Sphere Sovereignty

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  • Article: Three Rival Versions of Political Enquiry: Althusius and the Concept of Sphere Sovereignty. By M.R.R. Ossewaarde.


M.R.R. Ossewaarde:

"The central argument of this paper is that while the principle of subsidiarity is grounded in Aristotelian metaphysics of the hierarchical part-whole relationship and the social and political nature of man, Althusius’ metaphysics is grounded on the Calvinist metaphysics that each association must fulfill its given responsibilities assigned to it according to its calling. Althusius introduces his own intellectual alternative to subsidiarity and sovereignty, which has become known as sphere sovereignty (Dooyeweerd 1950; Van der Vyver 1996). Althusius developed his concept not only as a critique of Bodin’s concept of sovereignty, but also as an alternative to scholasticism. Not only does Althusius reject the Bodinian idea of establishing a sovereign state by human or political will, as a social contract, but he also rejects the scholastic idea of community (communio).

This paper seeks to examine both the judicial and philosophical meaning of sphere sovereignty, in particular the nature of the “spheres” that Althusius calls “symbiotic associations”. The aim of this paper is to discuss sphere sovereignty in relation to the alternative ordering principles of sovereignty and of subsidiarity, in order to arrive at a better understanding of “Althusius’ rival version”."