Deconstructing sovereignty: The underlying liberal narrative

Date of Completion

January 2005


Political Science, International Law and Relations




This dissertation examines the assumptions that underlie the project to deconstruct sovereignty in international relations theory in order to establish the argument that the postmodern project is inherently a 'liberal' endeavor. This is a textually based analysis of the theoretical arguments advanced by Richard Ashley, R. B. J. Walker, Jens Bartelson and Cynthia Weber, which is intended to explicate how they deconstruct the concept of sovereignty. This is not, however, an examination of whether or not their deconstructive efforts are successful. This is an examination that aims to grasp the political commitments and presumptions that supply the motivating force for this deconstructive effort. This study reveals that the ethical content of their arguments is clearly embedded in their commitment to an emancipatory politics. What ties Ashley and Walker, in particular, to liberal thought is the way in which they conceive of this emancipatory politics, the political actions and choices that they indicate might further this agenda, but more significantly, how they envision the role of the individual. Thus this study concludes that the heart that beats at the core of the project to deconstruct sovereignty harkens back to the stirrings of the liberal values of pluralism, individual freedom, and toleration. ^