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Rethinking the sovereign in sovereign wealth funds

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Nation‐states are increasingly sharing sovereignty, both with other states and with supranational and non‐governmental institutions. This is partly due to a long period of economic and financial globalisation, which has undercut territorial notions of sovereignty and varieties of capitalism. In trying to understand this phenomenon, we are drawn to sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), as they offer a unique lens into the changing dynamics of contemporary capitalism, global economic integration and state sovereignty. Indeed, the SWF provides governments with a tool for both engaging with new spatial forms as well as resisting them. While politicians may conceptualise the objective of such funds in the most practical terms, they serve an under‐appreciated role in maintaining state sovereignty in a globalised world. In this paper, we build on emerging interdisciplinary scholarship concerning the rise of SWFs by broadening the interpretation of the utility of SWFs for the sponsoring government in relation to the practice and constitution of sovereignty, explicitly bridging political and economic geography. To this end, we offer an innovative, stylised typology of SWFs in relation to the state and sovereignty. The objective is to better understand the potential long‐term significance of SWFs and the factors that might underpin further development of new SWFs in different countries in the future. Moreover, we believe SWFs can be differentiated according to the role they play in sovereignty and what underlies their claims to legitimacy within their respective nation‐state. By understanding the rise and purpose of SWFs, we hope to better understand the sovereign in SWFs.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1SS 2: School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY

Publication date: 2012-01-01

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