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Early Concepts, Early Modern Views: Absolutism, Early Modern Views: Popular Sovereignty, Later Developments

Sovereignty refers to the supreme and ultimate source of authority that exists within any political unit or association. A sovereign power is deemed independent of all other authorities and it possesses no rivals within its jurisdiction. Thus, sovereignty has internal and external dimensions. Internally, it connotes the superior and final power to determine who shall rule and how rule shall occur. Externally, it involves an exclusive right to exercise power within fixed geographical boundaries without interference from or intervention by other authorities. Although the terminology of sovereignty is sometimes employed metaphorically, it is fundamentally a concept related to matters of governance. For instance, when the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformer John Calvin (1509–1564) referred to "God's sovereignty," he was seeking to explain the relationship between the divine and His worldly creation in a way that characterized the governmental dimension of heavenly rule over the earth and its inhabitants.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Adam Smith Biography to Spectroscopic binary