Concept of Sovereignty: Characteristics and Types of Sovereignty

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  • It is primarily a legal concept
  • The basic idea of Sovereignty is to be able to declare law, issue commands and take political decisions
  • Sovereignty grants States Authority in both Internal and External Spheres
  • Sovereignty is absolute, unlimited and perpetual power

Characteristics of Sovereignty


  • The will of the Sovereign reigns supreme in the State
  • The most important characteristic as Sovereignty is not limited


  • Sovereignty belongs to State not to a government
  • Permanence of Sovereignty is the corollary of its absoluteness


  • Sovereignty is a universal, all-pervasive and all-comprehensive
  • Organisation within the territory of states are subject to its Sovereign


Sovereignty cannot be transferred without destroying the state itself


  • Sovereignty cannot be divided
  • The principle of Federalism is exceptional characteristic of Sovereignty

Types of Sovereignty

  • De Jure And De Jure Sovereignty
  • Titular Sovereignty
  • Legal Sovereignty
  • Political Sovereignty

Chief Exponents of Theory of Sovereignty

Jean Bodin

  • Sovereignty as absolute and perpetual power
  • Sovereign above Law and Source of Law

Imposed two restrictions on Sovereign:

  • Not abrogate fundamental laws
  • Not Tax private property

Hugo Grotius

  • States Sovereignty in international sphere
  • Introduced the idea of external sovereignty

Thomas Hobbes

  • Sovereignty is the attribute of the State
  • Authority of Sovereign beyond challenge
  • Added legitimacy to Authority of Sovereign

John Locke

  • Did not uphold absolute sovereignty
  • Supreme Power is with the people

Jean Jacques Rousseau

  • Added doctrine of popular sovereignty
  • Sovereignty is represented in the form of General Will
  • Sovereignty is absolute and unlimited because General Will is accepted unconditionally
  • Man can be forced to be free

John Austin

  • Contributed to the legal notion of Sovereignty
  • Will of Sovereign not bound by any other law
  • Defined law as the command of Sovereign
  • The subjects could have no legal rights against the state
  • Exponent of Absolute and Unlimited sovereignty from legal point of view
  • Sovereignty is an essential element of State
  • Sovereignty denotes Authority of State
  • Existence of State depends on Sovereignty
  • International recognition is not a condition for existence of State it is Sovereignty that is must for the same.

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