ed. 1963); F. H. Hinsley, Sovereignty (1966); A. James, Sovereign Statehood (1986).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


the supreme, theoretically unrestricted, political POWER by which a STATE is identified. The concept acquired particular importance throughout Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, in association with the formation of the modern NATION STATE (see also ABSOLUTISM, HOBBES).
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



supreme, independent power exercised in a state’s domestic and foreign policy. The term “sovereignty” was first used in reference to constitutional law in the 16th century by the French scholar J. Bodin. The concept of popular sovereignty was used by the bourgeoisie in its struggle against absolutism and feudalism in order to win the support of the common people. Sovereignty varies in different socioeconomic systems, depending on the class-oriented nature of state power and the economic structure of a given society. The power of the people is the basis of sovereignty in socialist states.

Sovereignty is manifested above all in the way a state functions, but it is most apparent in the system of state rights, including sovereign rights. It is precisely the state’s powers that ensure the state’s authority and thus its sovereignty. Supreme state power in a society is characterized by the establishment of law and order and the granting of rights and duties to officials, public organizations, and citizens. These characteristics distinguish state power from other forms of authority, for example, in a family or social group. Only state power can authoritatively influence and, when necessary, exercise coercion on all aspects of life in human society; state power is in effect universal and sovereign in nature.

A state’s domestic sovereignty is closely linked with its independence from foreign powers. Sovereignty gives a state independence in international relations and allows it to act as an autonomous party in matters of international law. The foreign policy of the USSR recognizes the sovereign equality of all states, regardless of the sociopolitical system, economic development, size, or population. The principle of sovereign equality, which is set forth in the UN Charter, is one of the universally recognized principles of modern international law.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. supreme and unrestricted power, as of a state
2. the position, dominion, or authority of a sovereign
3. an independent state
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


Government control. Regarding high-tech, sovereignty pertains to how much control a government has over its citizens' data.
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
References in periodicals archive ?
But every sovereign nation has the right to self-defence and the right to order their troops to defend themselvesC*"
President of Kyrgyzstan Kurmanbek Bakiev has written a book about the March revolution of 2005.According to the state new agency Kabar, in his book "The March revolution: a historical choice of the people", the author analyzes the legitimate features and characteristics of the revolution, as well as his vision of prospects for Kyrgyzstan, as a sovereign nation in the world.The introduction to the book is written by academician of Russian Academy of Sciences Mikhail Zalikhanov.
District Judge Michael Hogan to dismiss the city's lawsuit, arguing that the tribe, as a sovereign nation, has immunity from being sued - although the tribe had signed a waiver agreeing to be sued in state or federal court.
In peacetime, international spectrum governance requires military forces to obtain host nation permission to operate spectrum-dependent systems and equipment within a sovereign nation. International governance is honored and enforced by the U.S.
US Vice-President Joe Biden told ABC television the US could not "dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do".
"cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do."
President Obama and President Bush before him blame Al Qaeda for the bombing of the Twin Towers in New York and they probably did it, but that does not of itself justify attacking a sovereign nation because they have not been co-operative enough, and then wanting to occupy it almost indefinitely.
The US, as a sovereign nation, are prepared to go to war.
Perhaps assessing the over 30 years of illegal occupation of one-third of a sovereign nation is not stalling but taking a hard look at a difficult neighbor before you invite them to live in your house.
These are crucial and intriguing questions to anyone who feels that Rumsfeld not only bore major responsibility for the secret torturing of Middle Eastern detainees, but was also guilty of war crimes for his part in implementing an illegal and unjust attack on the sovereign nation of Iraq (along with President George W.
"The Declaration Of Independence" (0761421297) is the story of how Americans separated from England and declared themselves a sovereign nation. "The Alamo" (0761421270) is the story of a critical battle against Mexico and it led to Texas becoming part of the United States.
The WTO also can tell a sovereign nation how to spend its revenues, as it has done in the CDSOA (Continued Dumping and Offset Act of 2000) issue (Byrd Bill).

Full browser ?