Chapter in Inequality, Globalization, and World Politics (Hurrell & Woods, eds. 1999)

Sovereignty and Inequality

Benedict Kingsbury

This article elaborates on the way in which inequality is entrenched within the existing international order, examining the way in which sovereignty and inequality are inseparably linked in international law. The principle of state sovereignty has long relieved international lawyers from having to think about inequality, by adopting a mask of formal equality and leaving actual inequalities to be treated as the responsibility of individual states. It begins by examining the relations between sovereignty and inequality within the mainstream tradition of international law. It then assesses the extent to which
challenges of globalization, democratization, and privatization have forced adaptations of the traditional concept of sovereignty, and whether the mounting criticisms of that concept might soon lead to the replacement of its present normative basis by a functional basis, speculating on the possible consequences for the management of inequality.