Walled States, Waning Sovereignty

Walled States, Waning Sovereignty Study Guide

Walled States, Waning Sovereignty is an influential book published in 2010 by the American political theorist Wendy Brown. It seeks to explain a contemporary trend of nations building border walls throughout the world. Brown says this is a symptom of nations actually losing their power. They try to re-assert national sovereignty through the visible symbol of a wall, but this only betrays the actual loss of sovereignty they are experiencing.

At once a work of political theory, engaging with important thinkers from John Locke to Giorgio Agamben, and a study of the present, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty is an ambitious mix of philosophy, history, and psychoanalysis. It seeks to describe the specific world we live in today, while also seeing this world in the context of a longer history of national sovereignty. The book received the David Easton Award from the American Political Science Association.

The relevance of the book has only increased in the years since its publication. The border wall between the United States and Mexico, for instance, has developed from a series of fences into one of the central platforms of a major presidential candidate and the current President of the United States, Donald Trump. Brown’s book anticipates the Trump presidency and provides a way to explain the ongoing fascinating people have with walls. The book is thus not only a contribution to political philosophy, but also a diagnosis of the times we live in and how people react to contemporary conditions of global politics.