Sovereignty as exchange of political property rights

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-96
Number of pages18
JournalPublic Choice
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • Anarchy
  • Catallaxy
  • Constitutions
  • Politics as exchange
  • Polycentricity
  • Sovereignty


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