Neil Walker (University of Edinburgh)
'When Sovereigns Stir'
5 December 2018, 17:00-18:30
Chair: Emily Hancox (MWF-LAW)
Richard Tuck’s recent study of Thomas Hobbes’ famous depiction of the ‘Sleeping Sovereign’ offers a reminder of the 17th century philosopher’s contribution to the political imaginary within which our modern conception of constitutional democracy would later emerge. Central to that imaginary is Hobbes’ distinction between sovereignty and government – anticipating the division between the constitutional ‘rules of the game’ established by the ‘people’ or popular sovereign, and the day-to-day conduct of government under these rules. In these terms, the ‘people’ remain ‘asleep’ except in the event of revolutionary renewal, or, more often, under strict conditions of constitutional amendment.
The Hobbesian metaphor, extended to cover the ‘stirring’ of new forms of sovereigntist consciousness and practice, continues to offer a powerful perspective on the strengths and the limitations of a sovereignty-centred approach to the contemporary global political condition. We can illustrate these new stirrings, and how they are related, through the four ‘R’s.
The Reassembling of sovereignty refers to how increasingly elaborate and inclusive procedures going beyond the normal menu of amendment techniques are being used today to achieve constitutional settlement or galvanize constitutional change.
The Raising of sovereignty refers to new claims or the resurrection of old claims by sub-state or trans-state populations who dispute the present pattern of sovereign authority.
The Rationing of sovereignty refers to the process by which certain supra-state entities, such as the EU, seek to split the sovereignty atom amongst overlapping and interacting and so no longer omnicompetent states. Finally,
The Reassertion of sovereignty involves the reaffirmation of existing sovereign claims, often in response to and reaction against the challenges associated with reassembling, raising and rationing; and often, too, articulated in populist terms, downplaying many of the protections of political pluralism and individual rights that mark the modern constitutional condition.
About the speaker:
Neil Walker holds the Regius Chair of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations at the University of Edinburgh. His main area of expertise is constitutional theory. He has published extensively on the constitutional dimension of legal order at sub-state, state, supranational and global levels. He has also published at length on the relationship between security, legal order and political community. He maintains a more general interest in broader questions of legal theory as well as in various substantive dimensions of UK and EU public law. Previously he was Professor of Legal and Constitutional Theory at the University of Aberdeen (1996-2000), and Professor of European Law at the European University Institute in Florence (2000-8), where he was also the first Dean of Studies (2002-5). He has also held various visiting appointments - including Eugene Einaudi Chair of European Studies, University of Cornell (2007); Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law, University of Toronto (2007), Global Professor of Law, New York University (2011-12), Sidley Austin-Robert D. McLean Visiting Professor of Law, Yale University (2014-5), International Francqui Chair, University of Leuven, (2017).He has an LLD (Honoris Causa) from the University of Uppsala, is a fellow of the British Academy, and is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His most recent books are the monograph, Intimations of Global Law (Cambridge, 2015) and the edited collection, The Scottish Independence Referendum: Constitutional and Political Implications (co-editor, Oxford, 2016). He is presently completing a study of the EU as an ‘experimental project’.