The book opens with a historical reconstruction of the concept of sovereignty in Bodin, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Kant. Loick applies Adorno and Horkheimer’s notion of a ‘dialectic of Enlightenment’ to the political sphere, demonstrating that whenever humanity deemed itself progressing from chaos and despotism, it at the same time prolonged exactly the violent forms of interaction it wanted to rid itself from. He goes on to assemble critical theories of sovereignty, using Walter Benjamin’s distinction between ‘law-positing’ and ‘law-preserving’ violence as a terminological source, engaging with Marx, Arendt, Foucault, Agamben and Derrida, and adding several other dimensions of violence in order to draw a more complete picture. Finally, Loick proposes the idea of non-coercive law as a consequence of a critical theory of sovereignty.
The translation of this work was funded by Geisteswissenschaften International – Translation Funding for Humanities and Social Sciences from Germany, a joint initiative of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the German Federal Foreign Office, the collecting society VG WORT and the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (German Publisher & Booksellers Association)
Preface, Axel Honneth
I. Traditional Theories of Sovereignty
II. Critical Theories of Sovereignty
III. Critical Theory Without Sovereignty
As richly erudite as it is thoughtful and provocative, A Critique of Sovereignty is remarkable for the sheer number of literatures it plumbs--across the history of political thought and across multiple generations and genres of critical theory. Loick also models thinking expansively, rigorously and imaginatively about one of the important predicaments of our time: democratic possibility at the end of the nation's state monopoly of political power and violence. Beautifully written and translated, this is a book to read, ponder, argue with and teach.