Property and Sovereignty: How to Tell the Difference
Property and sovereignty are often used as models for each other. Landowners are sometimes described as sovereign, the state’s territory sometimes described as its property. Both property and sovereignty involve authority relations: both an owner and a sovereign get to tell others what to do — at least within the scope of their ownership or sovereignty. My aim in this Article is to distinguish property and sovereignty from each other by focusing on what lies within the scope of each. I argue that much confusion and more than a little mischief occurs when they are assimilated to each other. The confusion can arise in both directions, either by supposing that property is a sort of stewardship, or that sovereignty is a large-scale form of ownership. One of the great achievements of modern (i.e., Kantian) political thought is recognizing the difference between them.