Faculty Publications


Sovereignty in the global economy: An evolving geopolitical concept

Document Type



Geopolitics, Globalization, International order, Political economy, Power, Sovereignty

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Geography Research Forum



First Page


Last Page



The recent global economic transformations have affected states and their behavior. Specifically, states have experienced a reduction in their ability to act independently in the new global economy. This paper argues that the traditional conceptualization of State Sovereignty is insufficient to explain the complex international geopolitical system of the 21st century. The paper explains why the state and the concept of sovereignty continue to be important to understand the international order even though they no longer carry the same meanings they once did. The paper then identifies the major characteristics that a broader concept of sovereignty should have if it is to form the basis of a future dialogue on international geopolitics. The paper then proposes a new definition that reflects the changing context of state behavior and its consequences for both internal and external behavior within an emerging international geopolitical and economic order. The new definition captures the fact that power is no longer a zero-sum game and that both power and sovereignty are increasingly multidimensional. States may experience a loss of power or reduction of sovereignty in some contexts, yet simultaneously strengthen their position in other contexts. The ranking of states relative to their power may depend on the issue to which the power is applied. The paper concludes with some speculation about how the new conceptualization may help advance discussion in the future.

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