I develop a positive theory of sovereignty that is rooted in political exchange. The key concept I use to characterize sovereignty is self-enforcing exchange of political rights. I conclude that a sovereign is an individual or body party to political exchange that does not rest on third-party enforcement. Importantly, sovereignty is an emergent phenomenon, defined in the process of bargains between holders of political power. I describe how political bargains within and across polities influences the distribution of political rights characterized by sovereignty, and I conclude by showing how my conception of sovereignty is compatible with theoretical understanding, and practical existence, of polycentric governance.
- Politics as exchange