Law and Philosophy 29 (5):535-569 (2010)

Pavlos Eleftheriadis
Oxford University
How is it possible that the idea of sovereignty still features in legal and political philosophy? Most contemporary political philosophers have little use for the idea of ‘unlimited’ or ‘absolute’ power, which is how sovereignty is normally defined. A closer look at sovereignty identifies two possible accounts: sovereignty as the fact of power or sovereignty as a title to govern. The first option, which was pursued by John Austin’s command theory of law, leads to an unfamiliar view of law and the state, which was justly criticised by H. L. A. Hart. The second option, leads to a paradox, because under this view sovereignty is both limited and unlimited. Hence, this argument shows that law and sovereignty are actually incompatible. Where there is law there is no sovereignty, and where there is sovereignty there is no law.
Keywords Philosophy   Logic   Political Science   Social Sciences, general   Law Theory/Law Philosophy   Philosophy of Law
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10982-010-9077-7
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,079
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Strong Popular Sovereignty and Constitutional Legitimacy.George Duke - 2017 - European Journal of Political Theory 19 (3):354-374.
Sovereignty as Autonomy.Raf Geenens - 2017 - Law and Philosophy 36 (5):495-524.
Popular Sovereignty Facing the Deep State. The Rule of Recognition and the Powers of the People.Ludvig Beckman - 2021 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 24 (7):954-976.

View all 10 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
131 ( #89,129 of 2,506,036 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
7 ( #102,822 of 2,506,036 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes