Hermann Heller was one of the leading public lawyers and legal and political theorists of the Weimar era, whose main interlocutors were two of the giants of twentieth century legal and political thought, Hans Kelsen and Carl Schmitt. In this 1927 work, Hermann Heller addresses the paradox of sovereignty. That is, how the sovereign can be both the highest authority and subject to law. Unlike Kelsen and Schmitt, who seek to dissolve the paradox, Heller sees that the tensions the paradox highlights are an essential part of a society ruled by law.
Sovereignty, in the sense of national and popular sovereignty, is often perceived today as being under threat, as power devolves from nation states to international bodies, and important decisions seem increasingly made by elite-dominated institutions. Hermann Heller wrote Sovereignty in 1927 amidst the very similar tensions of the Weimar Republic. In an exploration of history, constitutional and political theory, and international law, Heller speaks clearly to our contemporary concerns, and shows that democrats must defend a legal idea of sovereignty suitable for a pluralistic world.
Hermann Heller was one of the leading public lawyers and legal and political theorists of the Weimar era. However, he is hardly known outside of Germany, in large part because he, a Jewish socialist and militant opponent of the Nazis, died in exile in Spain in 1933 aged 42. He was then in the midst of composing a definitive statement of his views, a book on state theory, which was subsequently published in a form revised by his assistant. Sovereignty is the major work that Heller himself brought to completion.
David Dyzenhaus is a professor of Law and Philosophy at the University of Toronto, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He holds the Alfred Abel Chair of Law and was appointed in 2015 to the rank of University Professor. He has taught in South Africa, England, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand, Hungary, Mexico and the USA. He holds a doctorate from Oxford University and law and undergraduate degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. In 2002, he was the Law Foundation Visiting Fellow in the Faculty of Law, University of Auckland. In 2005-06 he was Herbert Smith Visiting Professor in the Cambridge Law Faculty and a Senior Scholar of Pembroke College, Cambridge. In 2014-15, he was the Arthur Goodhart Visiting Professor in Legal Science in Cambridge. In 2016-17 he was a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.