The New Sovereignty. As defined by Abram and Antonia Chayes, it is the capacity to participate in international institutions of all types -in collective efforts to steer the international system and address global and regional problems together with their national and supranational counterparts. This is a conception of sovereignty that would accord status and recognition to states in the international system to the extent that they are willing and able to engage with other states, and thus necessarily accept mutual obligations.

Chayes and Chayes begin form the proposition that the world has moved beyond interdependence. Interdependence refers to a general condition in which states are mutually dependent on and vulnerable to what other states do, but interdependence still assumes a baseline of separation, autonomy, and defined boundaries. States may be deeply dependent on each other's choices and decisions, but those choices and decisions still drive and shape the international syste. For Chayes and Chayes, by contrast, the international system itself has become “a tightly woven fabric of international agreements, organizations and institutions that shape [states'] relations with one another and penetrate deeply into their internal economics and politics.

If the background conditions for the international system are connections rather than separation, interactions rather than isolation, and institutions rather than free space, then sovereignty-as-autonomy makes no sense. The new sovereignty is status, membership, “connection to the rest of the world and the political ability to be an actor within it”. However paradoxical it sounds, the measure of a state's capacity to act as an independent unit within the international system -the condition that “sovereignty” purports both to grant and describe- depends on the breadth and depth of its links to other states.

Adapted from Anne-Mari Slaughte, "A new world order", Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.


  • Chayes, Abram; and Chayes, Antonia H. (1995). The new sovereignty: Compliance with international regulatory agreements. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.