What Is Sovereignty?4 min read

by Politic360 Publishers
So, sovereignty means the Super Most Power or Supreme Authority.

Sovereignty is an English word that has been derived from the Old French word “Souverain,” meaning “Supreme Power.” 

This, in turn, is derived from the Latin word “Superanus,” which means the “Super Most.” 

So, sovereignty means the Super Most Power or Supreme Authority. 

Jean Bodin was a prominent French jurist and political philosopher. He is well known for his theory of sovereignty. 

According to him, it is “The supreme powers of the state on its citizens and subjects unrestrained by law.”  

Pioneering American political scientist John William Burgess defines it as “The super most, original, eternal and absolute power of the state on its citizens.” 

According to J.J Rousseau, “Sovereignty is an absolute, infallible, indivisible and inalienable power.”

Features Of Sovereignty


Sovereignty is an indivisible phenomenon, and its division is its death. 

It is an integral body, and its division is impossible. It is like a living body, and its division is its end. 

In the federal system of government, a state is divided into units with its own legislatures, executives, and judiciaries. But it belongs to the central government only. 

A unit or province with its own area, population, government, and delegation of sovereignty will make these units independent states. 

It is one and indivisible power. 


Sovereignty is a permanent feature of the state. Its life depends on state life.

A state’s sovereignty may disappear, but as compared to government, the state is a long-lived institution. 

Therefore its sovereign powers are long-lived. Change in government has no direct effect on it. 

A new government is allowed to use state sovereign powers. So, it is an eternal pillar of a state’s building. 


This power in the state is superior to all other powers and authorities in the state.

It is the super-most and unlimited power not subject to any external direction. 

All state citizens and institutions are subordinate to it, and it is the origin of all powers, free of any internal or external pressures. 

There are no legal but some moral limitations, and the state is to use sovereign powers within the limits of the moral values. 

State uses its sovereign powers very carefully, especially in the light of the customs, traditions, religious values, and ethical principles. 

Legally states are not bound to accept any international code, order, or responsibility. 


The state’s sovereign powers are valid and enforceable in all parts of the state. 

All state institutions, individuals, and units are under the state’s sovereignty. 

No one is above of state’s sovereignty, nor can they question it. 

If an individual or institution violates or denies the state’s orders, and the state ignores them, it does not mean that the state’s sovereignty over that person or institute ends. States sometimes,  ignore to use of pressure. 


It is un-transferable or cannot be permanently delegated to any person or institution. 

Sovereignty, if transferred, is the death of the state. 

State and sovereignty are forever interdependent and inseparable things. 

The constitution empowers or identifies the person or the institution to exercise the state’s sovereignty. It may be temporarily delegated but not permanently. 


Sovereignty is the unique feature of the state. That is because the state’s sovereign status makes a state superior to all other human institutions. 

The state is the super-most human institution and a top point of human civilization. 

In the state, no individual or institution has sovereign powers but the state. It is a unique principle that gives distinctive and superior status to the state. 

The states which are not totally sovereign or under others’ directions lose their place in the international environment. 


State sovereignty is impossible to be removed or violated by the citizens.

If a state ignores exercising its power in a particular area, it should not be considered that state sovereign authority has gone. 

It is an evergreen feature of the state. Its presence is not attached to its utilization. 

Classification Of Sovereignty 

Titular Sovereignty

When sovereign powers are formally given to an individual or state institution, it is called titular or nominal sovereignty. 

State powers practically belong to some other person or institution. 

The Queen is the titular sovereign in the UK because the Queen seems to exercise all the state powers, but practically others use those powers. 

The President is a titular sovereign in a parliamentary form of government because all state affairs are to be conducted in his name. 

For example, the British Queen is to dissolve the House of Commons, but as advised by the Prime Minister. So, the real powers are in the control of the British Prime Minister. 

Real Sovereignty

The state sovereignty that an individual or institution practically exercises is real sovereignty. 

In India, theoretically, the state powers are in the hand of the President, but in practice, these powers are exercised by the Prime Minister. 

So, the Prime minister is the real sovereign. In a federation, real sovereign powers are vested in the constitution amending body, for example, the Pakistani parliament. 

When the state sovereign powers are vested in an individual or institution by the constitution, it is legal sovereignty. 

The constitution protects this type of sovereignty. In Great Britain, Parliament is empowered by the constitution to exercise state sovereign powers. 

The lawyers presented this concept, and the basic law gives it; therefore, it is legal sovereignty. 

Political Sovereignty: 

Where the electorates elect state institutions, electorates are sovereign. 

If the electorates indirectly exercise state powers, it is political sovereignty. 

Legal sovereignty is nothing without political sovereignty. For example, in England, British electorates are to elect the House of Commons, which is sovereign, but this house is to legislate, keeping in view the needs of the voters. 

Electorates have political sovereignty, and they have a decisive influence on the legal sovereigns. 

If only the electorates are sovereign, it is political sovereignty. And if all the state citizens are given equal chances to play their role in State activities, it is popular sovereignty. 

Its example is the direct democracy of the Greek city-states of the 5th century BC.

There, all citizens were given equal opportunities to participate in the political activities of the state. 

De-Facto Sovereignty: 

When the individuals or institutions temporarily exercise the state’s sovereign powers, it is de-facto sovereignty. 

Those states where governments are unstable are never permanently recognized by the other states. 

Such unstable states have de-facto sovereignty. It is temporary.

Those governments, which are made through illegal means, have de-facto 


De-Jure Sovereignty: 

If competent individuals or institutions systematically exercise the state’s sovereign powers permanently, it is de-jure sovereignty. 

Those states have de-jure sovereignty, which are recognized by the other states.

States having de-jure sovereignty are in a position to deal with international affairs. 

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