Is the nation-state rendered obsolete under globalisation?

An analysis of the problem between the nation state and globalization

Essay, 2019

11 Seiten, Note: 1,3


Is the nation-state rendered obsolete under Globalisation?

Goods, data and money flow through the world unrestricted and without limitless time, but man still adapts to nation-state boundaries, he follows his constitution and during sporting events he supports his national team and sings the hymn of his nation. Today, the number of nation states in Europe and in the world is as high as never before. Nevertheless, many authors repeatedly invoke the anachronism of the nation-state and its end through denationalization (Albrow 1996: 180ff.). Since the beginning of the 21st century, it seems that the nation states are losing ground, no country in the world can still make its own economic policy without external influence. The effects of globalization should lead to the end of nation-state govern- ance and make the nation-state as a form of political organization obsolete (Streeck 2004). In the further course of the essay, this assertion requires a confrontation and juxtaposition of both concepts and their current perception with the respective historical context.

Historically speaking, the concept of the nation-state is a relatively new invention that began to dominate during the 19th century, especially in Western Europe. Despite the timely classi- fication by the beginning of the "nation building", a precise definition proves to be still difficult today (Osterhammel 2009: 580f). The feminist theory, which is also the basis of UNESCO, de- fines the nation state as a state in which the vast majority of society shares and tolerates the same culture. Cultural boundaries are thus consistent with political boundaries (Yuval-Davis 1997: 17-22). Otto Dann expands the claims of the nation-state by asserting that the nation, as a whole of citizens, forms sovereignty, and that it determines and controls political rule. Furthermore, the equal participation of all citizens in institutions, services and projects of the state is the guiding principle (Dann 1996: 11 - 21).

Both definitions seem plausible for the time being, but with their high demands for political participation they are not applicable to a large number of cases. Poland under Communist rule, Spain under Franco or South Africa until the end of apartheid would not have been nation states. If one understands the formulation "all citizens" and "large majority of the society", gender-neutral, then even Great Britain would not be the "motherland of democracy", which introduced the women's suffrage until 1928, not as national state (Osterhammel 2009: 582). Thus, it is difficult to determine when the state of nationality is actually reached and the outer and inner nation-state formations are sufficiently mature. The inner aspects require decisions about when a territorially organized community has attained a degree of structural integra- tion and homogenizing consciousness that must be clearly different from its former state (e.g. Empire). Based on France, the model case of national state education, it becomes clear that the internal aspects cannot be determined. Whether the revolution of 1789 or the centraliza- tion of Napoleon led to the nation state is uncertain.

On the other hand, there are the external aspects, which are much easier to recognize. Under the conditions of the international order and agreement, a state can only be regarded as a nation state if it is recognized by the majority of the international community as an independ- ent actor. The concept of sovereignty is necessary, but not a sufficient condition for realized national statehood, because not every foreign political power is at the same time a nation state. Focusing on the sovereignty of a state as predominant, nation states emerge in three different ways: (1) through revolutionary autonomy, (2) through hegemonic unions, and (3) through evolutionary autonomy (Breuilly 1993: 96ff). From this follows the historical phenom- enon of state propagation and it is an explanation why today the United Nations recognizes 195 nation-states, even though at the beginning of the 20th century just 50 nations were counted. During the 20th century, the nation state became a great political ideal. Owing to the spread of nationalism (see Osterhammel 2009: 581-586), which is based on the legitimacy of the modern state by popular sovereignty, the sovereignty of the sovereign was replaced. The citizens have begun to combine their will with the nation and replaced the divine right by the rule of the people. The created state has been the only legitimate state in modern society ever since.

If, in the further course, the modern state1 is mentioned, then it defines itself by a delimited area, which is recognized by its citizens and other states. All people living within this state are members of the political state and have freedom, participation and social rights. The modern state can enforce the law and enforce it by compulsion, if it takes into account and observes its own laws of state-state-bound state power. Its legitimation and institution assignment are decided in a recognized constitution, which also regulates the democratic structures of the state. The democratic organs of the modern state are bureaucratically organized in an admin- istration. Any modern state can shape its institutional order differently and interact with state and non-state actors to change this order. The interaction structure - through the interaction of the actors - can affect all areas of the state and adjoining social areas. There is no constant state task, but a social co-responsibility, which also allows the success and the changeability of the political control of the state free spaces (Benz 2008: 259).

The membership of an individual to a modern state is given by two externally determined assumptions, either by birth or by the mother tongue and the ethnic origin (Jahn 2015: 13f). That development can make sure that at present the majority of people on the planet belong to at least one national state. Here, the individual desire of the people, to which nation he wants to belong, is irrelevant. Exemplary for this is today's perception of globalization: data, money and goods across the globe and break any boundaries of nationalism ', but that man in the south sets out to seek his luck in the north is pure fiction. Since at least the 1990s, the term globalization has gained general recognition in order to emphasize the increasing global interdependence of the economy (tariff reduction and free trade) and the financial markets (liberalization of the capital markets) in the economic sphere (Guttal 2007: 525 - 529). But, just as with the nation state, the concept of globalization cannot be uniformly defined by its broad application practice. However, as with the nation state, there is agreement that some- thing like globalization even exists. Since then, when globalization is talked about and de- bated, a dispute is emerging over whether the state loses power or not. On the one hand, supporters of the globalization thesis claim that the ongoing globalization of the economy is leading to the end of the nation-state. Due to the dominance of the economy and the flexibil- ity and adaptability of capitalism, state control becomes ineffective in a globalized world. The state directs its economic and social policy to the specifications and standards of the economy in order to attract the attractiveness of transnational investors. The nation-state becomes a plaything for global markets, large corporations and non-governmental organizations, which are no longer controlled by states, but by a neo-public interest group that cooperates or rivals as needed (Czerny 1995: 623ff). Through the simultaneous rise of non-governmental organi- zations during globalization development, theorists of the politicization thesis see an increase of new transnational political actors who are nationally and regionally organized and operate globally. Nonetheless, this development is irrelevant to the nation-state because its influence in this state process has no effect.

The two political scientists, David Held and Anthony McGrew, see the process of globalization as weakening independent action in the formulation and pursuit of national and international political goals. From this follows a transformation of political power that renders the role of the nation state insignificant (Held / McGrew 2000: 10-14). As a result, the state-organized policy has changed to the fact that it is observed by the world public and underlies the inter- national legal system. Government policy operates in a network of transnational spheres of activity and aligns its financial behavior, environmental policy and legal system with interna- tional requirements. With regard to the European Union, the complete denationalization of the state in the state decision-making process is to be absorbed by European integration as a restructuring of state rule (see: Bartolini 2005).

Even though the national state has repeatedly been promised goodbye in the debate on globalization in the literature of the last decades, the voices of the few critics of the globalization thesis have been intensified in recent years. Based on global economic powers such as the US, China and Germany or France within the European Union it is above all those states that are the driving forces of globalization. In any case, apart from China, it can be said that the nation-state is the only institution that can provide necessary regulatory services with the necessary power. The sovereignty and autonomy of the legislative and enforcement powers is still in the hands of the States (Held / McGrew 2000 8 11).

In the historical context, the existence of the constitutional state in relation to other forms of rule, which have arisen in the course of humanity, a young state form. But the constitutional state is proving to be one of the most stable forms of rule by its universal recognition of fundamental and human rights. States, empires and kingdoms, which in history try again and again to cross their borders of competence, breaking up their institutional balance, have come to an end. Whenever states spread their territory by force, ignoring any opinions of the citizenry or governing without the consent of the people, they collapsed again and again (Benz 2008: 262f).

The initial thesis that the state becomes obsolete in a globalized world can be called into question; whether it is relevant at all that the state loses power or not and as a result is threatened with extinction. Sociologist Peter B. Evans also addresses this question, arguing that the question should not be how far the rise of globalization should lead to the decline of the modern state, but how it can adapt to changing social conditions (Evans 1997: 87).


1 Even if the state is mentioned, the modern state is to Arthur Benz seen as the basis (see: Benz 2008).

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Is the nation-state rendered obsolete under globalisation?
An analysis of the problem between the nation state and globalization
Hochschule Bremen  (Gesellschaftswissenschaften)
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
Globalization, Globalisierung, Nation-state, Nationalstaat, Europe, digitalization, European Union, Glocalisation, Politics
Arbeit zitieren
Marius Kossmann (Autor), 2019, Is the nation-state rendered obsolete under globalisation?, München, GRIN Verlag,


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