Program on Sovereignty


Principal Investigator
Senior Fellow, Emeritus
  • Professor, Political Science
  • Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Emeritus

Work on the complex and evolving nature of sovereignty has been underway at Stanford IIS since the mid-1990s. The Center will build on this foundation of knowledge by taking up the issues of intervention, or efforts by external actors to alter domestic authority structures in other states. While influencing domestic authority structures of target states has been central to statecraft for centuries, it has been all but ignored by most international relations theorists. To a large extent, this reflects the fact that all the standard theoretical perspectives on international relations have treated states as autonomous actors. This is theoretically convenient, but historically inaccurate.

What is lacking is not a systematic way of thinking about why and when states intervene in the internal affairs of other countries, but a better understanding of the consequences. The Program on Sovereignty explores questions such as: Can democracy be exported? Is the rule of law transferable? How useful is military coercion, and under what conditions? Is having internal partners or allies in targeted states a prerequisite for success? When are financial instruments - positive or negative - consequential? Scholarly interest in such questions waxes and wanes. But the importance of these issues from a policy perspective is enduring.