We argue that the continued persistence of borders is an effect of their constitutive role for the many dimensions of a social particular. States cannot choose to have a border; but they can and do make choices amongst the materials available on the various planes of inscription for bordering. For contemporary states the planes have become increasingly disaggregated, in the sense that they do not fall into place at one and the same border. Thus, states have to pick and choose different articulations (often inconsistently) on different planes. We illustrate these ideas with instances, present-day and historical, of bordering. A corollary of there being more need to pick and choose is that articulations of sovereignty change. So, sovereignty is increasingly the material of ‘sovereignty games’, where sovereignty is used as a political instrument. In sum, our theory directs attention to state bordering on different planes of inscription.