One of the oldest distinctions in philosophical discourse is that between "words about words" and "words about things."' Much scholarship among international lawyers and political scientists, as well as table-talk of diplomats and other practitioners concerning the somewhat airy concept of sovereignty, has suffered all too much from a failure to appreciate the confusion that flows from treating a word as though it were a fact. Now come to the table two pairs of scholars with contrasting interpretations of the central word of international law, sovereinty: at one end, international lawyers Abram and Antonia Handler Chayes; and at the other, political scientists Michael Ross Fowler and Julie Marie Bunck. Ironically, however, the lawyers unveil a "new sovereignty" by employing a variety of social science methodologies to explicate a nonlegal, "managerial" approach to the study of the transfer of state authority to international institutions. In a converse irony, the political scientists have appropriated the international lawyer's interpretive canon, parsing international judicial and arbitral decisions and combing state practice as evidence of customary international law, to advance an essentially traditional conception of sovereignty as state sovereignty.
Antonio F. Perez, Who Killed Sovereignty – or: Changing Norms Concerning Sovereignty in International Law, 14 WIS. INT’L L. J. 463 (1996).