Saturday, October 28, 2006

Stephen Krasner, Rethinking the Sovereign State Model

Review of International Studies (2001), 27, 17–42 Copyright © British International Studies Association


This essay develops some of the arguments published earlier as Stephen D. Krasner, 'Compromising

International Security 20:3 (1995/6). pp. 115–51.

For the distinction between a logic of appropriateness and a logic of consequences see James G.

March and Johan Olsen, 'The Institutional Dynamics of International Political Orders',

, 52 (1998) and James G. March, with the assistance of C. Heath, A Primer on Decision

Making : How Decisions Happen
(New York: Free Press, 1994).

Rethinking the sovereign state model


The Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years' War in 1648, is generally

understood as a critical moment in the development of the modern international

system composed of sovereign states each with exclusive authority within its own

geographic boundaries. The Westphalian sovereign state model, based on the

principles of autonomy, territory, mutual recognition and control, offers a simple,

arresting, and elegant image. It orders the minds of policymakers. It is an analytic

assumption for neo-realism and neo-liberal institutionalism. It is an empirical

regularity for various sociological and constructivist theories of international

politics. It is a benchmark for observers who claim an erosion of sovereignty in the

contemporary world.

This essay demonstrates, however, that the Westphalian sovereign state model

has never been an accurate description of many of the entities that have been

regarded as states.
1 In fact, the Peace of Westphalia itself had almost nothing to do

with what has come to be termed the Westphalian system although I use the term

here in deference to common usage. The idea that states ought to be autonomous,

free from intervention by external actors was only developed as an explicit principle

in the last part of the eighteenth century by the Swiss international jurist Emmerich

de Vattel. The assumption that states are independent rational actors can be

misleading because it obfuscates the existence of many situations in which rulers

have, in fact, not been autonomous. The now almost commonplace view that

sovereignty is being eroded is historically myopic. Breaches of the sovereign state

model have been an enduring characteristic of the international environment. The

principle of autonomy has been violated in the name of other norms including

human rights, minority rights, democracy, communism, fiscal responsibility,

and international security. Mutual recognition has not always gone to juridically

independent territorial entities. There has never been some golden age for

sovereignty. The sovereign state model has always been a cognitive script; its basic

rules are widely understood but also frequently violated. Normative structures have

been decoupled from actual behaviour either because actors embrace inconsistent

norms such as human rights and non-intervention, or because logics of consequences

driven by power and interest trump logics of appropriateness dictated by

norms and principles.

The sovereign state model is a system of political authority based on territory,

mutual recognition, autonomy, and control. Territoriality means that political

authority is exercised over a defined geographic space rather than, for instance, over

people, as would be the case in a tribal form of political order. Autonomy means

that no external actor enjoys authority within the borders of the state. Mutual

recognition means that juridically independent territorial entities recognize each

other as being competent to enter into contractual arrangements, typically treaties.

Control means that there is an expectation not only that sovereign states have the

authority to act but also that they can effectively regulate movements across their

borders and within them.

Territorial violations of the sovereign state model involve situations in which

authority structures are not coterminous with geographic borders. Examples include

the European Union with its supranational institutions and qualified majority

voting, Andorra, where France and Spain appoint members to the highest court,

and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for the oceans, within which the coastal

state exercises control over commercial activities like seabed exploitation but not


Violations of the principle of autonomy involving situations in which an external

actor is able to exercise some authoritative control within the territory of a state,

have been a persistent feature of the Westphalian sovereign state system. Autonomy

can be transgressed both if rulers agree to governance structures that are controlled

by external actors, or if more powerful actors impose institutions, policies, or

personnel on weaker states. Examples of transgressions of autonomy include

bondholders' committees that regulated financial activities in some Balkan states

and elsewhere in the nineteenth century, International Monetary Fund (IMF)

conditionality, protectorates in which major powers control foreign but not domestic

policy, provisions for the treatment of minorities imposed on central and eastern

European states after the Balkan War of the 1870s and World War I, and the Soviet

imposition of communist regimes on its satellite states after the Second World War.

Compromises of Westphalia have occurred in four ways—through conventions,

contracting, coercion, and imposition. These four modalities are distinguished by

whether the behaviour of one actor depends on that of another and by whether at

least one of the actors is better off and none worse off. In conventions, rulers enter

into agreements, such as human rights accords, from which they expect some gain,

but their behaviour is not contingent on what others do. In contracting, rulers agree

to violate the sovereignty of their own state contingent on other signatories

honouring their part of the bargain. In coercion, the rulers of stronger states make

weaker ones worse off by making credible threats to which the target might or might

not acquiesce, or engaging in unilateral moves which undermine the bargaining

position of the weaker state. In imposition, the target is so weak that it has no

option but to comply with the preferences of the stronger.

Conventions, contracts, coercion, and imposition have all been enduring patterns

of behaviour in the international system. Every major peace treaty since 1648—

Westphalia, Utrecht, Vienna, Versailles, Helsinki, and Dayton—has violated the

sovereign state model in one way or another. Compromising the sovereign state

model is always available as a policy option because there is no authority structure

to prevent it: nothing can preclude rulers from transgressing against the domestic

autonomy of other states or recognizing entities that are not juridically autonomous.

Stephen D. Krasner

In the international system, institutions are less constraining and more malleable,

more subject to challenge than in more settled circumstances. The mechanisms for

locking in particular institutional forms, such as socialization, positive reinforcement

between structures and agents, or path-dependent processes, are weaker at the

international level than in well-established domestic polities. Rulers are more

responsive to domestic constituents who might, or might not, embrace the norms of

the Westphalian sovereign state system. Power is asymmetrical making coercion and

imposition available options.

The sovereign state model is a cognitive script characterized by organized

hypocrisy. Organized hypocrisy occurs when norms are decoupled from actions.

Actors say one thing and do another. In the international environment this occurs

both because actors endorse norms that can be mutually inconsistent, such as

universal human rights and non-intervention, and because logics of consequences

usually trump logics of appropriateness. Organized hypocrisy is characteristic of any

political organization whose leaders must appeal to different constituencies.
3 The

problem of uniting principles and actions is more acute in international environments

than domestic ones because the norms embraced by local and foreign actors

will not always coincide and because the opportunities for action based on coercion

and the use of force are greater. All international systems, whether the Westphalian

sovereign state system or the Sinocentric tributary state system or the medieval

European world of overlapping authority, have been characterized by organized


Defining sovereignty

In practice the term sovereignty has been used in many different ways. In contemporary

usage four different meanings of sovereignty can be distinguished:

interdependence sovereignty, domestic sovereignty, Vattelian sovereignty, and

international legal sovereignty.

Interdependence sovereignty refers to the ability of states to control movement

across their borders. Many observers have argued that sovereignty is being eroded by

globalization resulting from technological changes that have dramatically reduced

the costs of communication and transportation. States cannot regulate transborder

movements of goods, capital, people, ideas, or disease vectors. Governments can no

longer engage in activities that have traditionally been understood to be part of their

regulatory portfolio: they cannot conduct effective monetary policy because of

Rethinking the sovereign state model

The idea of organized hypocrisy is developed in Nils Brunsson, The Organization of Hypocrisy : Talk,

Decisions and Actions in Organizations
, trans. Nancy Adler (Chichester, UK and New York: Wiley,

1991). For a discussion of political organizations see especially pp. 27–31. For a discussion of

decoupling see W. Richard Scott,
Institutions and Organizations (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1995),

and John W. Meyer, John Boli, George M. Thomas, and Francisco O. Ramirez, 'World Society and

the Nation-State',
American Journal of Sociology, 103 (1997).

For the Sinocentric system see Stephen D. Krasner, 'Organized Hypocrisy in 19th Century East Asia',

International Relations of the Asia Pacific
, 1 (2001). For the medieval system see Marcus Fischer,

'Feudal Europe, 800–1300: Communal Discourse and Conflictual Practices',

, 46 ( 1992).

international capital flows; they cannot control knowledge because of the Internet;

they cannot guarantee public health because individuals can move so quickly across

the globe. The issue here is not one of authority but rather of control. The right of

states to manage their borders is not challenged, but globalization, it is asserted, has

eroded their ability to actually do so.

Domestic sovereignty refers to authority structures within states and the ability of

these structures to effectively regulate behaviour. The classic theorists of sovereignty,

Bodin and Hobbes, were concerned primarily with domestic sovereignty. Both wrote

in the context of religious wars in Europe that were destroying the stability of their

own polities; Bodin himself was almost killed in religious riots in Paris in 1572. They

wanted above all to establish a stable system of authority, one that would be

acknowledged as legitimate by all members of the polity regardless of their religious

affiliation. Both endorsed a highly centralized authority structure and rejected any

right of revolt.
5 In practice, the vision of Bodin and Hobbes has never been

implemented. Authority structures have taken many different forms including

monarchies, republics, democracies, unified systems, and federal systems. High levels

of centralization have not been associated with the order and stability that Bodin

and Hobbes were trying to guarantee.

The acceptance or recognition of a given authority structure is one aspect of

domestic sovereignty; the other is the level of control that officials can actually

exercise. This has varied dramatically. Well ordered domestic polities have both

legitimate and effective authority structures. Failed states have neither. The loss of

interdependence sovereignty, which is purely a matter of control, would also imply

some loss of domestic sovereignty, at least domestic sovereignty understood as

control, since if a state cannot regulate movements across its borders, such as the

flow of illegal drugs, it is not likely to be able to control activities within its borders,

such as the use of these drugs.

Vattelian sovereignty refers to the exclusion of external sources of authority both

de juri
and de facto. Many analysts, including myself, who have argued that the

principle of autonomy did not have much to do with 1648 have in the past used the

term Westphalian sovereignty. The notion that states could do as they pleased within

their own borders had almost nothing to do with the Peace of Westphalia. The

principle that rulers should not intervene in or judge domestic affairs in other states

was actually introduced by two international legal theorists in the latter part of the

eighteenth century, Emmerich de Vattel and Christian Wolff. Wolff wrote in the

1760s that 'To interfere in the government of another, in whatever way indeed that

may be done is opposed to the natural liberty of nations, by virtue of which one is

altogether independent of the will of other nations in its action'.
6 During the

nineteenth century the principle of non-intervention was championed by the Latin

Stephen D. Krasner

Jean Bodin, On Sovereignty: Four Chapters from The Six Books of the Commonwealth , ed. and trans.

Julian H. Franklin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 13–14; Quentin Skinner,

Foundations of Modern Political Thought
, volume 2: The Age of Reformation (Cambridge, UK:

Cambridge University Press, 1978), pp. 284–87.

Quoted in Aaron J. Thomas and Ann Van Wynen Thomas, Non Intervention; The Law and Its Import

in the Americas
( Dallas, TX: Southern Methodist University Press, 1956), p. 5. See also Emmerich de

The Law of Nations; or, Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of

Nations and Sovereigns
. From the new edition trans. Joseph Chitty (Philadelphia: T. & J. W. Johnson,

Law Booksellers, 1852), p. 155.

American states, the weaker entities in the international system. It was not formally

accepted by the United States until the 1930s.

International legal sovereignty refers to mutual recognition. The basic rule of

international legal sovereignty is that recognition is accorded to juridically independent

territorial entities which are capable of entering into voluntary contractual

agreements. States in the international system, like individuals in domestic polities,

are free and equal. International legal sovereignty is consistent with any agreement

provided that the state is not coerced.

The rules, institutions, and practices that are associated with these four meanings

of sovereignty are neither logically nor empirically linked in some organic whole.

Sovereignty refers to both practices, such as the ability to control transborder

movements or activities within a state's boundaries, and to rules or principles, such

as the recognition of juridically independent territorial entities and non-intervention

in the internal affairs of other states. A state might have little interdependence

sovereignty, be unable to regulate its own borders, but its Vattelian sovereignty could

remain intact so long as no external actor attempted to influence its domestic

authority structures. A failed state like Somalia in the late 1990s offers one example.

States can enjoy international legal sovereignty, mutual recognition, without having

Vattelian sovereignty; the eastern European states during the Cold War whose

domestic structures were deeply penetrated by the Soviet Union offer one example.

States can voluntarily compromise their Vattelian sovereignty through the exercise of

their international legal sovereignty: the member states of the European Union have

entered into a set of voluntary agreements, treaties, that have created supranational

authority structures such as the European Court of Justice and the European

Monetary Authority. States can lack effective domestic sovereignty understood

either as control or authority and still have international legal sovereignty—

Zaire/Congo during the 1990s is an example. Sovereignty is a basket of goods that

do not necessarily go together.

Sovereignty and international relations theory

The sovereign state model is a basic concept for the major theoretical approaches to

international relations, including neorealism and neoliberal institutionalism, for

both of which it is an analytic assumption, as well as international society perspectives,

for which it is a constitutive norm. For neorealism, the ontological givens

in the international system are Westphalian sovereign states, understood as unitary

rational actors operating in an anarchic setting and striving to enhance their wellbeing

and security. These states are constrained only by the external environment,

that is, by the power of other states. Realism does not suppose that all states can

guarantee their autonomy. If, however, a state loses its autonomy—if, for instance,

Rethinking the sovereign state model

Lassa Oppenheim, Oppenheim's International Law, 9th edn. Edited by Sir Robert Jennings and Sir

Arthur Watts (Harlow, Essex: Longman, 1992), pp. 365–7.

Michael Ross Fowler and Julie Marie Bunck, Law, Power, and the Sovereign State: The Evolution and

Application of the Concept of Sovereignty
( University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University

Press, 1995), pp. 116–117.

its political structures and personnel are chosen by others—then neorealism has

nothing to say about how such penetrated states which do not have Vattelian

sovereignty might act. The relations between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union

after the Prague Spring of 1968, for instance, are not amenable to realist analysis.

Czechoslovakia was not responding to external constraints, as an autonomous or

Vattelian state might. Its policies were dictated by externally imposed constitutional

structures and personnel.

Similarly, the sovereign state model is an analytic assumption for neoliberal

9 The actors are assumed to be Westphalian sovereign states, unified

rational autonomous entities striving to maximize their utility in the face of

constraints that emanate from an anarchic although interdependent international

environment. What distinguishes neoliberalism from neorealism is its different

understanding of the characteristic problem for these states: for neoliberal institutionalism,

the problem is the resolution of market failures, whereas for neorealism it

is security and distributional conflicts.

The sovereign state model is also a core concept for international society

approaches, most notably the English School and various constructivist approaches.

Here the sovereign state model is understood as a constitutive norm which generates

actors and defines their competencies. All participants in international society—

public officials, diplomats, statesmen, political leaders—hold the same fundamental

views about the nature of the system, the actors, and how they can behave. Modern

international society is composed of territorial units within which public institutions

exercise exclusive authority. Actions follow particular patterns not because they are

dictated by some higher authority, or coerced by the threat of force, or constrained

by the power of other states, but because players have a shared intersubjective

understanding. The role of sovereign states permits some kinds of activities but not


The sovereign state model is an excellent starting point for analysing (neorealism

or neoliberal institutionalism) or understanding (international society perspectives)

much of what goes on in the international environment. A great deal of what takes

place is completely consistent with the sovereign state model, whether it is treated as

an analytic assumption or behavioural regularity generated by intersubjective shared

understanding: the claims of external actors are rebuffed; authoritative decisionmakers

declare war, form alliances, enter into trade agreements, and regulate


As this article demonstrates, however, there have been many other situations in

which the principles associated with mutual recognition and state autonomy has

Stephen D. Krasner

Robert O. Keohane, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy

(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984) is the seminal exposition of this perspective.

Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society (London: Macmillan, 1977); John G. Ruggie, 'Territoriality and

Beyond: Problematizing Modernity in International Relations',
International Organization, 47 (1993),

pp. 139–74; Alexander Wendt,
Social Theory of International Politics ( Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 1999). J. Samuel Barkin and Bruce Cronin, 'The State and the Nation: Changing

Norms and the Rules of Sovereignty in International Relations',
International Organization, 48 (1994),

pp. 107–30. See Barry Buzan, 'From International Realism to International Society: Structural

Realism and Regime Theory Meet the English School',
International Organization, 47 (1993),

pp. 327–52, for a comparison of US and British approaches to international relations. For a recent

debate on the English school, see the Forum in
Review of International Studies, 27 (July 2001),

pp. 465–509.

been violated. Some are the result of an inability to control either transborder flows

or domestic behaviour, leading rulers to conclude contractual arrangements that are

consistent with international legal sovereignty, but which compromise domestic

autonomy or establish new institutional arrangements that transcend territoriality.

Some are the result of major powers imposing personnel, policies, or institutions on

weaker states, a situation that violates both Vattelian and international legal


Violations of the principles of non-intervention and recognition based on territoriality

and juridical autonomy have been an enduring characteristic of the

international system, both before and after the Peace of Westphalia. The Westphalian

sovereign state system, like other international systems, is characterized by competing

norms, an absence of universal authority structures, and power asymmetries. For

political leaders operating in an extremely complex environment and responsive to

multiple constituencies, organized hypocrisy is irresistible.

Modalities of compromise

The principles of autonomy and recognition based on territoriality and juridical

autonomy can be breached through conventions, contracts, coercion, or imposition.

The four modalities through which autonomy and territoriality can be compromised

are distinguished by whether they are pareto-improving or not, and contingent or

not. Conventions and contracts are pareto-improving, that is, they make at least one

party better off without making anyone worse off. Rulers are not forced into such

arrangements. They enter them voluntarily because compromising the principles of

the sovereign state model is more attractive than honouring them. Coercion and

imposition leave at least one of the actors worse off; they are not pareto-improving.

Contracts and coercion involve contingent behaviour; the actions of one ruler

depend upon what the other does. Conventions and imposition do not involve

contingent behaviour.


Conventions are agreements in which rulers make commitments that expose their

own policies to some kind of external scrutiny by agreeing to follow certain domestic

11 Signatories might, for instance, endorse liberal conceptions of human

rights, or agree to hold regular elections, or stipulate that religious or ethnic identity

would not affect the franchise or opportunities for employment, or that refugees

would be entitled to specific social security benefits and educational opportunities.

Conventions are voluntary and they make at least one actor better off without

making any worse off. If they did not, rulers would not sign them. The signatories

do not usually secure any direct gain except the pledge from other parties to the

Rethinking the sovereign state model

I am indebted to James McCall Smith for suggesting the term conventions.

agreement that they will behave in the same way. The willingness of a particular

state to abide by a convention is not contingent on the behaviour of others. Some

rulers can violate a convention without prompting any change in the domestic

policies or institutions of others.

In the contemporary world, the most obvious class of conventions is human

rights accords. Human rights agreements cover relations between rulers and ruled,

including both citizens and non-citizens. They involve pledges by national authorities

to treat individuals within their territory in a certain way. By the last decade

of the twentieth century there were around 50 such agreements, both universal and


These conventions cover a wide range of issues including genocide, torture,

slavery, refugees, stateless persons, women's rights, racial discrimination, children's

rights, forced labour, and the right of labour to organize. In some instances, human

rights agreements specify only relatively broad principles, but in others they are very

precise. For instance, the 1953 Convention on the Political Rights of Women, which

has been ratified by more than 100 countries, provides for equal voting rights for

women and equal rights to hold office. The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of

all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which has been ratified by more than

120 states, obligates parties to take all legal measures necessary to assure the

equality of men and women, to 'modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct

of men and women', to provide equal access to education, to take measures to assure

'the same opportunities to participate actively in sports and physical education', to

assure equal work opportunities including promotion and job security, to introduce

paid maternity leave, and to offer adequate prenatal and postnatal care including

'free services where necessary'.

The enforcement and monitoring mechanisms for these agreements vary enormously.

Some, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, do not have the

status of a formal treaty and are devoid of monitoring provisions. Other conventions

(for example those on slavery, the status of refugees, and political rights of

women) provide that disputes can be referred to the International Court of Justice.

No human rights cases have, however, been referred to this Court. A number of

conventions (such as those on racial discrimination, apartheid, and the rights of the

child) provide for the creation of committees that receive information and can, with

the approval of the concerned states, investigate alleged violations.

The European Convention on Human Rights, which entered into force in 1953,

and subsequent protocols, offers, along with other European institutions, the most

far-reaching example of infringements on Vattelian sovereignty. The European

human rights regime has elaborate monitoring and enforcement procedures. The

European Commission on Human Rights can receive complaints from individuals,

nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and states; it receives about 4,000

communications a year. The European Court of Human Rights can make decisions

that are binding on national jurisdictions. The jurisdiction of the Commission

Stephen D. Krasner

United Nations, Human Rights: International Instruments: Chart of Ratifications as of 31 December

ST/HR/4/Rev.9 (New York, 1994); Ian Brownlie, Basic Documents on Human Rights , 3rd edn.

(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).

Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, in Brownlie, Basic

, pp. 106–8, Art 5a.; Art. 10f; Art. 13.2.

(composed of independent experts) and of the Court have been recognized by the

signatories to the Convention. Decisions of the Commission and the Court have led

to changes in detention practices in Belgium and Germany, alien law in Switzerland,

and trial procedures in Sweden. Greece, confronted with expulsion, withdrew from

the Council of Europe after an investigation by the European Human Rights

Commission found that the military regime had violated human rights.

There is no single explanation for why countries sign conventions. The European

Convention, with its significant enforcement and monitoring capabilities, could be

concluded and strengthened over time because the signatories were committed to the

principles and rules specified in the agreement. States in which democratic commitments

had been shaky, most importantly Germany, were the strongest supporters of

the agreement.

Conventions with no monitoring or enforcement provisions, such as the Universal

Declaration of Human Rights, or with only limited provisions for national reporting,

have been signed even by countries with abysmal human rights records. When

enforcement and monitoring mechanisms are weak, and where there is, in fact,

limited domestic support for human rights, signing may have no consequences

for states engaging in repressive domestic policies. Such situations would be

consistent with the sovereign state model. The Soviet bloc countries routinely ratified

human rights agreements. As of 1 September 1987, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria,

Czechoslovakia, and Romania had all ratified 14 out of the 22 extant UN human

rights instruments, East Germany 16, and Poland 13. For the industrialized

democratic countries there was wide variation. The United States had ratified six

conventions, Switzerland eight, Italy and the United Kingdom 15 each, France and

West Germany 16 each, Sweden 18, and Norway 18.

Why would rulers bother to join agreements with no intention of honouring

them, even if monitoring and enforcement provisions are weak? The policies of the

Soviet bloc could be written off as either pure cynicism or an effort to convince third

parties. States may also sign because participation is understood as something that a

modern state does. For many Third World states, clues to appropriate behaviour are

signalled by the international environment, especially international organizations

and more powerful states.

Rethinking the sovereign state model

Jack Donnelly, International Human Rights (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1992), pp. 82–3; David P.

Human Rights and World Politics (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989), p. 19;

Andrew Moravcsik, 'Lessons from the European Human Rights Regime', in Inter-American

Advancing Democracy and Human Rights in the Americas: What Role for the OAS?

(Washington, DC: Inter-American Dialogue, 1994), p. 47.

Andrew Moravcsik, 'The Origins of Human Rights Regimes: Democratic Delegation in Postwar

International Organization, 54 (2000), p. 217. Moravcsik, 'Lessons', pp. 54–5.

Derived from information in United Nations, Human Rights Status of International Instruments as at

1 September 1987
, n.d.

John Meyer and others have argued that many of the formal stances of rulers (not necessarily their

actual behaviour) are dictated not by internal characteristics, such as the level of socioeconomic

development, but rather by expectations that are generated in the international system. See J.W.

et al., 'World Society and the Nation-State'. For example, states create science agencies, even if

they have no scientists. See Martha Finnemore, 'International Organizations as Teachers of Norms:

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization and Science Policy',

International Organization
, 47 (1993).


A contract is an agreement between the legitimate authorities in two or more states

or state authorities and another international actor, such as an international

financial institution, that is mutually acceptable, pareto-improving, and contingent.

A contract can violate the sovereign state model if it subjects domestic institutions

and personnel to external influence, or creates institutional arrangements that

transcend national boundaries. Obviously, many contracts between states do not

transgress the sovereign state model. An international agreement that obligates a

state only to change some specific aspect of its foreign policy would not be a

violation of autonomy, nor would a treaty that involved only a change in domestic

policy but had no other consequences.

Rulers must believe that a contract makes them better off. Otherwise they would

not enter into it in the first place, since the
status quo remains available unless more

powerful states can change the 'best alternative to no agreement' (BATNA) in ways

that make the target state worse off than in the
status quo ante, but better off if its

leaders sign a new agreement than if they do not.
18 The behaviour of one of the

actors is contingent on the behaviour of the others. In contractual arrangements,

rulers would not compromise the autonomy of their state unless the behaviour of

others also changed: if one actor abrogates the contract the other would prefer to do

so as well.

Historically, sovereign lending, especially to weaker states, has frequently involved

contractual arrangements that compromise the autonomy of the borrower.

Borrowers have not simply agreed to repay their obligations, an arrangement that

would have no impact on autonomy. Rather they have agreed to dedicate specific

revenues, or to accept oversight of domestic policies, or to permit revenues to be

collected by foreign entities, or to change their domestic institutional structures.

Sovereign lending poses unique problems. In lending between private parties, it is

possible to appeal to a court system if the borrower fails to repay; lenders can also

seek collateral that can be seized if the borrower defaults. However, loans to

sovereigns preclude review by any authoritative judicial system and collateral is hard

to come by. Withholding future funds may be the only sanction available to lenders.

There have been many defaults.

One approach is to charge high interest rates to compensate for the risks inherent

in extending credit to sovereigns, but not to compromise the domestic autonomy of

the borrower. This was the typical practice during the Renaissance: private inter-

Stephen D. Krasner

Lloyd Gruber has called this 'go it alone' power. See Lloyd Gruber, Ruling the World: Power Politics

and the Rise of Supranational Institutions
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), pp. 7–12.

For a review of defaults in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, see Peter H. Lindert and Peter J.

Morton, 'How Sovereign Lending Has Worked', in Jeffrey D. Sachs (ed.),
Developing Country Debt

and Economic Performance
(Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1989), pp. 41–3. For a review

of experiences in Latin America, see Carlos Marichal,
A Century of Debt Crises in Latin America:

From Independence to the Great Depression 1820–1930
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,

1989). Lending to the sovereign can also be a problem domestically, not just internationally. Efficient

domestic financial institutions required the creation of an institutional structure that provided lenders

with the confidence that they would be repaid if they lent money to their own sovereigns. See

Douglass North and Barry Weingast, 'Constitution and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions

Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth Century England',
Journal of Economic History, 49: 4

(September 1989), pp. 803–33.

national bankers did charge high interest rates, and sovereigns did default. This

regime for sovereign lending was, paradoxically, more consistent with the sovereign

state model than more recent practices, because it did not involve violations of

Vattelian sovereignty.

High interest rates and frequent defaults, however, may not be the best solution

for either borrowers or lenders. Sovereign borrowers would prefer lower interest

rates, but they can only secure such terms if they can in some way tie their own

hands, that is, limit their discretion so that potential providers of capital have more

confidence of being repaid. One strategy is for borrowers to violate their own

domestic autonomy by giving lenders some authority over fiscal, and sometimes

other, activities within their own borders. International sovereign lending in the

nineteenth and twentieth centuries, especially to weaker states, has been characterized

by contracts in which borrowers secure funds by reassuring lenders that

obligations will be honoured because Vattelian sovereignty is violated: lenders part

with their funds at lower interest rates because they are given some control over the

domestic activities and institutional arrangements of the borrower.

During the nineteenth century, contractual arrangements involving sovereign

loans frequently violated autonomy, sometimes in the initial contract, more frequently

ex post
if the sovereign threatened to default. Greece, the first state to

become independent from the Ottoman Empire, offers examples of several contractual

arrangements that involved compromising autonomy to secure foreign

funds. When Greece was recognized as an independent state in 1832, it received a

60 m franc loan from Britain, France, and Russia, but only by signing an agreement

pledging that the 'actual receipts of the Greek treasury shall be devoted, first of all,

to the payment of the said interest and sinking fund, and shall not be employed for

any other purpose, until those payments on account of the installments of the loan

raised under the guarantee of the three Courts, shall have been completely secured

for the current year'.
21 In 1838 the entire finances of Greece were placed under a

French administrator.

Greece could not secure new loans during the middle of the nineteenth century in

part because it was in default on its 1832 obligations. After 1878 its borrowing

increased substantially, but to secure these funds Greece committed specific revenues,

including the customs at Athens, Piraeus, Patras, and Zante and the revenues from

the state monopolies on salt, petroleum, matches, playing cards, and cigarette paper.

The loan of 1887 gave the lenders the right to organize a company that would

supervise the revenues that were assigned for the loan.

In 1897, after a disastrous war with Turkey over Crete, Greece's finances collapsed.

It was unable to service its foreign debt or to pay the war indemnity that was

demanded by Turkey. Germany and France, along with private debtors, pressed for

Rethinking the sovereign state model

Garrett Mattingly, Renaissance Diplomacy (Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin, 1955), p. 59; Edward W.

History in Geographic Perspective: The Other France (New York: Norton, 1971), pp. 60–1;

Benjamin J. Cohen,
In Whose Interest? International Banking and American Foreign Policy (New

Haven, CT.: Yale University Press, 1986), pp. 84–90.

Quoted in John A. Levandis, The Greek Foreign Debt and the Great Powers, 1821–1898 (New York:

Columbia University Press, 1944), p. 36.

Charles Jelavich and Barbara Jelavich, The Establishment of the Balkan National States (Seattle, WA:

University of Washington Press, 1977), p. 75.

Levandis, The Greek Foreign Debt, p. 67.

an international commission of control. Greece acceded when it became clear that

this was the only way to secure new funding, and Britain, which had been more

sympathetic to preserving Greek autonomy, then accepted the Control Commission.

The Commission, which consisted of one representative appointed by each major

power, had absolute control over the sources of revenue needed to fund the war

indemnity and foreign debt. The Commission chose the revenue sources that it

would control. They included state monopolies on salt, petroleum, matches, playing

cards, cigarette paper, tobacco duties, and the customs-revenues of Piraeus. Disputes

that might arise between the Commission and agencies of the Greek government

were to be settled by binding arbitration. The members of the Commission were

given the same standing as diplomats. One member of the Greek parliament argued

that the establishment of the Control Commission suspended the independence of


Greece's experience with foreign lending is not unique. During the nineteenth

century, the domestic autonomy of all of the successor states to the Ottoman

Empire as well as many Latin American countries was compromised through

contractual arrangements involving international loans. When countries went into

default, lenders set up control committees to oversee restructuring of the government's

finances and other activities. Such committees were established for Bulgaria,

Greece, Serbia, the Ottoman Empire, and Argentina.
25 Confronted with imminent

default, the Ottoman Empire agreed in 1881 to put some of its revenues under the

control of creditors. These included the salt and tobacco monopolies; stamp, spirit,

and fishing taxes; and the annual tribute from Bulgaria (which was never paid). A

separate administration controlled by the bondholders was created to collect

revenues. By 1912 it had over eight thousand employees.

In return for a loan consolidation in 1895, Serbia created a monopolies commission

that was charged with overseeing the revenue from the state monopolies on

tobacco, salt, and petroleum; liquor taxes; some stamp taxes; and some railway and

customs revenues. Revenues from these monopolies were committed to paying off

foreign loans and did not flow into the Serbian treasury. The Monopolies Commission

was composed of four Serbians and one German and one French

representative of foreign bondholders.

Since World War II, contractual arrangements that violate autonomy have

become routine for international financial institutions (IFIs). The conditionality

requirements of these organizations can violate Vattelian sovereignty, although they

are consistent with international legal sovereignty. IFI conditionality can specify

changes in domestic policy, modify domestic conceptions of legitimate practices, and

influence institutional structures.

Conditionality was not part of the Bretton Woods agreements. During the

negotiations that created the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the

Stephen D. Krasner

Ibid., pp. 97–112.

Cohen, In Whose Interest?, p. 103.

Herbert Feis, Europe, The World's Banker 1870–1914: An Account of European Foreign Investment

and the Connection of World Finance with Diplomacy Before World War I
(New York: W.W. Norton,

1965), pp. 332–4; Donald C. Blaisdell,
European Financial Control in the Ottoman Empire: A Study of

the Establishment, Activities, and Significance of the Administration of the Ottoman Public Debt

York: Columbia University Press, 1929).

Feis, The World's Banker, pp. 266–8.

European representatives successfully resisted US efforts to give the new institutions

significant supervisory powers. Potential debtor countries, the Europeans, wanted to

defend their autonomy, whereas the major world creditor, the United States, was

perfectly willing to violate the sovereign state model. The United States, however,

had the money and ultimately the United States prevailed. In 1950, conditionality

was accepted in principle by the executive directors of the IMF because it was the

only way to induce US policymakers, who had blocked virtually all activities for

several years, to allow operations to resume. Conditionality formally became part of

the IMF Articles of Agreement by amendment in 1969.

The conditions attached to IMF lending have covered a wide range of domestic

activities including aggregate credit expansion; subsidies for state-owned enterprises;

the number of government employees; the indexation of salaries; subsidies on food,

petroleum, and fertilizers; government investment; personal, payroll, and corporate

taxes; excise taxes on beer and cigarettes; and energy prices; they have also touched

on issues that are explicitly concerned with international transactions including

exchange rate and trade policies. Structural adjustment programmes introduced by

the World Bank in the 1970s involved general economic reforms, such as changing

taxes, tariffs, subsidies, and interest rates; budgetary reforms; and institution

building, rather than just funding specific projects like roads or dams. International

financial institutions have tried to alter domestic institutional structures, not just

policies. They have supported particular actors and agencies in borrowing countries.

They have placed their own personnel in key bureaux.
29 At their annual meeting in

1996 the president of the World Bank and the managing director of the International

Monetary Fund committed themselves to a more aggressive attack on

corruption in Third World states. The Bank official co-ordinating these new policies

stated that 'You will see us giving a much higher profile to governance and

corruption concerns in a selective way, delaying disbursements until we are satisfied,

or suspending it altogether'.
30 In 1997 the theme of the World Bank's World

Development Report
was the state and the report was sub-titled The State in a

Changing World
. The report stated that the 'clamor for greater government effectiveness

has reached crisis proportions in many developing countries where the state has

failed to deliver even such fundamental public goods as property rights, roads, and

basic health and education'.
31 It describes the situation in Sub-Saharan Africa as

one in which there is an urgent priority to 'rebuild state effectiveness through an

overhaul of public institutions, reasserting the rule of law, and credible checks on

abuse of state power'.
32 These very same governments are, of course, some of the

Bank's major clients. The reports goes on to specify fundamental tasks for the state

Rethinking the sovereign state model

Sidney Dell, On Being Grandmotherly: The Evolution of IMF Conditionality , Essays in International

Finance no. 144 (Princeton, NJ: International Finance Section, Department of Economics, Princeton

University, October 1981), pp. 8–10; Robin Broad,
Unequal Alliance: The World Bank, The

International Monetary Fund, and the Philippines
(Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988),

pp. 24–25.

International Monetary Fund, Fiscal Affairs Department, Fund-Supported Programs, Fiscal Policy,

and Income Distribution
, Occasional Paper no. 46 (Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund,

1986), p. 40, and Table 12. Broad,
Unequal Alliance, pp. 51–3.

New York Times 11 August, 1997; 31 July 1998.

World Bank, World Development Report, 1997 The State in a Changing World (Washington: World

Bank, 1997), p. 2.

World Bank , The State, p. 14.

including establishing a foundation of law, protecting the environment, and shielding

the vulnerable, to chastise governments for spending too much on rich and middle

class students in universities while neglecting primary education, and to admonish

them to manage ethnic and social differences.
33 Executives are urged to limited their

discretionary authority in order to contain opportunities for corruption.
34 Finally,

and most ambitiously, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is

the first IFI to explicitly include political conditionality. The first paragraph of the

Agreement Establishing the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

that contracting parties should be 'Committed to the fundamental principles of

multiparty democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and market


In sum, sovereign lending has, since the nineteenth century, been characterized by

contractual arrangements that have compromised the domestic autonomy of

borrowers. The motivations of lenders have varied. In the nineteenth century lenders

frequently acted simply to enhance the probability that they would be repaid,

although in both the Balkans and Latin America security considerations (balancing

against other great powers) were also involved. In more recent years lenders have

been concerned not simply with repayment but also with economic reform for

humanitarian, ideological, or security reasons. Regardless of motivation, violations

of the sovereign state model have been the norm for sovereign lending to weak states

since the Napoleonic wars. Conditionality and Vattelian sovereignty, mutually contradictory

principles, have operated alongside each other for two centuries. The

greater saliency of conditionality, especially since the end of the Cold War, is

consistent with the analysis offered here: in a world with mutually inconsistent

norms, outcomes depend on power and interests, and the collapse of the Soviet

Union has left the industrialized market economy countries freer to pursue more

intrusive conditionality. Recent developments in international financial institutions

are also, however, compatible with those who contend that the conventional

sovereign state model is eroding. The evidence is inconclusive.

Coercion and imposition

Coercion and imposition exist along a continuum determined by the costs of refusal

for the target state. Coercion occurs when rulers in one state threaten to impose

sanctions unless their counterparts in another compromise their domestic autonomy.

The target can acquiesce or resist. Imposition occurs when the rulers or would-be

rulers of a target state have no choice; they are so weak that they must accept

domestic structures, policies, or personnel preferred by more powerful actors or else

be eliminated. When applied against already established states, coercion and

imposition are violations of international legal as well as the Vattelian sovereignty.

When applied against the would-be rulers of not yet created states, coercion and

Stephen D. Krasner

Ibid., p. 4.

Ibid., p. 8.

Agreement Establishing the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Paris, 1990.

imposition are violations of the sovereign state model because the autonomy of any

state that does emerge has been constrained by external actors, but are not violations

of international legal sovereignty, which only applies once a state has secured

international recognition allowing it to enter into agreements with other states.

Unlike either conventions or contracts, coercion and imposition leave at least one

actor worse off. The
status quo ante, which the target prefers, is eliminated as an

option by the initiating actor. If one state successfully coerces or imposes on another

changes in the latter's institutions, policies, or personnel, then the target is no longer

a Vattelian sovereign: its policy is constrained not simply by the external power of

other states, but also by the ability of others to change the nature of the target's

internal politics. Political leaders in the target state are not free to consider all

possible policies because some options are precluded by externally imposed domestic

structures, policies, or personnel. Indeed the rulers themselves might simply be the

quislings of the dominant state.

Coercion and imposition, unlike conventions and contracts, always involve power

asymmetry. Imposition entails forcing the target to do something that it would not

otherwise do. Physical force, or the threat thereof, matters. Coercion involves

asymmetrical bargaining power in which the initiator can make a credible threat, or

use 'go it alone' power to create a situation in which the target is better off signing

than not, but worse off than in the
status quo ante, which is no longer an available

option. If an actor has 'go it alone' power then the BATNA (best alternative to no

agreement) is not the
status quo.36

Economic sanctions aimed at domestic institutions, policies, or personnel are an

example of coercion. Out of the 106 specific cases of economic sanctions during the

twentieth century presented by Hufbauer, Schott, and Elliot, seventeen involved

efforts to protect human rights, and sixteen were attempts to change the character of

the domestic regime of the target by either removing the ruler or changing the

institutional structure. For example, the United Kingdom used economic pressure to

try to remove the Bolshevik regime in the Soviet Union after World War I. The

United States attempted to eliminate Juan Peron in Argentina during and after

World War II. Collective sanctions against South Africa with the aim of ending

apartheid were authorized by the United Nations from 1962 until 1994. The United

Kingdom enacted sanctions against Uganda from 1972 to 1979 to force out Idi

Amin. The European Community used economic pressure against Turkey in

1981–82 to encourage the restoration of democracy. Between 1970 and 1990 the

United States imposed sanctions against more than a dozen countries for human

rights violations.
37 In all of these cases the target, even if it did not comply with the

sanctions, was worse off than it had been because it could not, at the same time,

both avoid sanctions and maintain its
ex ante policies. Either it suffered sanctions, at

least for some period of time, or it had to change its policies.

Imposition is the logical extreme of coercion. It is a situation where the target is

so weak that it has no choice but to accept the demands of the more powerful state.

Force is the most obvious instrument of imposition. Great powers, however, have

Rethinking the sovereign state model

For an excellent discussion of bargaining power, although not imposition, see John S. Odell,

Negotiating the World Economy
( Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000). For 'go it alone' power

see Gruber,
Ruling the World.

Gary C. Hufbauer, Jeffrey J. Schott, and Kimberly A. Elliot, Economic Sanctions Reconsidered:

History and Current Policy
, 2nd edn. (Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics, 1990).

been cautious about attempting to impose violations of the sovereign state model

when such policies have been opposed by their major rivals. If the major powers

pursue opposing policies then imposition is very unlikely, if not impossible, because

even a weak target can get external support. Imposition has occurred when there has

been either a condominium among the major powers or the acceptance of spheres of


Examples of imposition within spheres of influence include the US military

occupation of a number of Caribbean and Central American states. The United

States has sent troops to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Haiti (nine

times), Panama, and Grenada in response to civil unrest, loan defaults, or threats of

foreign intervention and has imposed constitutions, customs receiverships, and

judicial control. South Africa used military pressure to secure compliant regimes in

Lesotho both before and after the end of apartheid. During the Cold War, the Soviet

Union dictated the domestic institutional structure and the policies of its east

European satellites: Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria did

not have Vattelian sovereignty even though they did have international legal

sovereignty. For a time Poland's minister of defence was a marshal in the Soviet

army. The militaries of the eastern European states were penetrated by the Soviet

military and by their own communist parties, which were themselves penetrated by

the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
38 The foreign policy of Poland in 1958,

or Cuba in 1908, could hardly be analysed from any perspective that used the

sovereign state model as a starting point.

One of the more enduring examples of coercion and sometimes imposition under

great power condominium has involved efforts to secure minority rights in eastern

and central Europe. All of the states that emerged from the Ottoman and Habsburg

empires were compelled to accept provisions for minority protection as a condition

of international recognition. In 1832, the British, French, and Russians imposed on

Greece its constitutional structure (monarchy), its monarch (Otto, the under-age

second son of the King of Bavaria), and specific policies including protection for

religious minorities. Greece had no bargaining leverage because its resources were so

limited, not least because of dissension among the Greek revolutionaries themselves.

In the Treaty of Berlin of 1878, the following language was applied to Montenegro,

Serbia, and Bulgaria:

The difference of religious creeds and confessions shall not be alleged against any person as a

ground for exclusion or incapacity in matters relating to the enjoyment of civil and political

rights, admission to public employments, functions, and honours, or the exercise of the

various professions and industries in any locality whatsoever. The freedom and outward

exercise of all forms of worship shall be assured to all persons belonging to [Montenegro,

Serbia, and Bulgaria], as well as to foreigners, and no hindrance shall be offered either to the

hierarchical organization of the different communions, or to their relations with their

spiritual chiefs.

Stephen D. Krasner

Condoleezza Rice, The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University

Press, 1984), ch. 1; Christopher D. Jones, 'National Armies and National Sovereignty', in
The Warsaw

Pact: Alliance in Transition?
Edited by David Holloway and Jane M.O. Sharp (Ithaca, NY: Cornell

University Press, 1984).

Treaty of Berlin, 13 July, 1878, in Fred L. Israel (ed.), Major Peace Treaties of Modern History,

, vol. I (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967), Articles V, XXVII, XLIV. See also Jelavich and

Balkan National States, pp. 50–2, 68–72, 156; and A.C. Macartney, National States and

National Minorities
(London: Oxford University Press, 1934), pp. 166, 168.

The Treaty also included provisions for the protection of minority rights in Romania

and in the Ottoman Empire itself.

The 1878 Berlin Treaty settlements were examples of coercion rather than imposition.

The would-be rulers of the target states did not want to grant minority

rights, and they did have some leverage. Their first-best outcome would have been

recognition and no constraints on their domestic autonomy. They acquiesced, however,

to European demands because international recognition with minority rights

provisions, which might be evaded, was better than no recognition at all.

The would-be leaders of all of the states that were created after World War I

(or were successors to the defeated empires) had to accept extensive provisions

for the protection of minorities. As in Greece in 1832, these would-be rulers had

limited bargaining leverage. Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey were defeated

states, and minority protections were written into their peace treaties. Poland,

Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Romania, and Greece were new or enlarged states.

They signed minority rights treaties with the Allied and Associated Powers. Albania,

Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Iraq made declarations as a result of pressure from

the victorious powers when they applied to join the League of Nations.

The protections accorded to minorities were detailed and extensive. The Polish

Minority Treaty, for instance, provided that 'Poland undertakes to assure full and

complete protection of life and liberty to all inhabitants of Poland without

distinction of birth, nationality, language, race or religion'. Religious differences

were not to affect public or professional employment. Where there were a considerable

number of non-Polish speakers, they would be educated in their own language

in primary school, although the state could mandate the teaching of Polish. Jews

would not be obligated to perform any act that violated the Jewish Sabbath and

therefore elections would not be held on Saturday.
42 The Treaty was made part of

the fundamental law of Poland.

With the exception of Hungary, which wanted protection for the many Hungarians

in neighbouring countries, and Czechoslovakia, which wanted to reassure its large

German minority, the minorities rights treaties of Versailles are examples of

43 For the rulers or would-be rulers of these states, the status quo was

non-existence. They would not have states to rule unless they accepted the conditions

imposed by the victors in World War I. They lacked material, military, and

diplomatic resources to bargain or resist.

The Balkan crises of the 1990s evoked a response from the major powers reminiscent

of nineteenth century efforts to establish stability. Minority rights were explicitly

included in the conditions for European Community recognition of the successor

states of Yugoslavia. On 16 December, 1991, the foreign ministers of the European

Community made acceptance of the Carrington Plan, formally the Treaty Provisions

Rethinking the sovereign state model

Treaty of Berlin, Articles LXIV and LXII.

Inis L. Claude, Jr., National Minorities: An International Problem (Cambridge, MA: Harvard

University Press, 1955), p. 16; and Dorothy V. Jones,
Code of Peace: Ethics and Security in the World

of the Warlord States
(Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1991), p. 45.

Polish Minorities Treaty, Articles 2, 7, 8; and 11. The text of the Treaty is reprinted in Macartney,

, pp. 502–6.

For discussions of attitudes toward the minority treaties in different states see Sebastian Bartsch,

Minderheitenschutz in der internationalen Politik : Völkerbund und KSZE/OSZE in neuer Perspektive

(Oplanden, Germany: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1995).

for the Convention (with the former republics of Yugoslavia), the prerequisite for

recognition. Chapter 2 of the Carrington Plan stipulated that the Republics would

guarantee the right to life, to be free of torture, to liberty, to public hearings by an

impartial tribunal, to freedom of thought, to peaceful assembly, and to marry and

form a family. These rights were to apply to all regardless of sex, race, colour,

language, religion, or minority status. The Republics were to respect the rights of

national and ethnic minorities elaborated in conventions adopted by the United

Nations and the CSCE, including the then proposed United Nations Declaration on

the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious, and Linguistic

Minorities, and the proposed Convention for the Protection of Minorities of the

European Commission. The republics were to protect the cultural rights of minorities,

guarantee equal participation in public affairs, and assure that each individual

could choose his or her ethnic identity. Members of minority groups were to be

given the right to participate in the 'government of the Republics concerning their

44 In local areas where members of a minority formed a majority of the

population they were to be given special status including a national emblem, an

educational system 'which respects the values and needs of that group',
45 a

legislative body, a regional police force, and a judiciary that reflects the composition

of the population. Such special areas were to be permanently demilitarized unless

they were on an international border. The rights established in the convention were

to be assured through national legislation.

The implications that can be drawn from the data presented thus far about the

empirical validity of the sovereign state model are modest because I have selected on

the dependent variable. Nevertheless, several inferences are reasonable. The sovereign

state model has never been taken for granted; rulers have explored institutional

alternatives. In some areas of the world, notably central and eastern Europe, there

have never been any smaller states that enjoyed full Vattelian sovereignty. Many

developing countries that have signed stand-by agreements with international

financial institutions have had to agree to changes and ongoing supervision of their

domestic institutions and policies. In one way or another—as a result of conventions,

contracts, coercion, or imposition—most of the states in the contemporary

international system do not fully conform with the sovereign state model.

Peace settlements

The major peace settlements from Westphalia to the present offer another body of

data, one not selected on the dependent variable, with which to examine the actual

functioning, or lack thereof, of the sovereign state model. Major peace treaties

embody the shared understanding of rulers, or at least the deals that they have

found mutually acceptable. All of the major treaties, beginning with the Peace of

Stephen D. Krasner

European Community, Treaty Provisions for the Convention (with the former republics of

Yugoslavia) 1991, ch. 2. 4.

European Community, Treaty Provisions for the Convention, ch. 2.5c.

Beverley Crawford, 'Explaining Defection from International Cooperation: Germany's Unilateral

Recognition of Croatia',
World Politics, 48 (1996), p. 497.

Westphalia in 1648, have included violations of the 'Westphalian' model, specifically

the principle of autonomy. Infractions against the sovereign state model, whether in

the form of conventions, contracts, coercion, or imposition, have been justified by

alternative principles that are inconsistent with autonomy, such as human rights,

minority rights, fiscal responsibility, domestic stability, or external balance.

The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 (comprising the two separate treaties of

Münster and Osnabrück), has generally been understood as a critical event in the

development of the modern sovereign state system characterized by juridically

independent, territorial, and autonomous political entities. In a widely cited article

published in 1948 Leo Gross argued that to the Peace of Westphalia is 'traditionally

attributed the importance and dignity of being the first of several attempts to

establish something resembling world unity on the basis of states exercising

untrammeled sovereignty over certain territories and subordinated to no earthly

47 For Gross the central importance of Westphalia is that it established an

international system based on the equality of states whether Catholic or Protestant,

republican or monarchical, and undermined the hierarchy of the medieval world.

More recently Daniel Philpott has affirmed the central importance of Westphalia,

arguing that 'in the wake of Westphalia states became the chief form of polity in

Europe' and that 'following Westphalia, states became virtually uninhibited in their

internal authority'.

The treaties concluded at Westphalia do not provide much evidence for the

assertion that the Peace itself was any kind of decisive transition point. The Peace

brought to an end the Thirty Years War which had devastated the centre of Europe,

especially the Germanic lands. It was a complicated document with provisions about

various dynastic claims, division of territory, the practice of religion, and the

constitution of the Holy Roman Empire. The Treaty of Osnabrück was concluded

between the Habsburg monarch who was the Holy Roman Emperor and the

Protestant ruler of Sweden; the Treaty of Münster was concluded between the

Emperor and the Catholic king of France. In many ways it is easier to regard the

peace as a new constitution for the Holy Roman Empire than to see it as a

confirmation of what came to be termed the Westphalian system.

The specific issue at Westphalia was how the Empire, which had lost the war,

would satisfy France and Sweden which had won.
50 The more general problem was

to find some way of dealing with the religious disorders that were tearing Europe

apart and threatening to undermine regime stability across the continent. The Thirty

Rethinking the sovereign state model

Leo Gross, 'The Peace of Westphalia 1648–1948', American Journal of International Law , 42 (1948),

p. 20.

Daniel Philpott, 'The Religious Roots of Modern International Relations', World Politics , 52 (2000),

pp. 211 and 212.

For a excellent critiques of the Westphalian myth see Andreas Osiander, 'Sovereignty, International

Relations, and the Westphalian Myth',
International Organization, 55 ( 2001), pp. 251–87; Stéphane

Beaulac, 'The Westphalian Legal Orthodoxy—Myth or Reality',
Journal of the History of

International Law
, 2 (2000), pp 148–77; John G. Gagliardo, Reich and Nation, The Holy Roman

Empire as Idea and Reality, 1763–1806
(Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press, 1980),

pp. 44–6, and Derek Croxton, 'The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 and the Origins of Sovereignty',

International History Review
, 21 (1999). Croxton is particularly compelling in demonstrating that the

individuals involved in the Westphalian negotiations did not hold modern conceptualizations of

sovereignty. See especially pp. 579–89.

A. W. Ward, 'The Peace of Westphalia', in The Cambridge Modern History , vol IV: The Thirty Years

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1907), pp. 400–5.

Years War, fuelled in part by religious antipathies, resulted in more than two million

battle deaths, a larger carnage than any conflict except for the First and Second

World Wars.
51 It had been preceded by the religious wars in France during the latter

part of the sixteenth century. The Civil Wars in England rent the English monarchy

through the middle part of the seventeenth century.

The Peace imposed a territorial settlement that was advantageous to the victors,

France and Sweden. France was granted control over the bishoprics of Metz, Toul,

and Verdun which had been under
de facto French control for a century. Alsace was

granted to France by Austria, even though the Austrian claim to Alsace was

questionable. One provision of the treaty states that the ancient privileges which

these local nobles had enjoyed with regard to the Empire should be retained with

respect to France, but another provision of the treaty granted France 'all manner of

Jurisdiction and Sovereignty'.

Sweden's fundamental territorial objective, to secure a position on the southern

shore of the Baltic, was satisfied in a completely medieval way. The King of Sweden

received eastern Pomerania, the islands of Rugen, Usedom and Willin, the bishoprics

of Bremen and Verden and the port of Weismar. These were granted to Sweden not

in full sovereignty, but as fiefs of the Holy Roman Empire.
53 The rulers of Sweden

were given a place in the Imperial Diet under the titles of the Dukes of Bremen,

Verden, and Pomerania, the Princes of Rugen and the Lords of Wismar. The

prerogatives of the ruler of Sweden were specified with regard to appeal to either of

the imperial courts—the Aulic Court or the Imperial Chamber. Sweden was given

the right to erect a university and to collect certain tolls. The Hanseatic towns in the

areas ruled by Sweden were, however, to maintain their traditional rights of liberty

and freedom of navigation.

While rhetorically endorsing the Augsburg principle that the prince could set the

religion of his subjects (
cuius regio, eius religio), the actual provisions of the Peace

constrained sovereign prerogatives in Germany in favour of some forms of religious

toleration. Those Catholics who lived in Lutheran states or Lutherans who lived in

Catholic states were given the right to practice in the privacy of their homes, and to

educate their children at home or to send them to foreign schools. Five cities with

mixed Lutheran and Catholic populations were to have freedom of religious practice

for both groups. In four of these cities, offices were to be divided equally between

Catholics and Lutherans. The Treaty of Osnabrück provided that Catholics and

Lutherans should be equally represented in the assemblies of the Empire. Religious

issues were to be decided by a consensus that included both Catholics and

Protestants. Representatives to the imperial courts were also to include members of

Stephen D. Krasner

Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital and European States, AD 990–1990 (Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell,

1990), pp. 165–6.

Treaty of Münster, reprinted in Fred Israel (ed.), Major Peace Treaties (New York: McGraw Hill,

1967), art. LXXVI, for quote, art. LXXI, art. LXXIV; Ward, 'Westphalia', pp. 404–6; E. A. Beller,

'The Thirty Years War', in
The New Cambridge Modern History, vol. IV: The Decline of Spain and the

Thirty Years War 1609–1648/59
, edited by J.P. Cooper (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

1970), p. 353.

Treaty of Osnabrück, reprinted in Clive Parry (ed.), The Consolidated Treaty Series , vol I: 1648–1649

(Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana, 1969), Article X, pp. 244ff; Ward, 'Westphalia', pp. 403–4; Beller, 'Thirty

Years War', p. 354.

Treaty of Osnabrück, art. X.4.

both religions. If the judges divided along religious lines, then the case could be

appealed to the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire, where a decision also required a

consensus of Protestants (only Lutherans and Calvinists were included) and


The Peace of Westphalia also dealt with a number of issues related to the

constitutional arrangements of the Empire. The Emperor was elected by a group of

religious and secular nobles called the electors. The Peace increased the number of

electors from seven to eight by restoring an Electorship to the Duke Palatine. The

rights of succession for the ruling house of Bavaria were spelled out, including a

provision that the Electoral seat held by Bavaria would disappear were there to be

no male heir because Bavaria and the Palatinate would then be ruled by the same


This effort to dictate the internal organizational arrangements of the Holy

Roman Empire in an international treaty are hardly consistent with conventional

notions of sovereignty. Westphalia did not abolish the Empire, which might have

been consistent with a new world of sovereign states, nor did Westphalia treat the

Empire as if it were a sovereign state with the right to determine its own constitutional

structure. Instead, the treaties involved external actors, who guaranteed the

provisions of the treaties, in the internal affairs of Germany.

For the conventional interpretation of the Peace of Westphalia, which underscores

1648 as a break with the past, the most important provisions of the Treaties

are the ones that recognize the prerogatives of the princes within their own territory

and give them the right to make alliances with other states. The established view is

that this is a confirmation of a fundamental attribute of sovereignty, the right of

every state to carry out its own foreign policy. With this right the principalities of

the Holy Roman Empire could be understood as autonomous states rather than as

parts of some larger corporate body. The section of the Treaty of Münster that

recognizes the right to make treaties states that:

Above all, it shall be free perpetually to each of the States of the Empire, to make Alliances

with Strangers for their Preservation and Safety; provided, nevertheless, such Alliances be

not against the Emperor, and the Empire, nor against the Publick Peace, and this Treaty,

and without prejudice to the Oath by which every one is bound to the Emperor and the


The Treaty of Münster is 42 pages long. It contains 128 provisions. The right to

make treaties is given in one sentence in a section of the Treaty that spells out the

rights of states within the Holy Roman Empire to participate in the deliberations of

the Empire and which concludes with an admonition that no Treaty should be

directed against the Emperor and the Empire. Only after the fact can this be read as

an endorsement of the principle of sovereignty which rejects any external restraint

on the way in which states might conduct their foreign policies.

Moreover, the treaty-making power recognized at Westphalia simply reaffirmed

an already existing right. The more powerful German states had conducted inde-

Rethinking the sovereign state model

Treaty of Osnabrück, Articles V and VII.

Treaty of Osnabrück, Article IV; Treaty of Münster, XIV.

Treaty of Münster, Article LXV; a similar provision is found in the Treaty of Osnabrück, Article


pendent foreign policies before the conclusion of the Peace. The Schmalkalden

League formed by six Protestant princes and ten cities in 1531 was in continuous

contact with Denmark, England and France. The Protestant princes signed a treaty

of alliance with Henry II, the King of France, in 1552. Both the Palatinate and

Brandenburg concluded alliances with the Dutch Republic around 1605. A new

Protestant alliance, the Union, was formed in 1608. The Union made concrete

agreements with England, France, and the Netherlands.

The Peace of Westphalia did not affirm Vattelian sovereignty. The principalities

of the Empire did not become autonomous states. The settlement of 1648 did,

however, undermine the position of the Papacy and erode the already weakening

notion of a Christendom. It reflected and promoted foreign policy based on the

principle of balance of power. The balance of power, however, does not preclude

efforts by powerful states to influence the domestic authority structures of weaker

ones. In an anarchic system balancing may be internal or external, and external

balancing can involve efforts to alter regime types or authority structures in other

states, not just alliances. The Peace reflected the short term interests of the

victorious powers, France and Sweden, rather than some overarching conceptualization

of how the international system should be ordered. It used medieval

structures and concepts, altering the electoral system of the empire, satisfying

Sweden by awarding fiefdoms, as much as modern ones. The Peace of Westphalia

was not Westphalian.

The Treaties of Münster and Osnabrück did not sanction the right of German

princes to do whatever they pleased with regard to the practice of religion within

their own territories. The Peace dictated a set of internal practices for much of the

Holy Roman Empire. The Treaties were guaranteed by France and Sweden, providing

legitimation for challenges to German autonomy. In the area of religion, the

central political question of the seventeenth century, the Peace of Westphalia was

less consistent with the sovereign state model than was the Peace of Augsburg,

concluded almost a century earlier.

The Peace of Westphalia is an example of contract. The Habsburg monarch did

not want to sanction Protestantism. He refused to accept toleration in the areas that

he ruled directly but that were outside the Holy Roman Empire. Ending the Thirty

Years War with provisions for religious toleration was, however, preferable to more


The Peace of Utrecht was signed in 1713. It brought an end to war between

France, the major power in Europe, and an alliance that included England, Holland,

Sweden, the Austrian Habsburgs, the Holy Roman Empire, Savoy, and many

German principalities. The war had been precipitated by Louis XIV's efforts to

extend his control to Spain and even Austria. The Peace provided that Philip V, a

Bourbon, would be recognized as the King of Spain, but only if the Bourbon family

agreed that France and Spain would never be united under a single ruler. Utrecht

was a contract between Britain and France in which, in exchange for peace and

Stephen D. Krasner

Geoffrey Parker, The Thirty Years' War (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984), p. 2. John G.

Germany Under the Old Regime, 1600–1790 (London: Longman, 1991), pp. 23–25;

Reich and Nation, p. viii.

Even the Peace of Augsburg provided for religious toleration in several German cities that had mixed

Catholic and Lutheran populations. See Gagliardo,
Germany, pp. 16–21.

some territorial aggrandizement, Louis XIV accepted constraints on the domestic

political arrangements and personnel that could govern France and Spain.

One outcome of the peace settlements reached at the conclusion of the Napoleonic

wars, although not the only one, was the creation of the Holy Alliance. The aim of

the Holy Alliance, established by Prussia, Austria, and Russia, was to prevent the

rise of republican governments. The members of the Alliance pledged to resist such

developments domestically and to repress them internationally. A protocol signed at

the Conference of Troppau in 1820 stated:

States which have undergone a change of government due to revolution, the results of which

threaten other states, ipso facto cease to be members of the European Alliance, and remain

excluded from it until their situation gives guarantees for legal order and stability. If, owing to

such alterations, immediate danger threatens other states, the parties bind themselves, by

peaceful means, or if need be by arms, to bring back the guilty state into the bosom of the

Great Alliance.

The rulers of the powerful conservative states of Europe had no compunction

about using coercion or imposition to violate the sovereign state model in the name

of an alternative principle, the preservation of peace through the repression of

republican governments, although the Holy Alliance had only limited success partly

because of British resistance. Austria received international approval for the

repression of republican governments in some German states and in Naples. At the

Congress of Verona in 1822, France secured the support of Russia, Prussia, and

Austria to intervene in support of the monarchy in Spain, which it did in 1823. The

Alliance functioned until 1825, when it broke up over the question of whether to

intervene to aid the rebellion in Greece.
62 The Holy Alliance was not only an

instrument of coercion and imposition
vis-à-vis potential republican governments,

but also a convention among the signatories who committed themselves to maintain

their own conservative regimes.

Provisions of the Treaty of Versailles and other agreements reached at the end of

World War I were explicitly designed to alter the domestic political arrangements of

the new states that emerged after the conflict. The treaties and the League of

Nations embodied Wilsonian conceptions of the relationship among the rights of

minorities, national self-determination, democracy, and international peace. Collective

security could only work with democratic states. Democratic states had to

respect national self-determination. National self-determination, however, could not

resolve the problem of minorities. Therefore, the rights of minorities had to be

Rethinking the sovereign state model

Mark Trachtenberg, 'Intervention in Historical Perspective', in Laura W. Reed and Carl Kaysen

Emerging Norms of Justified Intervention: A Collection of Essays from a Project of the

American Academy of Arts and Sciences
(Cambridge, MA: American Academy of Arts and Sciences,

1993), p. 17; W.E. Lingelbach, 'The Doctrine and Practice of Intervention in Europe',
Annals of the

American Academy of Political and Social Science
, 16 (1900), p. 5; Andreas Osiander, The States

System of Europe 1640–1990: Peacemaking and the Conditions of International Stability

Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 123–33.

Quoted in Thomas and. Thomas, Jr., Non-Intervention, p. 8.

Goronwy J. Jones, The United Nations and the Domestic Jurisdiction of States: Interpretations and

Applications of the Non-Intervention Principle
(Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1979), pp. 3–4; R.J.

Nonintervention and International Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974),

pp. 77–79, 86–7; Stanley Hoffman, 'The Problem of Intervention', in Hedley Bull (ed.),
Intervention in

World Politics
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), p. 12.

protected so that they would accept and support the democratic polities within

which they resided. The minorities treaties associated with the Versailles settlement

violated the sovereign state model. They were imposed on the would-be rulers of

new and powerless states, and were repudiated when it later became apparent that

neither the Great Powers nor the League of Nations could or would enforce them.

Symmetrical conditions concerning the treatment of minorities were never accepted

by the victorious powers. There were no international agreements about the

treatment of the Irish by the British government, or of Asians and blacks by federal

or state authorities in the United States.

There was no general peace settlement after World War II; rather, the United

States and the Soviet Union coerced or contracted to encourage political regimes

that were consonant with their own preferences. In 1975, however, the major powers

did conclude the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation

in Europe (CSCE). The CSCE was a contract between the Soviets and the West in

which the Soviets nominally accepted some human rights principles and the West

recognized existing borders and regimes in Europe. The CSCE reflected the Soviet

effort to secure legitimation of their dominance of eastern Europe, and the desire of

the West to get the Soviets to accept some liberal precepts. Principle VI of the

'Declaration on Principles Guiding Relations between Participating States' endorsed

non-intervention, while Principle VII endorsed human rights including freedom of

thought, conscience, and religion. The West used the Helsinki accord to pressure the

Soviet Union on human rights, rejecting the charge that this amounted to interference

in internal affairs by claiming that human rights were universally recognized

and that non-interference referred only to efforts to dictate to other countries.

Most recently the Dayton Accords designed to establish a stable and tolerant

political system for Bosnia included extensive violations of Vattelian sovereignty.

Annex 6 committed the signatories—The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the

Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska—to honour the

provisions of 15 international and European human rights accords. It provided for

the creation of an Ombudsman for human rights who would have diplomatic

immunity, would not be a citizen of any parts of the former Yugoslavia, and would

initially be appointed to a five-year term by the Organization for Cooperation and

Security in Europe; as well as a 14 member Chamber of Human Rights, four of

whose members would be appointed by Bosnia and Herzegovina, two by the

Republic of Srpska, and the other eight, none of whom would be citizens of the

states that had been part of Yugoslavia, by the Committee of Ministers of the

Council of Europe. Individuals could bring complaints to the Chamber whose

decisions, taken by a majority vote, would be binding on the signatories. Nongovernmental

organizations and international organizations were to be invited to

Bosnia to monitor the implementation of the terms of the Annex. After five years

the Chamber and the office of the Ombudsman would pass to the control of Bosnia

and Herzegovina, if all of the parties agreed. The goal of the Dayton accords was to

make Bosnia a conventional state that would conform with the sovereign state

model, but the leaders of the major powers believed that they could only accomplish

Stephen D. Krasner

Jones, Code of Peace, p. 45.

R. J. Vincent, Human Rights and International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

1986), pp. 66–70.

this goal by compromising Bosnia's Vattelian sovereignty at least in the short and

medium term.
65 Hardly a new story for the Balkans.

Hence, every major peace settlement from Westphalia to Dayton has involved

violations of the sovereign state model. At Utrecht and Helsinki, rulers entered into

contracts that compromised, either immediately or potentially, the domestic

autonomy of some states. In the Holy Alliance and at Versailles and Dayton, rulers

in the most powerful states imposed their preferences regarding specific domestic

policies and sometimes even constitutional structures. There was always some

competing principle—the need for religious peace at Westphalia, for balance of

power at Utrecht, for international peace at Vienna and Versailles (assumed to

emerge from completely different kinds of domestic regimes), for stability at

Helsinki and Dayton—that was invoked to justify compromising the sovereign state



The sovereign state model has persisted for a long period of time but its defining

principles—non-intervention and mutual recognition of juridically independent

territorial entities—have often been ignored. It has been both enduring and flimsy.

The sovereign state model is not a stable equilibrium: actors have frequently had

both the incentive and power to deviate from it. It is not a generative grammar,

producing individual entities (states) that replicate and reinforce the general model:

states have acted in ways that are inconsistent with the model either by voluntarily

accepting constraints on their own autonomy or by imposing authority structures on

others. The sovereign state model is not a set of constitutive rules the violation of

which means that some other game is being played (as would be the case if a bishop

were moved in a straight line in chess instead of along a diagonal): if a ruler agrees

that domestic ethnic minorities will be given specific rights and that behaviour will

be monitored by external actors, or that financial affairs will be managed by a

committee appointed by foreign bondholders, he is not understood to have done

something incomprehensible nor will he or others necessarily claim that his state is

no longer sovereign. Whether or not a ruler's opponents chastize him for adopting

policies inconsistent with Vattelian sovereignty will depend upon their assessment of

the political benefits of invoking such norms.

Norms associated with the sovereign state model are a widely available cognitive

script. They can be more easily invoked than historical structures that have become

obsolescent, such as the tributary state model which has been mostly forgotten even

in East Asia (although the Chinese treatment of Hong Kong can be seen as a

manifestation of traditional Sinocentric practices), or institutional forms whose

underlying principles have not been explicitly formulated and labelled, such as the

European Union, for which contemporary observers are still seeking an appropriate

Rethinking the sovereign state model

United States, Department of State, The Bosnia Agreement, 1995. Susan L. Woodward,

'Compromised Sovereignty to Create Sovereignty: Is Dayton Bosnia a Futile Exercise or an Emerging

Model?', in Stephen D. Krasner (ed.),
Problematic Sovereignty: Contested Rules and Political

(New York: Columbia University Press, 2001).

appellation (although European forms, including the insistence on political

democracy not just economic openness, have been copied in other areas of the world

such as the Mercosul agreement in South America). Given how complicated and

multi-faceted most international environments are, political actors will try to

maintain a repertoire of available normative options. No principle or norm will be

taken for granted. Intellectual constructs will be debated over extended periods of

time and only sometimes codified in unambiguous ways, and even then subject to

challenge by potentially contradictory ideas. Political leaders must struggle with

concrete problems that may, or may not, be best resolved by invoking the most

widely available norms. How should Sweden's territorial ambitions be satisfied in

1648? How should a fifteenth century Chinese emperor, operating in a system in

which he and only he is regarded as having the Mandate of Heaven, interact with

powerful and rich Moslem rulers from central Asia whose own belief systems

preclude acknowledging the emperor's supremacy? Given the Islamic division

between the House of God and the House of Infidels, how should the Ottoman

sultan treat his European counterparts as they became more powerful during the

seventeenth century? How should national self determination and minority rights be

resolved after the First World War? How can all attributes of the European Union

including open labour markets be expanded to eastern Europe without undermining

support for integration in western Europe? No single set of coherent principles,

whether those of the sovereign state model, or the Sinocentric tributary system, or

medieval Europe, or the Islamic world, will provide optimal outcomes for rulers in all

of the situations which they confront in the international environment. Regardless of

what cognitive scripts are most available, actions will be decoupled from norms.

Rather than being treated as a set of constitutive rules or as an analytic

assumption, the sovereign state model is better understood as an example of

organized hypocrisy. Political leaders are inevitably faced with situations in which

the actions that they take and the norms that they have endorsed will not be

mutually consistent. Organized hypocrisy is characteristic of international

environments because: (1) actors, whether they be states, city states, empires, trading

leagues, or tributary states have different levels of power; (2) rulers in different

political entities will be responsive to different domestic norms which may, or may

not, be fully compatible with international norms; (3) situations arise in which it is

unclear what rule should apply, and there is no authority structure that can resolve

these ambiguities. In any international system logics of consequences will dominate

logics of appropriateness.

Stephen D. Krasner


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