Annual Survey of International & Comparative Law


Sophie Clavier


The findings of this paper augment Keohane's argument that sovereignty is a useful "conceptual lens" in the study of International Relations and that understanding divergent conceptions of sovereignty in Europe and in the United States is crucial to shedding light on the formulation of their respective policies. Indeed, the first goal of this paper is to expand on Keohane's premise and to address how France and the United States understand sovereignty. The second goal is to argue that the current conflicting perspectives on sovereignty displayed by France and the United States are a departure from a historical pattern whereby, at each key time period, challenges to the shared definition of sovereignty and of the world order it symbolized, came from nondominant actors within or without the system in question. This paper posits that we are currently witnessing contradictions amongst the dominant actors. The third task of this article is to argue that the United States' current position on sovereignty, its meaning and its function, perpetuate a system that favors the use of force to resolve disputes. By contrast, the "multi-perspective" sovereignty espoused by France within the European context, could provide a new paradigm for a world order guaranteed by international rule of law and not by the use or the threat of the use of force. Finally, this paper concludes that these fundamental differences go beyond an academic debate and carry with them significant normative, economic, and political consequences that make diplomatic confrontations between the two countries unavoidable.