Coercion and Bargaining in Sovereign Paradox

Free «Coercion and Bargaining in Sovereign Paradox» Essay Sample

In basic terms, pressure stands for the act of being pushed against one’s will to consent to something, which would not have been acceptable under normal circumstances. This is where force or threat of using force is applied by a third party to make an individual or institution comply with the terms or conditions, which are regarded as unfavorable under certain circumstances. This often happens in governance and corporate world where policy makers push their subjects to adhere to the set standards without giving them a chance to give their opinion. On the other hand, bargaining is a contrast to coercion since it gives all parties an opportunity to say what they feel would be favorable for them before they can give consent to adhere to the set rules or refuse to do so.

The sovereign paradox is a state of affairs in the government when the policies set seem to contradict themselves and the outcome is usually unfavorable for the majority of followers (Bartelson 44). This happens when the ruling government issues a policy that allows an individual activity but at the same time can be interpreted to condemn it, thus causing a state of self-contradiction. The process of making parties agree may take two diverse dimensions, namely; coercion and bargain. When the situation becomes a sovereign paradox, the governments tend to act within and at the same time outside the jurisdictions of the law. The state government can take up a role that is meant for another body and at the same time pretend to be working with that division in formulating policies. Bargaining and coercion lead to the same thing but using different means.


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Within the statutes of the law, the state can decide to give a chance to the people to come up with suggestions on how affairs can be run without creating a situation of unnecessary friction of the law. On the other hand, the same state can decide to force people to comply without hearing them out, thus having to push them towards the implementation of policies (Zaum 55). This is the fundamental difference between state bargaining and coercion. Using this knowledge to explain the sovereign paradox, one can clearly see things that require bargaining and those that demand coercion. In the case of coerced approach to diplomacy, the state has four distinct mechanisms that can be employed so as to make people comply with the terms and conditions, unlike in the case when bargaining is used, and people are consulted before making a final decision.

The first mechanism used in coerced diplomacy is the ultimatum which gives one party a set time limit after which force will be used to make them comply (Bartelson 49). For instance, the state can use ultimatum to show that they are willing to give people time to comply in good faith, but beyond the time limit there is a serious set of conditions which may involve violence. This contradicts the bargaining process where people are invited to a round table and given audience while they air their issues to the state. This paradox works for the sovereign state to ensure that resistance to the coercing process is minimized. The other mechanism is tacit ultimatum which does not specify the amount of time used. This is a threat to use force if something is not done but it is not specified how much time is given for that to be done.

The third mechanism is an open threat by the state well known as ‘try and see’ where the state uses one arm to issue a policy and another one to make sure no one opposes that policy. For instance, the state can issue a policy that stops some business operations at a specified place and allows the involved parties to pack out in peace, but at the same time sends police officers to block the site entirely. ‘Try and see’ approach is applied when the victims threaten to get back so that they are faced with a threat of force and violence against them if they attempt to get close to the place. The state acts within the law and allows people to pack out while at the same time preventing them from packing out. Finally, there is another method that is similar to the above-mentioned one but it is implemented slowly. ‘Gradual Turning of the Screw’ increases coercive pressure slowly but continuously to a point that there will be an unquestionable use of force, which would at the same time look like a bargaining process. In this case, people are made to comply with time, but at the same time being pushed to a point that they do not have any other choice.


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Coercion is a good and at times the only option when violence is involved in the implementation of a controversial policy by the state. For instance, something that includes beliefs and customs may be difficult to bargain with people, since the outcome is already known and evaluated. For example, states offer an unlimited freedom of worship but goes ahead to regulate how people conduct their worship activities. This may appear as if the state is both in and outside the law provisions. In such cases, in order to eliminate a particular practice from the worship domain, coercion may be the only option for the state. The judiciary can come up with a policy, and the state will confirm it to the law but later become the first party to suspend it while expecting results from it. This looks like double standards on behalf of the sovereign government and at times, the involved parties are forced to come to a level ground and act in one accord. When the state suspends the validity of a policy or statute, it stands outside the law which is supposed to be protecting people.

Sovereignty Paradox may take a dimension of people who are in positions of power using the same power to exploit other people (Bartelson 64). For instance, states run under the general understanding that “No one is above the law.” However, one may find the heads of the state using their positions to hinder the progress of policy making in the name of exercising power. This places the individual inside and at the same time outside of the state laws that are supposed to protect. Bargaining calls for the involved parties to come together and have a discussion about what is good and favorable for both sides as a mechanism for getting things back in order. The law of the states may be found to directly allowing individuals or institutions to break the law while being protected by the law enforcing units. This happens when the state allows law enforcing agents to use violence to stop the same (Zaum 39). In itself, this is a paradox of sovereignty, since the state is acting both within and outside of the right law borders. Countries are governed by the constitution, which gives the right for complaint while condemning opposition at the same time. This brings a state of self-contradiction when the state claims to welcome critics but at the same time uses coercion to make people comply.

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There is a vast difference between bargaining with the state and doing so with another person. Violence is against the law, but it belongs to the same law and can be legally backed up. These situations of double standards bring out the paradox of legal coding where the state will come up with different legal explanations to cover up the confusion and justify some actions while condemning them at the same time. When this happens, different outcomes are expected and at times, both of the ideologies come to an end in the same way (Zaum 39). At one point, the state may appeal to the people with a policy and offer a chance for discussion before the said policy will take effect. However, the outcome of the bargaining process is already pre-determined, and the implementation of the piece is already in process, even before the bargaining process comes to a close. This is a soft way of coercion disguised as bargaining, which confirms the idea that both ideologies may end up the same way, disregarding the differences in the process.

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The distinction between bargaining and coercion is a thin line that requires much understanding regarding the operations. Compared to coercion, bargaining comes with conditions pre-set by the state, which beats the logic of launching the process in the first place. It should be mentioned that the state is not acting in good faith when it launches the bargaining process since the outcome is already known, thus, there is not much that the involved parties can do. For example, female genital mutilation (FGM) has been a matter of painful cultural practices in most parts of the world, but most countries have successfully eradicated it. If one goes to the basics of how each state was able to make communities stop it, in most cases it was a coercion process accompanied with violence or threat of force. One thing that comes out clearly when bargaining with the state is involved is the use of protest to seek the audience with the stakeholders.

In most cases, people use protests and street marches to make the country listen to their cries in case a controversial policy is put in place. In such cases, the state will use force to dismiss the protesters, while at the same time issuing statements in the press that grievances are welcome. This brings coercion and bargaining to a level ground, where none of them can stand alone. Using violence to handle peaceful demonstrations is against the laws, but it is what the state does to make people understand that no matter what one plans to do, what is planned will have to go through. The most common sovereign paradox is the breaking of law while using the same law to justify the actions. This makes bargaining difficult since the ones involved in policy making are not the ones who can stop the process of consultancy, although they are part of those protecting the actions.

One fundamental advantage of launching a successful bargaining process is free will when it comes to the implementation of policies (Bartelson 59). It is usually difficult to bargain with the state on matters of human and civil rights. One of the parties has to be coerced to react, and the outcome would be the state being against the individuals. Human rights are absolute and cannot be bargained, although their implementation is a matter of question. Coercion is recommended when the state has to implement a policy that tends to contradict the will of the subjects, and the state understands the difficulty of people accepting it. For instance, it is the duty of the state to protect its people from outside threats, and at the same time prevent any internal threat from getting outside. Since both scenarios are backed up by the law, sometimes the state has to suspend a provision of the law to implement a policy. A good example is when two countries do not have good business relations, but citizens of those nations have found something worth exchanging.

The laws that prevent business transactions between those countries have to be broken to come up with a shared understanding of the way out, even if one party eventually gets hurt. This may involve drastic measures like revocation of visa by a state. Whenever such steps have to be taken, bargaining process may not be favorable, and the only remaining option is coercion to compliance. Unlike bargaining, coercion by the state is termed as a fundamental mechanism for policy implementation, even if the stakeholders understand that it is not the best way of dealing with people (Zaum 48).

In conclusion, for a sovereign state to feel the presence of power and authority there has to be a difference between the leader and the subject. Democracy calls for an open field where everybody has their say, but even in the most democratic states, coercion is applied to make the process of implementation shorter and faster. The implementation of laws by the state comes through court orders, which do not reflect in any way the willingness of the parties to get involved in any form of the bargaining process. However, the process of reaching a mutual decision while making such orders may be comparable to bargaining since this is where different parties are involved. There are fundamental differences between bargaining and coercion when it comes to a sovereign paradox, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each of them as discussed above.

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