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Radical Philosophy Review

Volume 7, Issue 2, 2004

Michael Nass, Jeffrey Paris
Pages 115-134

Kurios George and the Sovereign State

In the last couple years of George W. Bush’s reign the word “sovereignty” has been on everyone’s lips. As the U.S. prepared to invade Iraq in March 2003, those who supported the war claimed that Iraq posed a threat to U.S. security and sovereignty while those against the war argued that a preemptive strike against another sovereign nation was justified only in urgent self-defense or that U.S. sovereignty should ultimately yield to the sovereignty of international organizations such as the UN. But what exactly is sovereignty? In this paper I take a few cues from Jacques Derrida’s recently published Rogues in order to analyze in detail the Platonic origins of sovereignty. I demonstrate the way in which Plato displaces or transforms a sovereignty based in convention and institutions into a sovereignty rooted in the putative knowledge of the few. Such an analysis of the origins of sovereignty can go a long way, I argue, in helping us understand and resist the policies and arguments of our sovereigns and the hidden ideas of sovereignty on which they rely.

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