This essay deals with one of the most controversial questions in today's social science debates: the relationship between the nation-state and globalisation. Globalisation, understood quite loosely here as a series of contemporary and unprecedented developments in the economic, social and cultural integration of world market and societies – in other words, a general sense of the shortening of distance between here and there, us and the Other – implies a new definition of the field of social relationships, a definition that is much less centred on the national level and takes more account of the global.
In these conditions, the end of the nation-state may be at hand. According to this view, the nation-state, which has been the only entity of international importance since the Westphalia treaties of 1648, is now the subject of increasing strains. It is doomed to lose more and more of its power in the twenty-first century. In the realm of worldwide action and global participation, how can the territorially limited and ideologically outdated nation-state survive ?
One should always be cautious about seemingly-obvious statements, especially on issues of national reach. Lessons from the past show us that the nation-state has flourished from very sturdy roots, roots that have many times proven stronger than the winds of change. Still, some signs, such as the appearance of many new institutions of global governance, cannot be ignored: what scope remains for the state in the new distribution of power brought about by globalisation ?
I will attempt here to show that the most challenging aspect of globalisation for the nation-state is not economic revolution, contrary to common belief. Indeed integration of world markets adds as many opportunities for states as it does bounds to their sovereignty. Globalisation also means new forms of contacts and exchanges between cultures, making people ever more aware of global issues that concern all of humanity. I will argue that it is in this new “global consciousness” that the greatest threats for the sovereignty and legitimacy of nation-states lie, with one crucial question lying in waiting: will future globalisation be up to the challenge of democracy and accountability?
This essay will be structured around two parts. In the first one, I will tackle the still burning debate of economic globalisation and the fate of the nation-states, taking sides with those who do not want to proclaim the end of the nation-state too soon. In the second part, I will concentrate on more political and social issues, attempting in a few words to show that globalisation requires new forms of democracy that may prove a big challenge to contemporary political organisations.
[...] Even the huge number of migrants that escaped Europe in search of better horizons during this period do not contradict this claim: they were mostly poor people in want of a better life, and had no awareness of the importance of serious global issues. They did bring their cultural identity with them, but most of their host states - the United States, Australia, and so on - were young ones still in the course of defining their national identity, so the waves of migrants did not really challenge their social cohesion, one of the condition of existence of nation-states. [...]
[...] In the first one, I will tackle the still burning debate of economic globalisation and the fate of the nation-states, taking sides with those who do not want to proclaim the end of the nation-state too soon. In the second part, I will concentrate on more political and social issues, attempting in a few words to show that globalisation requires new forms of democracy that may prove a big challenge to contemporary political organisations. Part Economic Globalisation and the Role of the State The role of the nation-state under the modern form of economic globalisation has been the subject of numerous debates in international political economy circles for the last ten or twenty years. [...]
[...] In the absence of a coherent and intelligible response from nation-states, people are forming new organisations for international action outside the scope of the traditional borders, organisations that may in the end prove a threat to the legitimacy and power of the nation-state itself. I will start here by stating the main changes in social consciousness that globalisation has triggered, discussing as I go the ongoing relevancy of national identity and what this means for the state. In my second subpart, I will focus on the new forms of social participation that have arisen in the past few decades, trying to show that they constitute a new form of democracy that governments now have to take into account in their policy- making work. [...]
[...] A remark from Peter Drucker strikes me for its relevancy here: “whenever in the last 200 years political passions and nation-state politics have collided with economic rationality, political passions and the nation-state have won.” However, some signs are perhaps not that optimistic for the nation-state. Peter Drucker associates above political passions and nation-state politics. What if they do not act together, but one against the other ? This may increasingly be the case in a world of information globalisation, where people are increasingly aware of issues that appeal to the whole of humankind. [...]
[...] Countries have therefore opened their borders to foreign direct investment (FDI) from the North, and structuralists argue that they have nowadays no other choice than to conform to market-friendly policies, in the absence of which foreign money will abandon the country in search of more attractive places for investment. Furthermore, to look on the darker side, it may be added on a sociological level that Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) today have more bargaining power than ever before, and that their ruling elites constitute a form of political class on their own, capable of influencing decisions at the highest level of power through corporate lobbying and economic threat. [...]
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