Sovereignty and Sociology: From State Theory to Theories of Empire

April 2015, Political Power and Social Theory, Volume 28, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.269 - 285, April 2015
George Steinmetz

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Imperial crisis is the analytical axis on which turn two national states of emergency: the Weimar Republic (1918–1933) and the United States on the so-called “Eve of Destruction” (1965–1975). But while Max Weber disagreed with Carl Schmitt with respect to the problem of sovereignty at the core of the German imperium, American sociologists – even those inspired by Weber – by and large did not register the gravity of the moment of political decision in their work, or the imperial crisis that their country faced during the Vietnam War and its aftermath. This essay offers ideas regarding why this was so, what the consequences have been for American sociology, and how, in the midst of the present-day imperial and domestic governmental crisis, we might adopt a more expansive view.