Jun 28, 14
A stressor, for present purposes, is any factor adversely impacting the well-being of a person or people. When we are considering stressors in a political context defined by the system of sovereignty (state self-determination), we are apt to think of stressors in terms of negative factors impacting the well-being of a single state (or in more abstract terms, the state as such). Possible mitigating destressors are also conceived in accordance with the ideal model of state sovereignty. So, for example, a bad harvest in State X is a stressor; a re-worked agricultural program to promote the health and stability of future harvests is a destressor.
The model of state sovereignty is a politically popular ideal for better or worse. At best, it frees up a people to rationally exercise a collective political will in its own collective interest. At worst, it promotes a kind of state-sponsored exceptionalism where inclusion into the fold of the political elite is founded on (sometimes violent) practices of exclusion. In either case, however, the model of state sovereignty is not entirely adequate to assess factors impacting national well-being.
How so? Let's look at stressors; they are not always particular, but can also be universal. Some examples of universal stressors include environmental factors, extinction-level warfare (nuclear, biological, etc.), extinction-level asteroid collisions. All of the above adversely affect the well-being of any given State X along with State Y, Z, and so on. Where there is a universal stressor, there is also a need for a universal destressor. It makes no sense, for example, for State X to fashion a policy to mitigate environmental stressors unless State Y, Z, and so on, are also participating in the administration of the same overall policy (although, in practice, one state often has to take the first tentative steps in the direction of a universal destressor on the strength of principles arising out of its own sovereign identity).
Another way to arrive at the inadequacy of the model of state sovereignty is to look at the ties that bind states together in advance of self-determination. In broad strokes, the tie of nature (existential-environmental) and the tie of culture (technological-economic). However a people might come together in self-determination, it cannot do so in such a way that irrevocably removes itself from an existence embedded in world, broadly construed, that is either indifferent or hostile to the expression of its self-determination. The intertwinement of states wrought by environmental and economic relations is a constant reminder of the limits of political self-determination.
Given such limits, states have set aside the ideal of sovereign self-determination in certain cases. In broad strokes, we can differentiate the renunciation of the sovereign ideal in two ways: the explicit and implicit.
The explicit renunciation is usually performed in the face of a universal stressor and is politically buttressed by appeals to God and other capitalized words that transcend merely nationalistic motivations. For example, the current role of the United Nations is to sustain a political body by which merely national interests can be transcended in favor of super-national interests. This does not mean that particular nations set aside their particular interests; it means only that the particular interests of nations are, in cases of universal stressors, best evaluated as an expression of universal human interests. The "practice" of explicit renunciation may be accompanied by "theory" -- consider, for example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- but this does not seem necessary in every case (and certainly the theory is, in practice, often ignored). Additionally, there are cases of what might be termed 'bad faith' explicit renunciation in which states feign to approximate the goal of realizing universal human interest for the sake of some particular goal (see the Coalition of the Willing in the run-up to Gulf War II).
The implicit renunciation affords the opportunity to "universalize" what is, in fact, a particular interest. When a powerful state acts upon a weaker state in such a way that compromises the sovereignty of the latter, it is generally termed an instance of realpolitik (for example, covert US-sponsored drone warfare in foreign countries -- we do what "we have to do" to defuse the global terrorist threat aimed at our national welfare). When a less powerful state acts upon a stronger state, or an ally of a stronger state, in such a way that compromises the sovereignty of the latter, it is generally termed a political atrocity, a moral and legal infraction (for example, Hussein's annexation of Kuwait meets with international condemnation and reprisal). Finally, in the most infrequent cases, when the power of the two (or more) states is roughly equal, the rhetoric of realpolitik versus political, moral, and legal atrocity becomes part of the conflict (for example, Russia seizes Crimea in 2014 and parity of political, economic, and military resources between pro- and anti-Western actors retards the development of a consistent and coherent political response).
One might wonder whether the explicit and implicit renunciation are rather the same in every respect that we might worry about. Who says that the United Nations acts in such a way that engages universal stressors and destressors? Many, in fact, say the opposite. Further, might renunciation of ideal model of state sovereignty be built-in to the very idea of sovereignty insofar as a people self-determines in the face of, or at the expense of, sub-humanized, de-sovereign-ated political outsiders? Finally, the existence of universal stressors, such as environmental conditions, invites the notion of universal destressors, politically nursed at the bosom of a universal governing political body. But what if, as Tip O'Neil said, all politics is local? Then the existence of a universal governing political body would be at best an ideal towards which we aspire but do not achieve, at worst a mirage.