Has the Process of Globalisation Eroded the Relevance of the Nation State?

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Essay, 2010

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the production of material goods. Qualitative changes marked new era of intellectual, post-
industrial economy, which carries different potentials.
Cultural and social spheres were significantly transformed by rapidly increasing
knowledge economy. The newest information technologies decreased production
expenses and broadened geographical horizons. Knowledge and information technology,
especially development of the World Wide Web (WWW), eventually led to the shrinkage
of space and time. Visual culture began to overcome national boundaries and significant
communicational limitations of written culture. Information directly relates to the
phenomenon of power. The control of electronic means of mass communication,
information flows and media in contemporary times is comparable to ruling the world.
Quintessential distinguishing feature of this new post-national meta-civilisation is the
planet's formation into the field of continuous informational discourse (Andrijauskas,
2006). Since the consecutive textual/written type of culture is replaced by mosaic visual
type, the nature of visual information unfolds previously impossible ways to manipulate
human consciousness. Although a detailed overview is beyond the scope of this essay, it
is worth mentioning that works of Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) unfold profound
philosophical insights and concerns regarding `spectacle culture' and broader social
effects of technological progress. On the other hand, informational revolution and directly
related tendencies of cultural globalisation, according to Andrijauskas (2006), bring closer
spiritual world nations' experiences, principles of universe perceptions, value systems,
and cultural symbols. Furthermore, cultural globalisation helps to comprehend the
diversity of global culture and adds to the insight that different nations, by complementing
one another, talk about similar fundamental problems of human existence.
Broad political and social changes in the nineteenth century induced the formation
of national economies and helped to strengthen the nation-state (Stiglitz, 2006). The end
of 1960s marked the beginning of immense qualitative changes in world politics,
economy, and social structure. Governments had to respond to new demands and
challenges. The category of state cannot be understood apart from the concepts of society,
economy, and culture. As noted by Shaw, `the implicit openness of all social and cultural
relations means that boundaries were always there to be crossed, relative and subject to
transformation' (2000: 175). Since the beginning of the history there have been relations
between societies. `A state is a state when it is recognized by its citizens and/or by other

states as a sovereign, i.e. supreme, authority within a given territory. A sovereign state is
thus a nationally and internationally legitimate institution of power' (Shaw, 2000: 185).
In contemporary world national powers of one state increasingly overlap with the powers
of other states on a global scale.
As Held and McGrew have unfolded, `globalization is an expression of deeper
structural changes in the scale of modern social organization' (2002: 5). The proponents
of globalisation argue that changes are evident in the growth of multinational corporations,
world financial markets, the diffusion of popular culture and the awareness of global
environment degradation (ibid.). According to globalists, `the state has become a
fragmented policy-making arena, permeated by transnational networks [...] as well as by
domestic agencies and forces' (in Held, McGrew, 2002: 16-17). The idea of global politics
challenges the traditional distinction between the domestic and international. This makes
the national coordination and control of government policy highly problematic. `Pollution,
drugs, human rights and terrorism are among the increasing number of transnational policy
issues which cut across territorial jurisdictions and existing political alignments, and
which require international cooperation for their effective resolution' (Held, McGrew,
2002: 17). It has been argued that `worldwide models define and legitimate agendas for
local action, shaping the structures and policies of nation-states and other national and
local actors' (Boli et al, 1997: 145). According to Held and McGrew (2002), the modern
state is embedded in webs of regional and global interconnectedness permeated by
supranational, intergovernmental and transnational forces, and unable to determine its
own fate. These changes challenge both the sovereignty and legitimacy of states. Finally,
nation states struggle to deliver fundamental goods and services to their citizens without
international cooperation (Held, McGrew, 2002).
`While the process of globalization has put new demands on nation-states to
address the increasing inequality and insecurity that it can cause and to respond to the
competitive challenges that it presents, globalization has, in many ways, limited their
capacity to respond' (Stiglitz, 2006: 20). As Stiglitz (2006) has argued, in many instances
governments cannot control capital flows, for there are legal ways of circumventing the
regulations. The right of sovereign states to make decisions is limited by international
agreements: thus the control over actions of individuals or companies is restricted. The
nation state, which used to be the centre of political and economic power, in contemporary

times is increasingly restrained by the forces of global economics and by political demands
for devolution of power. Even if Stiglitz's (2006) assertion that the nation state has been
weakened is debatable, his insight that democratic global institutions have to be created at
the international level to deal effectively with the problems globalisation has created
seems highly plausible.
Boli et al (1997) have observed that the development and impact of global socio-
cultural formation greatly intensified with the creation of a central world organisational
frame at the end of World War II. The League of Nations was replaced by the United
Nations (UN) system and related bodies (the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World
Bank, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)), which established expanded
agendas of concern for international society, including economic development, individual
rights, medical, scientific, and educational development. Boli et al (1997) argue that world
society models shape nation-state identities, structures, and behaviour via worldwide
cultural and associational processes. Multilayered global governance involves many
actors on different levels: nation-states, local politics, regional integration projects (EU,
NAFTA), UN organizations, international organizations, national and global civil society
(NGOs, interest organizations, science), private global players (multinational
corporations, media, international banks) (in Held, McGrew, 2002). Extensive political
interconnectedness is highlighted by the dense web of activity of the key international
policymaking forums, including the summits of the UN, G7, IMF, EU, Asia-Pacific
Economic Cooperation, the Southern Cone Common Market (in Latin America) and many
other official and unofficial meetings (Held, McGrew, 2002). There is a continuous
interaction between supra-state, national, transnational, and sub-state agencies. `The
apparent simultaneous weakening and expansion of state power is symptomatic of an
underlying structural transformation ­ a global shift in the organization of power and
authority' (Held, McGrew, 2002: 125). The conditions, under which state power can be
exercised, are changing. Completely new distributional order of global powers is
stimulated by globalisation. Strange (1996) has pointed out that fundamental
technological and managerial changes of recent years unfold new ways to exercise power
on a global scale to pursue national interests. National economies cannot be analysed in
isolation from the world economy. It has been argued that attention should be paid to the
power exercised by authorities other than states (Strange, 1996).

According to Strange (1996), a decline in the authority of the state relates to the
quality of authority exercised by the governments of most territorial states, rather than by
its quantity. The international organisations, points out Strange (2006), are tools of
national governments: an international order is by no means completely neutral.
Moreover, increasing amount of social daily life is immune from the activities and
decisions of governments. Some states began to share their previously primary
responsibilities with private enterprises in order to solve new challenges and risks. States
have abandoned their former exclusive position in the `ownership and control over
industry, services and trade, and even from the direction of research and innovation in
technology' (Strange, 1996: 54). Gradually the power, once centred in a state, began to
undergo the processes of diffusion. Strange (1996) argues that the state as an institution is
not disappearing ­ due to the structural change in world society and economy it is
becoming one source of authority among several, with limited powers and resources.
Although the nation state is loosing its privileged position, `neither the nation nor the state
is about to disappear ... there are no substitute structures that can perform all the functions
traditionally associated with the nation-state' (Horsman, Marshall, 1994: 264, in Strange,
1996: 86). In addition, it is necessary to emphasize the point made by Mullard: `the process
of globalisation is not the exogenous event that is beyond the control of nation-state
institutions but rather reflects a series of deliberate policy choices'; furthermore: markets
are social constructs defined by policy making (2007: 301).
Although its focus shifted away from production, Western world is highly
involved in consumption. This obvious paradox is one of the factors that make so called
West dependent on the rest of the world, and vice versa. The UN system, as observed by
Shaw (2000), reinforced and was reinforced by Western power. Agencies which
developed global economic policies, notably the IMF and World Bank, were Western
institutions. Western developed countries, points out Stiglitz (2002), have pushed
developing countries to eliminate trade barriers, but kept up their own barriers, thus
depriving them of so needed income. Hence accusations of Western counties for hypocrisy
by the critics of globalisation do no appear unjustified. The West has driven the
globalisation agenda at the expense of the developing world. According to Stiglitz (2002),
many IMF policies have contributed to global economic instability. The problems of
international economic institutions unfold the problem of governance, for the institutions
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Has the Process of Globalisation Eroded the Relevance of the Nation State?
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University of Hull
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Process, Globalisation, Relevance, Nation, State
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Lina Kudriavcevaite (Author), 2010, Has the Process of Globalisation Eroded the Relevance of the Nation State?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/387607


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