Pluralist Theroy of Sovereignty


The pluralist theory of sovereignty was a reaction to monistic or legal theory of sovereignty. To monistic theory state is supreme association and all other associations are he creation of state and their existence depends on the will of the sovereign power. The pluralist theory rejects this and tries to establish that there is no single source of authority that is all competent and comprehensive. Laski says that sovereignty is neither absolute nor a unity. It is pluralist, constitutional and responsible. State has no superior claim to an individual’s allegiance. It can justify itself as a public service corporation. State exists to coordinate functions of human association in the best interest. Theory of Sovereignty,

Another exponent of pluralist theory Robert M.Maclver propounds that state is one of the several human associations, although it exercises unique functions. Important feature of the state is supremacy of law. Pluralists believe that state enjoys a privileged position because of its wider jurisdiction, which covers all the individuals and associations within its boundary. This does not mean that it is superior to other associations. It is also true that state has power to punish those who defy its command but that does not mean that it is absolute.

The state must justify the exercise of its special powers. Pluralist is divided and limited. The pluralist demand that the same must justify its claim to allegiance on moral grounds. Actually to them the management and control of society must be shared by various associations in proportion to their contribution to the common goods.

This theory stands for the decentralization of authority. The pluralist also rejects the distinction between state and government. They insist on a realistic political science and consider the distinction between two as artificial. The pluralists are not against the state but would discard sovereign state with its absolute and indivisible power.

The chief tenets of pluralist theory of sovereignty are as follows:



Pluralist sovereignty deals with political aspects of sovereignty.
• State is one of the several human associations catering to various interests of the individuals.
• State is arbiter over conflicting interests of different associations.
• State should compete with other human associations to claim superior authority.
• State was not absolute or supreme legally.
• State is not the only source of legislation or law.
• Law is very antithesis of command.
• The state is both the child and parent of law.
• The root of obedience of law isn’t coercion but the will to obey.
• State and government are not different.

The pluralist theory of sovereignty is also not free from criticism. Critics maintain that without establishment of a classless society, sovereignty can neither be divided nor be limited. In order to limit the sovereignty of the state there must be a classless society. The demands for freedom from different associations also are criticized. Division of sovereignty among different associations is not only impossible but also improper. The pluralist view will lead to political anarchy and social instability. The pluralist limits the sovereignty in order to maintain independence of individuals and other associations, however in order to maintain the rights of the individuals and associations, the state must have sovereign power. The interest of individuals and associations, will conflict and the state will be helpless if it does not posses sovereign power. In spite of all these criticism it cannot be denied that the pluralist theory of sovereignty protested the rigid and dogmatic legalism of the Austin’s theory of sovereignty. It supports humanist and democratic ideas. It challenged the concept of unlimited sovereignty. This theory also pointed out the importance of other associations. Only state is not important but in a society there are also many other associations, which play important role in its development. At last we can say that the greatest contribution of this theory is that it gave state a human face, and checked it from being a threat to the liberty.