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Negri on Sovereignty

'The concept of sovereignty is a concept of a power that has nothing above it. It is a secular conception of power, opposed to any notion of a power based outside its own dynamic. It is thus an absolute quoad titulum in reference to its source. However, when one considers it in its exercise quoad exercitium the concept of sovereignty is rather a singular concept. This in no sense diminishes its character of absoluteness, but it is precisely in singularity that sovereignty is exercised. Modern sovereignty is singularised by virtue of the fact that it is exercised over a territory, and in relation to a people or peoples. International law is founded on this singularity jus gentium, or, better, the right of sovereigns, which originally consisted in resolving conflicts between sovereign singularities by means of pacts. “By means of pacts,” and thus a right that is absolutely weakened, an exchange rather than a juridical contract or administration. But the concept of sovereignty is not singularised only in relation to the exterior: it is also singularised domestically, where it presents itself as a concept of legitimation, or as a relation between power and its subjects. Or, better, as an inter-relation with subjects. Modern sovereignty may be a power which has nothing above it, but it has a lot of things below it. In particular it has below it a space (a territory) and a multitude (the citizenry). The legitimation, to put it in Weberian terms, may take various forms (traditional, charismatic, legal/rational); in all cases it is a relationship between sovereign and subjects — a relationship within which there exists jointly both the expression of authority and the obedience (and/or disobedience) of the subjects. Thus a living and inhabited space is found at the basis of modern citizenship. Order is the result of an activity of government which meets acceptance and/or passivity among a given group of citizens over the extent of a territory. In this perspective, sovereignty as order becomes administration; in other words, sovereignty organises itself as a machinery of authority which extends through and structures territory. Through the activity of administration, territory is organised, and structures of authority are extended through it. Increasingly within the dynamics of modern sovereignty, the connection between administration and territory becomes intimate and full. The nature of the economic regime (mercantilist or liberalist) matters little; the nature of the political regime (absolutist, aristocratic or popular) also matters little. Space finds itself absorbed into the scenarios of sovereignty in ways that are increasingly coherent, and each particularity is structured by the whole in a progressively irresistible manner. It takes the concept of nation a while before it combines with that of sovereignty. National sovereignty, at the start of the nineteenth century, was not in opposition to sovereignty; rather it perfected the modern concept of sovereignty. It is a powerful specification of sovereignty, which exalts the connection between sovereign and subjects, and at the same time the potency of the whole. [...] (The crisis of political space, Common Sense, 1996)

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