Sovereignty evolved: An analysis of the evolution of international relations from "territorial concerns" to "economic interests" in the twentieth century United States-Canada trade relationship

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Michael Barkin


International law, International relations, Canadian history, American history, sovereignty

Subject Categories

International Relations


Although sovereignty has existed since the creation of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, uncertainty prevails as to whether it has begun to crumble under the weight of an emerging interdependent international political economy. This uncertainty reflects the existence of an "evolution" in process. This "evolution" acknowledges that juridical sovereignty, otherwise regarded as the notion of "sovereign equality" within international relations theory, has proven itself a mere ideal which acquiesces to the power politics and economic concerns that exist in the realm of today's trading states. The evolution of sovereignty, at the behest of an increasing economic interdependence, has two broad structural components: (a) a deconstructed notion of sovereign equality, and (b) an acknowledgment of the methodological advantages of institutionalism for international relations theory through a practical application and analysis of its precepts in the realm of international trade.

This dissertation focuses on the Canada-U.S. trade relationship over the past 150 years with an emphasis on the 1988 Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement ("FTA") and its novel Chapter 19 dispute settlement mechanism. The negotiation, codification, and practice of Chapter 19 demonstrates that a fundamental shift in the priorities given to "high" politics, or sovereign equality, and "low" politics, or economic access, has precipitated an evolution in notions of sovereignty and has initiated a fundamental shift in the way the "rule of law" regulates international relations.


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