• Achille Mbembe


This chapter assumes that the ultimate expression of sovereignty resides, to a large degree, in the power and the capacity to dictate who may live and who must die.1 Hence, to kill or to allow to live constitutes the limits of sovereignty, its fundamental attributes. To exercise sovereignty is to exercise control over mortality and to define life as the deployment and manifestation of power.


English Translation Child Soldier Suicide Bomber Bare Life Terror Formation 
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    The chapter distances itself from traditional accounts of sovereignty found in the discipline of political science and the subdiscipline of international relations. For the most part, these accounts locate sovereignty within the boundaries of the nation-state, within institutions empowered by the state or within supranational institutions and networks. See, for example, Sovereignty at the Millennium, special issue, Political Studies, 47 (1999). My own approach builds on Michel Foucault’s critique of the notion of sovereignty and its relation to war and biopower in II faut défendre la société: Cours au Collège de France, 1975–1976 (Paris: Seuil, 1997), 37–55, 75–100, 125–48, 213–44. English translation: Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the College de France, 1975–76 (London: Allen Lane, 2003), 43–64, 87–114, 141–66, 239–64.Google Scholar
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© Achille Mbembe 2008

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