Friday, May 22, 2009

Sovereignty Beyond the State as an Actor

Translated by Zinnia Cintrón

Some advocates of independence, define sovereignty in light of international relations as the authority that a state has to govern itself. Therefore, to achieve sovereignty, there can not be an external force subordinating the state as it pleases. A country is independent when it is not subordinated to another authority and a colony when it has to surrender itself to another power.

This mental picture of sovereignty, untangles the foul-ups caused by the “Populares” colonialists in relation to what it means to have sovereignty. We are not sovereign and we will not be as long as the USA submits Puerto Rico to its institutions. We could also argue that we are not and will not be sovereign if we are subordinated to the dictates of the international capitalist market or the transnational companies.

However, to limit ourselves to see the state as an actor that directs itself is dangerous. We can not loose perspective of the fact that the ones that actually act and control themselves (through the state), are human beings. First of all, if we only see the state, we will uncritically assume the privileged position of the powerful groups for whom the concrete problems of the people are unimportant and the priority lies on what they can do with the state for their own benefit. To develop our own strategy (i.e. an anti-colonial strategy) becomes impossible. If we limit ourselves to see the state without the social relations that comprises it, we miss that there are states which – irrespectively of them being submitted to an external power or not – are constituted in such a fashion that, being human creations, ultimately dominate them instead of being at their service. They become authorities internally external. If we reduce the sovereignty problem to the state that governs itself, we consequently facilitate the mental image of an international community with individuals in equal conditions, also hiding the fundamental problem of interdependence based on power relations, not only due to the US hegemony that submits what are supposed to be sovereign countries to its institutions, but also because of the transnational capital that subordinates even the powerful USA to its necessities.

We, the independence advocates, need for our concept of sovereignty to take into account these problems in order to be able to fight for a genuine sovereignty by attacking the multiple dimensions of colonialism. We must conceptualize the state as an actor to be able to understand international relations, but this concept can not hide the way that individuals, using the state's powers as well as those of structures beyond the state to solve their problems, give them life.

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