The Problem of Sovereignty: Nations, Corporations and Power Relations Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 21, 2019
  • Davis, Andrew
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Communication
  • The contemporary moment is characterized by a multitude of crises, which I argue are the result of a crisis within the historical transformation of sovereignty. While sovereignty is expressed through different forms in different socio-historical contexts, it is fundamentally a question of the organization, relations, mechanisms, and operations of power. Within the context of the United States in the 21st century, the question of sovereignty is best addressed by reframing two narratives that are commonly offered to explain this context and its multiple crises. The first—neoliberalism—understands the current era as being characterized by the reorganization of economic, political and social life to operate according to market forces. The second—fascism—is theorized primarily as an ideology or particular type of political regime, and is often used in popular discourse as a slur against one’s political adversaries, regardless of their actual politics. I reframe these narratives in order to provide a better understanding of the current moment. Regarding neoliberalism, I turn our attention away from “the market” to the dominance of the business corporation in the organization of social and power relations. The current moment is better understood as the era of corporism—a condition whereby economic, political and social relations are organized according to the sovereignty of the business corporation in relation to the nation-state. This is supported by an examination of three institutions/phenomena (i.e. ALEC, DARPA and the Singularity) that indicate the assertion of corporate sovereignty in 21st century America. I then turn to the question of fascism, considering a set of theories that do not usually inform political scholarship in order to demonstrate the necessity of understanding the crises we face as a form of fascism, without lapsing into unfounded name-calling. This is supported by a re-examination of ALEC, DARPA and the Singularity, and an examination of the private military and security industry (PMSI), which indicate the fascist character of these forces of corporate sovereignty. Ultimately, I demonstrate that the transformation of power relations between the U.S. nation-state and legal form of the business corporation is fundamentally characterized by a crisis in the transformation of sovereign power.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Grossberg, Lawrence
  • Lundberg, Christian
  • Hardt, Michael
  • Monahan, Torin
  • Palm, Micahel
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2018

This work has no parents.