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In Western states, sovereignty is obviously distributed and thus diluted in any individual instance. We are not a monarchy. Commands are not issued from a single person or even a single seat of power. This is elementary, as James Goulding writes:
Once we fracture sovereignty, the people with a “shard of sovereignty” take decisions that depend very heavily on other minds, many of which also have a bit of sovereignty. This means that each micro-ruler takes decisions quite differently to a sovereign; not only is the scope of his influence or probability of making an impact much smaller, but when he does have an impact his decision algorithm is best explained by a complex chain of causality that weaves through millions of other minds. Unlike Hitler.
So far, so good. In fact, Goulding’s point about micro-sovereign decisions depending on other, micro-sovereign minds is a significant one. It even prompts an analysis of power from the perspective of network theory: how does fractured “sovereignty” circulate? what makes one node more central than the others? how far removed are the nodes involved in any single decision, and can they be clustered in any meaningful way? So on and so forth.
However, Goulding’s next move is, in my opinion, too overstated:
It is unnecessary to specify exactly how this chain of causality works in each case, although that is a central problematic of political science and law. Clearly, “shards of sovereignty” are not at all similar to “sovereignty” and require a completely different kind of analysis.
A completely different kind of analysis? A more nuanced analysis, yes. Shards of sovereignty: each dependent on the motives and actions of other shards: each existing within an as-yet-undefined network of power. Yes, different from the singular seat of power, different from the divinely mandated king whose mind and motives are the fons et origo of all social and political decisions. But different in degree and operation, not in kind.
Looking at political sovereignty from the other end, does it make much of a difference whether we’re talking about shards of it or a monarch? Does it matter to the small business owner, who must pay a minimum wage and provide healthcare to his employees, whether the force of these laws emanated from a single source or from the concerted effort of a hundred nodes distributed throughout a network?
Command and control is diluted across “shards of sovereignty” so no one shard can do all that much without taking the others into consideration, but in the end, decisions are made, and they are binding, and they do control the populace either directly or indirectly.
In attempting to match our words, concepts and analyses to the reality we are trying to comprehend—in all its complexness multiplicity—we should also strive to avoid the postmodern mistake of missing (or, rather, refusing to recognize) the obvious forest for the sake of charting the intricacies of each and every rhytidome.