Sovereign myths in International Relations:Sovereignty as equality and the reproduction of Eurocentric blindness


The concept of sovereignty still generates a considerable amount of debate in the discipline of International Relations. Using myth as a heuristic device, I argue that part of this confusion results from a mythical understanding of ‘sovereignty as equality’. Following the myth, sovereignty is seen as playing an equalising role in international relations while international inequalities are depicted as existing despite the norm of sovereignty (and not as a result of it). The myth of sovereignty as equality thus enables IR scholars to separate the inequalities instituted and legitimised by sovereignty from the concept itself. As a consequence, sovereignty is considered as normatively desirable since it is the best tool to offset inequalities. This article argues that the myth rests on three interlinked building blocks and that its maintenance can be explained by its normative appeal (more than by its dubious analytical value). Indeed, even those scholars who reproduce the myth acknowledge that international relations do not conform to it. As such, an effective critique of sovereignty requires both factual disproval (to reveal what the myth contributes to hide) and the construction of an alternative, more desirable myth.

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Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities
Additional Information: © Sage 2018. The final publication is available via Sage at
Publication ISSN: 1755-0882
Last Modified: 06 May 2024 07:26
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2018 13:24
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Related URLs: https://journal ... 755088218814072 (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2020-10-01
Published Online Date: 2018-12-11
Accepted Date: 2018-10-23
Authors: Mathieu, Xavier



Version: Accepted Version

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