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Sovereignty is the full right and power of a governing body over itself, without any interference from outside sources or bodies. In political theory, sovereignty is a substantive term designating supreme authority over some polity. It is a basic principle underlying the dominant Westphalian model of state foundation.

As pertains to Micronations and new country projects like Westarctica, the concept of sovereignty is extremely contentious. Considering the scholarly and philosophical debate concerning traditional sovereignty (and subcategories of sovereignty such as state sovereignty vs. sovereignty of the individual) it is unsurprising that there is little agreement on what constitutes a truly sovereign micronation.

Differing conceptual approaches

Sovereignty's definition, concept, and application has changed throughout history, especially during the Age of Enlightenment. The current notion of state sovereignty contains four aspects consisting of territory, population, authority and recognition. According to Stephen D. Krasner, the term could also be understood in four different ways:

  • Domestic sovereignty – actual control over a state exercised by an authority organized within this state.
  • Interdependence sovereignty – actual control of movement across state's borders, assuming the borders exist.
  • International legal sovereignty – formal recognition by other sovereign states.
  • Westphalian sovereignty – lack of other authority over state other than the domestic authority (examples of such other authorities could be a non-domestic church, a non-domestic political organization, or any other external agent).

Often, these four aspects all appear together, but this is not necessarily the case – they are not affected by one another, and there are historical examples of states that were non-sovereign in one aspect while at the same time being sovereign in another of these aspects.

According to Immanuel Wallerstein, another fundamental feature of sovereignty is that it is a claim that must be recognized by others if it is to have any meaning:

Sovereignty is more than anything else a matter of legitimacy [...that] requires reciprocal recognition. Sovereignty is a hypothetical trade, in which two potentially conflicting sides, respecting de facto realities of power, exchange such recognitions as their least costly strategy.