Essays on Sovereignty is referred to as a ‘book’ for the sake of convenience. A more appropriate description would be a collection of articles that share a common theme. The distinction is subtle, just like many of the points covered herein. It is meant to suggest that the parts of this piece of labour can stand on their own right, save some references to their context (e.g. “in the previous chapter…”).
Articles such as the Factors of effective sovereignty, The market as a political agent, On self-determination could easily be posted as standalone blog posts. Reading them on their own will not detract from the analysis into their individual issues. But just like society, where each individual person can be treated in their own right, one may not appreciate the full extent of certain features without reference to the environing whole.
Reading these essays as a collection will deliver different results than seeing each item in isolation. It is like when you start connecting dots. The dots and the lines you draw can be seen in themselves as dots and lines. Take a step back, ‘zoom out’ as it were, and you may be looking at an altogether different figure.
Most, if not all, conclusions about a subject of inquiry come down to perspective, to the method used. Examine the underlying methodology, shift things around and you might gain a new insight into the topic at hand. That is kind of what this book is all about. In a sense there is nothing new presented here. Sovereignty, cyber, globalisation, and every other concept are well-documented, and by authors with a better grasp of the issues than yours truly. And yet the attentive reader may find snippets of original thinking, from the very approach to each topic to the content discussed therein. Again, perspective comes into play.
The emphasis on how one sees things should not be considered a form of metaphysical relativism. The suggestion is not that objective truths are an illusion since “everything is a matter of perspective”. The point is far more subtle. Epistemological. It is about the most appropriate means to revealing the actuality of a certain case in its given constitution, at the level of abstraction in which it is rendered intelligible. An emergent phenomenon cannot be properly understood by studying only its foundational level. The domain where emergence reveals itself is where the core of the study ought to be.
This sort of ‘methodological awareness’ as it were characterises much of the Essays. The reason is rather simple: to avoid creating confusion. Topics such as globalisation, the role of financial markets, sovereignty, are more or less common in political palaver. They carry certain connotations that could engender unintended conclusions if not properly removed from the scope of the analysis. For instance, the argument that the market is a political agent, can be prima facie dismissed as a naive contradiction. “Prima facie” typically is the instance when one exposes their previously held notions. The explanation into the approach helps them escape from those confines or otherwise appreciate things under a different light.
The vast corpus of Essays on Sovereignty is dedicated to the inquiry into theoretical topics. It may, therefore, not be the most fun thing to read. This is not a manual on some of the technical challenges to the enforcement of sovereign authority in the 21st century. It may not be the book you would recommend to your practically-minded friend. It is a collection of open-ended ideas about some of the fundamentals of political organisation. The book does not purport to be anything more than a proposal on considering its themes in the way suggested in each chapter. It is an invitation to think along those lines.
Theoretical work does not yield immediate results. It is not like with a manifesto that compels one into action based mostly on their predispositions. We think before we venture forward in an attempt to ultimately set the right goals, pursue the most appropriate course of action, employ the best means available, and so on. Though always with the understanding that our theory may be muddled, far from complete, and, hence, subject to revision.
By keeping the analysis at the highly theoretical level, I have tried to examine the most basic issues, those that are likely to be found in an extended multitude of actual cases. This lays the foundations for more work to be done into the specifics. If, say, I write a blog post about globalisation or cyberspace, I can expand on what was presented in this book. If you are a concerned citizen, then perhaps seeing the market as a political agent may provide you with a starting point on seeking some alternative, some kind of reform. And so on. Essays on Sovereignty is a point of reference in an endless cycle of research. It is neither a beginning nor an end in a linear process.
Finally, I want to comment on my hope with publishing this book. No, it is not about persuading the reader to become a theorist. I do not give theory more importance than practicality. None of that. The hope is that we sometimes take a step back from what is seemingly obvious, self-evident, and crystal clear, to check whether we are doing our cause any real service. We may extol the virtues of a given plan or criticise some state of affairs. Fair enough. It seldom hurts to think things through.
Published on 14 November 2016
Thanks to essential tools
This books exists as a collection of web pages on my personal website. Apart from the actual content that I wrote, a number of other factors have contributed to its realisation.
At first, I could not have published it in the way I did had it not been for my website (which I code and develop myself). To that end, I must express my gratitude to the Jekyll community for contributing to this very reliable piece of software and to GitHub Pages for providing the hosting environment. My thanks also extends to Gandi for the domain name services and email server.
Secondly, creating a book is a demanding task. The writing experience can only be tolerated if the tools are pleasant to work with (I won’t tell you how I feel about bloated apps). In this case, it is the software. I must therefore thank a number of different elements of my ‘writing environment’.
- Terminator for providing such a powerful terminal emulator.
- Cmus for allowing me to listen to my music collection from the comfort of the command line.
- Mutt, my favourite email client that makes it easy to reach ‘zero inbox’.
- Newsbeuter, the feed reader that keeps the reading experience clutter-free.
- Taskwarrior for offering such a minimalist yet powerful task management tool.
- Vim for providing one of the most robust text editors I have ever used.
- Atom, the hackable text editor I employ when editing sets of documents.
In the memory of my dog Argos who passed away on October 17. His sincere and most genuine of companionships will forever be a part of me.