The Sovereignty Revolution
Alan Cranston, Edited by Kim Cranston


Puja Sangar
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The sovereignty revolution


Alan Cranston

Edited by Kim Cranston

"Senator Alan Cranston was a passionate public servant, a true citizen of the world and an inspirational force for peace. The Sovereignty Revolution, finished shortly before his death, gives voice to his visionary understanding of how to create a world with more friends and fewer terrorists. The Senator argues that we must revise our notions of sovereignty if we are to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. While we mourn his loss, how fortunate we are to have this book—a gift of his wisdom reflecting the lessons of a lifetime."

—President Bill Clinton

“Alan Cranston’s incisive essay covers international problems as wide ranging as nuclear proliferation, terrorism, climate change and genocide. It is his assessment that no nation can solve these problems on its own, rather they have to work through multilateral institutions and international law.  This analysis—by the former U.S. Senator and world statesman—provides clarity on problems that have become important after 9/11, and will remain important in our quest for world peace.”

—President Jimmy Carter

As its first term comes to an end, the Bush administration has pulled the country out of the world’s major international initiatives, withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court, and a protocol that would have given teeth to the biological weapons convention, thereby employing a unilateralist approach to dealing with global problems. A newly published essay by Alan Cranston, the former Senator from California, makes a strong case for a vastly different approach to international relations, arguing that we can solve problems of a global scale only by strengthening multilateral institutions and international law.

The Sovereignty Revolution, by Alan Cranston and edited by Kim Cranston (forthcoming from Stanford University Press in July 2004) includes a foreword by Mikhail Gorbachev, an introduction by Jonathan Schell, and responsive essays by Jane Goodall and Jonathan Granoff. According to the contributors, Cranston’s essay, although completed in December 2000, eerily foreshadows the themes and concerns that have become so important in the post-9/11 world.

The focus of Cranston’s essay is “sovereignty,” a concept which he believes is key to understanding international conflicts and which is “widely and unwisely thought in our time to mean only national sovereignty, with every nation supposedly supreme inside its own borders and acknowledging no master outside them.” Alan Cranston notes that since the end of the Cold War, there have been two powerful influences: the formation of new democratic states and globalization. The last quarter of the 20th century witnessed the greatest expansion of democracy in history, with 121 democracies in place at the end of 2001 (as compared to 1974 when there were only 39 democratic states). The sweeping forces of globalization have also drawn the world closer. Multinational corporations, by definition, transcend national sovereignty, and wield enormous influence over the economic profile of nations as they move funds and capital across the globe. However, according to Senator Cranston, neither democracies nor multinationals can solve many of the problems that arise from the unrestricted movement of goods and capital.

Cranston analyzes a host of international problems, including ethnic conflicts in the Balkans and Rwanda, the threat of nuclear proliferation in Asia and the Middle East, and the environmental challenges facing the globe. Cranston points out that, “This leads to a fundamental question: are the many institutions we have created in our efforts to achieve a reasonable degree of order and progress and a maximum degree of freedom adequate in view of the magnitude and complexity of the unprecedented problems we face?” Moreover, “How should nations intervene when there is a threat of war or genocide?” Cranston points out that there is no generally acceptable way for the world community to decide where, whether and how to intervene and who should do it.

It is Senator Cranston’s contention that the UN should be given the tools it needs in order to play an effective role in global governance. However, the UN needs to be strengthened and reformed before it can accomplish this. Cranston’s essay spells out in detail the structural reforms needed: boosting the monetary resources of the UN, limiting the number of cases where Security Council members can exercise their veto powers, and, finally, the formation of a permanent UN peacekeeping force. Cranston concedes that these reforms are very controversial precisely because they conflict with our understanding of sovereignty, since “they require states to relinquish a portion of their share of sovereignty.”

The essay concludes that we must adopt a more encompassing understanding of sovereignty, one that requires the primacy of the individual and emphasizes the importance of voluntarily giving up a “carefully defined and limited share of sovereignty” in order to strengthen international institutions.

This book is an accessible, cogent, and timely contribution to the political debates taking place today.

About the Author/Editor

Alan Cranston retired in 1993 after serving four terms as a US Senator and 14 years as Democratic Whip. From 1999 until his death in 2000, Cranston founded and served actively as the President of the Global Security Institute.  He also founded and chaired the Gorbachev Foundation USA, and The State of the World Forum from 1994-1999.  Cranston had a major role in shaping and guiding thorough the Senate many important legislative measures. Especially noteworthy were his efforts on the international level of arms reduction, nuclear arms control, enhanced North-South relations, Middle East peace, and reduced military spending.

The Sovereignty Revolution was completed only days before Senator Cranston passed away in December 2000. Cranston is also author of The Killing of the Peace about the US Senate’s decision in 1919 to keep the country out of the League of Nations, which is rated as one of the Best Books of 1945 by The New York Times.

Kim Cranston is Alan Cranston’s son and Chair of The Global Security Institute.

July 2004
128 pp.
$19.95 (cloth)                        0-8047-4761-X

Kim Cranston and Jonathan Schell will be available for media interviews beginning June 27th.  To schedule an interview or event, please contact Puja Sangar by telephone at (650) 724-4211 or by email at