Political Science

What is Sovereignty? CHARACTERISTICS and TYPES of Sovereignty

Free Notes: In this article you will read about sovereignty and its characterstics.

Sovereignty is a complex concept in political theory and international law, representing the ultimate authority within a specific territory.

What is Sovereignty

Sovereignty refers to the supreme and independent authority of a state to govern itself without external interference. It includes the authority to make and enforce laws, control resources, and conduct foreign affairs within its borders.

Here are some key points regarding sovereignty:

  • The state come into being when an independent group of people are organized by means of a government which creates and enforces laws.
  • Within this group there must be supremacy and will and power.
  • It must contain some person or body of persons whose commands receive obedience who can, if necessary, execute those commands by means of force.
  • Such person or body of person exercise sovereignty and such commands are called laws.
  • Evidently there can no limit to sovereignty.
  • The state is legal sovereign, there can be no legal limit to lawmaking power of the supreme law making associations.


(1)Absoluteness: there can be no legal power within the state superior to it, and there can be no legal limit to the supreme law-making power of the state.
(2)Universality: the sovereignty of the state extends over every person and every association of persons in the state.
(3)Permanence: the sovereignty of the state continues as long as the state itself exists. Only by the destruction of the state sovereignty be destroyed.
(4)Indivisibility: there can be one sovereignty in the state. To divide sovereignty is to destroy it. The exercise of its power may be distributed among various governmental organs but sovereignty is a unit, just as the state is a unit.

Kinds/ Types of Sovereignty

–Titular and Real Sovereignty

Titular sovereignty refers to an office that has supreme authority in name only. In such a system, a monarch holds the title of the head of state, but the actual governance and decision-making processes might rest with elected officials or a parliament.

Real Sovereign: They exercise the real sovereignty. In this system, the Government, Prime minister, collectively exercise the real sovereignty of the state, have actual power to govern and make decisions on behalf of the people.

–Popular Sovereignty

This concept emphasizes that ultimate political authority rests with the people of a country. Governments derive their legitimacy and power from the consent and will of the governed. It often involves democratic principles, where citizens have the right to participate in decision-making processes through elections or other means.

–Legal and Political Sovereignty

Legal sovereignty refers to the highest legal power. It encompasses the state’s control over its institutions, legal system, and the ability to make and enforce laws without external interference.

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Political sovereignty is more opaque and refers to whoever exercises the highest influence or control. Ideally, in a democracy, the people as a whole are the political sovereign insofar as they can influence the laws and governments without being directly empowered to make or enforce the laws. 

–De jure and De facto Sovereignty

De jure sovereignty signifies legal or rightful authority over a territory, officially recognized by other states or entities.  an office or institution is de jure sovereign when it has a rightful claim to exercising the highest authority within a territory and that claim is recognized as legitimate.

De facto sovereignty refers to effective(actual) control over a territory, even if it lacks legal recognition. This distinction is crucial in situations where there might be a difference between the legally recognized authority and the actual control exercised on the ground.  It is less a matter of having a rightful claim to sovereignty and more of a matter of having the capacity to exercise the highest power. 

–Internal and External Sovereignty

Internal Sovereignty: This denotes authority and control over its territory, including the ability to establish laws, enforce them, and maintain order within its borders.

External Sovereignty: This relates to a nation’s independence in its interactions with other states. It involves the ability to engage in international relations, make treaties, and manage foreign policies without undue external influence.

What is Sovereignty? Definition of Sovereignty

What are the types of Sovereignty?

What are the characteristics of Sovereignty?

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