Johnson examines the idea of sovereignty, which formally emerged as a political ideal in the 17th century. Most analysts understand sovereignty as referring to a particular national territory inhabited by a particular people, and the right of those people to defend their territory against any challenge to it. But Johnson contends that sovereignty's pre-Enlightement historical roots, drawing on classic just war thinking, provide an alternative approach: responsibility for the common good. He claims that these two conceptions--sovereignty as simply self-defense and sovereignty as acting on behalf of the common good--are in direct conflict, and that contemporary interpretations of international affairs must acknowledge this tension. Part I focuses on the two conceptions of sovereignty as they developed historically, while Part II turns to applications: historical and radical Islam, and then to the international debate over the "responsibility to protect" as expressed in a variety of contemporary conflicts. Johnson's aim is to create a new conception of sovereignty that synthesizes notions of self-defense with an understanding of the common good.
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