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Impact Of Globalisation On The Nation State Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 4031 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The term globalization has been a contentious topic in the field of social sciences and disciplines alike in recent years. The expansive pattern of globalization makes a holistic definition of the concept difficult. Interestingly, in spite of the vast nature of the concept, there is a tendency to homogenize its meaning. Some commentators posit that globalization depicts a “polyvalent, promiscuous, controversial word that often obscures more than it reveals” (Jessop 2002, p.113), and that globalization remains the “most over used and under specified term in the international policy domain since the passing of the Cold War” (Higgot 1999, p.1). Indeed the inclination to generate a broad and homogeneous meaning to the concept of globalization may be as a result of the open nature of the concept itself, which makes it quite complex to conceive.

However, a key theme in the globalization discourse today is the extent to which the process has led to the weakening and/or strengthening of the nation state. Some scholars have argue that the nation state is central in driving the process of globalization (skeptics), while others contend that the increase in transnational networks has weakened the nation state (Globalist).

This paper does not intend to take side with any of these assertions; rather it seeks to analyze the various impacts that the process of globalization has had on the nation state in interacting with global networks and institutions. To achieve this, the first part of this essay looks at the concept of globalization vis a vis the evolution of the nation state within Europe from pre-modern era. This will bring to fore certain phenomenal changes in the contemporary global political economy of state which has lead to the changing role of the nation state in recent years.

Using four key factors as my reference point, the second part delves into the impact globalization has had on the nation state under the following parameters – The global capital, global environment, global citizenship as well as post-nuclear politic. This will help to suggest the varying consequence of globalism over nationalism

In the final analysis, I find the structure for potential globalism evident, thus conclude that indeed the expansion of global network have transformed the function of nation states in today`s global polity, rather than erode the autonomy and sovereignty of nation states.

Conceptualising Globalisation:

Globalisation presupposes an ongoing process which applies to a broad spectrum of activities ranging from economic actions to the sphere of politics, law, and culture. It is defined as the deepening and expansion of socio-cultural and socio-political ties beyond national frontiers aided by a strong and complex technological breakthrough (Holm & Sorensen 1995, p.1). The empirical revelation of economic interdependence however, finds a place in the globalization thesis when Scholte stressed that the growth in global flow of capital through foreign direct investments, the spread of transnational co-operation, foreign exchange transfers, and the establishment of export processing zones, has enmeshed the global economy into an integrated market arena. (2000, p.86).

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Unarguably the global political economy from the twentieth century has witnessed extensive integration of national economies particularly through cross-border investment and trade, however these interconnectedness tend to shape the policy of state actors via engagements with global institutions without recourse to place and time. Although while the economic logic of globalizations may have shifted to the consciousness of a borderless world (Ohmae 1990, p .172), it is worth noting that the interplay is not universally applicable as some state borders seem demarcated from contemporary global integration( some countries in the south). Thus these states adopt isolationist policies in the excuse that their domestic economic posture is not viable enough to interconnect with external forces.

Therefore not all social relations have reached the stage of global civilization; while some nation states assume that international political power outflank its role (Taylor 1996, p. 11), others believe that global politics runs over state-centric political network into a more spatial extensive framework in contemporary times.

The Nation State Evolution:

During the Middle age epoch in Europe, political authority was distributed between individuals and religious institutions (Axtmann 2004, p.259). The exercise of authority was managed by wealthy merchants, royal families and religious heads in almost all matters during pre-modernization. Although the influence of religious institutions in exercising its authority witnessed a decline in the 16th century through the 18th century, Monarchs became increasingly powerful as a result of certain structural changes in Europe caused by the industrial revolution (Sorensen 2004, p.10).

However the king in collaboration with a strong military presence at the time introduced taxes and used states apparatus to legitimize their actions. State managed infrastructure established for credit and monetary concerns were used to sustain the status quo by maintaining legitimacy and guaranteeing trade (Sorensen 2004, p. 10).

This system carved out a central authority arrangement upon which the monarchs and the citizens related, giving rise to an administrative framework that metamorphosed in the emergence to the early form of the modern nation state creation. As a follow up, the signing of the Westphalia treaty in 1648 legitimized state structure as a sovereign entity. The principle of sovereignty was premised on the supremacy of the nation state over its subjects, territorial integrity and natural resources. Fundamentally, it is instructive to point out that prior to the Westphalia treaty being entrenched, more than two hundred European entities engaged in dialogues (Sorensen 2004, p.10). The consequence of those negotiations saw Europe having only about fifty states currently. This represents the highest form of fragmentation which passed through series of conflict processes especially during the 1900 to 2000, spanning across various wars with the death toll of over 115 million people (Tilly 1992, p. 67).

Hence, the process of consolidating states into a transformed entity often navigates through a gradual stage of fierce engagements. This slow but effective transformatory stage is the standard, for launching into the international society; therefore the prevailing global society of states is a product of thorough creation following long standing interest articulation and trade-offs. One characteristic of modern state formation, is the severe decline of internal conflict and civil unrest and the prevalence of the rights of nations and human with the threats to violent conflict almost non-existent (Sorensen 2004, p.11).

The presence of these attributes will guarantee the legitimate use of force, based on laid down principles and this will shape the relationship between the state and its citizen. Also since the authority which was once distributed amongst varying actors is centrally managed in a modern nation state, it naturally translates the allegiance of citizens towards to state in a manner that tends to create a sense of community from their history. This sequential establishment of the modern nation’s state is crucial to understanding the transformations that prepared states towards opening up to the global space. Just after the emergence of the modern nation states, technological and economic advancement tolerated dramatic development to occur within states and they became keen to protect their own interest in relation to others.

In the present day, advancement in almost all spheres of interaction has opened up the distribution and consumption of hitherto domestic goods to become global products. What this implies is that globalization now plays a dominant role in the relation of the society of states such that economic activities either within or outside the state is done without emphasis on location. Although the economic relation of states are more often between states, the production of goods and services still remain territorially defined, thus the need to often comprehend international trade through state relations.

Examining the effects of globalization on the nation state

Global Capital: – The enthusiasts of capital mobility, in the wake of advancement in information technology have identified the transformation of capital to be more global than national. They argue that in a formal geographical sense, the ownership of capital has shifted from the territorially bounded entity into an extensive global community (Mann 1977, p 479).

Prior to the 1980`s capital mobility was at the purview national government through bond issuance to manage trade deficit/surplus for healthy competition.

However the dismantling of state regulations to evolve a loose global market was in tandem with European consciousness to liberalize. Today, the speedy nature of the foreign exchange electronic market, likely explains the scale of contemporary global financial flow. The foreign exchange market accounted for tremendous growth from $1 billion in the middle of 1970’s to over $1.2 trillion by 1990, surpassing the global trade ratio of 60:1(Cohn 2000, p.10). Also international bank lending have sky rocketed from a minor level in the 1960`s to over 20 billion annually in the 70`s and a steady growth of 10 times that level in 1990`s.

In comparism to the state centric standard of control, contemporary financial capital has become intensively mobile that it no longer yields to the actions of determined governments as thought by many (Ohmae 1990, p.158). It is even more fascinating that the foreign exchange market has attracted almost any body without formal training, and this has become a speculators heaven due to its high yield opportunities it provides. An attempt by regulators to manage the foreign exchange deficits has been unsuccessful since capital gain from the foreign exchange market remains un-tax. Rees-Mogg and Davidson best describe the deregulation in global capital mobility when they stated that “the Internet will make avoiding taxes so easy and risk-less that sovereignty will inevitably shift to the individual, leaving the nation-state to die of fiscal starvation” (1997, P.159). This clearly shows the extent to which huge capital can literally travel miles across national borders with just a push on a key board button.

On the other hand however, it’s been argued that even though capital movements have become largely trans-national the shares and currencies traded are usually pegged to national stock markets principles (Wade 1996). The sceptic’s response to the flow of capital either through trade or investment is that the institutional origin in which capital flow thrives is largely nationally based. Therefore the role of multi-national co-operations in spreading foreign direct investment around the world does not necessarily make them stateless. For instance the cost of establishing an electronics industry requires hi-tech manufacturing skilled labour, hence to ensure effective production cost, an FDI initiative will allows for the recruitment of local citizens and the avoidance of tariff barriers. This will result in the Manufacturing Company retaining a large proportion of local origin and blend to local conditions as against the claim that MNC`s are placeless.

Fundamentally, the wave of globalization has transformed national economies from subsistent production to a global production apparatus. This means that the world of states is adjusting to the irreversible dynamics of globalization, as societies are becoming more competitive and coalescing to create an international system of interdependence.

However this trend is not necessarily even or universal, the indications of globalization on the nation state has varying consequences. While a genuine single market is evident in Europe, North America and East Asia, the same cannot be said of Sahara Africa or the Balkans. Yet most literature more often generalizes nation state experience in its interaction with the global network.

Global Environment:

Human environment is full of overwhelming potential hazards. This risk is attributable to a number of factors, not exclusive to global capitalism. The environmental pressure of coping with economic production has indeed deeply affected the atmosphere and climate of the world. Dealing with this destruction will require nation state to take necessary steps in protecting their immediate environment. Europe, America and recently Singapore have sponsored the cleaning up of their environment. Nevertheless the need to respond to this challenge in contemporary global space demands both the rich and poor nations to share the burden.

Richard Falk argues that the danger of ozone depletion requires the involvement of the optimist and pessimist alike (1999, p.28). This means that the current global era shifts the responsibility of solving the ecological damage from immediate domestic actor to a compliant network of actors which could be voluntary or through agreements.

It is perhaps correct to say that responses to environmental challenges can be seen in duality, private firms now use slogans like “Think globally, act locally” to create an open concern towards the decay of the environment. The green peace initiative is in the forefront of disseminating the rejection of scientific exploitation of nature on energy grounds clean. In doing so its uses its western connection to influence the energy policy of national government across the globe, this is also similar to what the global civil society (GIS) does. Through an awareness campaign, the (GCS) cajole national governments into subscribing to the international code of conduct on environmental practices.

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On the other hand however, while it is imperative to `think globally and act locally` as some environmental activist advocate, the assumption that all environmental problems require global concern is quite misleading. For instance environmental concern arising from human activity on the soil such as deforestation and watershed failure are certainly dealt with at local level. In spite of emergencies and spread of international networks on environmental problem, the compliance of various nation states is important for positive result. Therefore Michael Mann affirms that the policy makers in transnational agencies are also representatives of their various nation state, therefore `soft geopolitics` remains a viable tool for effective policy implementation (1997,p.490). Moreover the skeptic view finds actuality in the history of international co-operations on global environment, as there are several examples of negotiations failing due to either structural imbalance of the North/South, or because states do not find such engagements helpful to their economic and political concerns.

The Copenhagen summit failed due to this kind of suspicion. The weakness of the UN climate convention document as not reflecting the concerns of poor developing countries on the limit of emission reduction, created the deadlock negotiations at Copenhagen.

Notwithstanding, one thing the Copenhagen summit would have achieved today is the fact that national governments are now well informed of the reality of climate change, therefore legislations from various national governments now seeks to address climate change within their own internal agencies.

Global Citizenship:

The current age of information technology has made the monopoly of information by nation states difficult. Across geographical boundaries people’s access to information on global development creates the opportunity for them to have varieties of preferences on products and life styles. Gone are the days when the flow of information was managed by government to suit their policy interest, currently people`s free access to information have made them cosmopolitan in their character (Ohmae 1990, p.19).

The swiftness of information travel from the internet and cable network in an increasingly globalised world provides a background for understanding the changing role of the state with regards to citizenship. Richard Falk has described citizenship as a shifting set of relationship and attitude without any necessary territorial delimitation (Brecher 1993, p.39). The dynamics of economic, cultural and ecological transformation offered by globalization is responsible for this shift.

Therefore human experience in contemporary global era makes global citizenship irreversible as it is impossible to territorially manage the relations of people. As stated in Ohmae`s borderless world, The Japanese have become global citizens through perpetual travel abroad. This he claims would not have been possible in the past if not for the flow of information around the world. (1990, p.19).

Conversely, the global citizenship phenomenon has been challenge by skeptic who holds to the view that nationalism remains a powerful devise to the primary identity which gives people the rights and privileges they enjoy within a given boundary. They argue (Skeptics) that the legitimate role of citizen has been offered by the foundation of political democracy through constitutional framework which allows for periodic elections and the assurance of rights. However the generalization of global citizenship may have been overstated.

The evidences are more conspicuous in Europe where the mentality towards market, politics and security has been largely de-territorialized. By contrast this mentality does not find credence in sub-Saharan Africa were negotiations to act collectively has often been a mirage. (Falk 1990, P.159).

Post-Nuclear Politic:- Understanding the New World Order :

The dominant discourse after the two great wars in political life has been how to fashion out a universal body to govern the world as a whole. The defining political challenge was to establish a world order based on sustainable democratic principles. A consciousness that was pioneered by the Western states after the lesson learnt from `hard geopolitics` was to build a world order bases on collective action.

Therefore the concept of globalization and the use of `soft geopolitics` sets an agenda to restructure the world without necessarily going through the face of transformation that occurred in Europe.(Mann 1997,p.493). Consequently, threats ranging from rising nuclear tension in states like Pakistan and India and separatist agitations in other countries around the world continue to slap down reluctant militarist nations in global affairs. Globalization however offers a plausible platform to contain potential danger through global geopolitical order. In this regards, the United Nations represent a marginal player in global security concern. Even though it’s more often accused of failing, the evident bearing has shifted towards regionalism. The approach to build a global governance structure through regionalism has yielded positive results. With an experience from the European Union, security issues are now articulated within regions shaped by the UN charter . At least it is apparent that regional institution remains feasible potential network towards the emergence of positive globalism.

In refuting the impact of global governance over the nation state, Max Weber maintains that the monopoly of territory remains a distinctive feature which only the modern state possesses (1968, p.56). This means that the prevailing role of governance is exclusive to nation states, therefore the choice to engage in the society of states or international relations is not forceful but dependent on the willingness do so. Since nation states develop into self-sufficient entities acting on their own will (Bull 1977).

Globalization and Governance:

According to the Keynesian welfare state which calls for powerful government involvement in economic planning and social welfare, the developed economies of the world embraced the Keynesian model since the end of WW II until the 1970`s. This system thrived as it became an effective management tool that strengthened the network between states in relation to the market. However the economic crisis at the end of the 1970`s informed by the oil strike of Arab and the resultant economic downturn, paved way for rapid economic liberalization and fiscal control.

The wave of globalization has coerced national governments to reshape their functions towards a vast catalyst role of consensus building and mediation as against been the provider (UN, 2001, World Public Sector: 21). Hence, the liberal economic consciousness revamped the role of central governments in interfering with their national economy to mere regulatory roles, bases on neo liberal ideas. It is fascinating to discover that the adoption of new watchdog role as offered by open economic market principles in the United Kingdom witness speedy economic recovery than the socialist economic model of France at that time (Sorensen 2004: 33). The authorities that states exercise in managing economic activities became private regulated by non-state actors in the global political economy.

Nonetheless, a complex network does exist between the state and the market in addressing governance issues. For instance, the Global Reporting Initiative (GLI) which is saddled with the responsibility of measuring the private actors impact comprises of NGO`S, MNC`S, the government and professional bodies. On the other hand also economic and political networks at the regional level have emerged viz :- ASEAN, NAFTA, EU and the AU all comprised of nations states showing awareness and wiliness tackling the prevailing demands of globalization.

It is safe to state that globalization has transformed state structure and national government in coming to terms with the dynamics that the era presents. New partnerships between public and private sector have been on the rise and this has led government to be more accountable and productive. The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programs established in Mexico and Brazil have been adopted by many other states in the United States, e.g. The New York City’s Opportunity NYC (World Bank Seminar 2007).


The culmination of factors necessitated by the wave of globalization has provoked many thoughts concerning the future of the state. Indeed numerous revelations emanating from the literates suggest that the nation’s state has lost its role, some other thoughts argue the state still retain its character. It is against this background that I delve into the discursive debate. It has become clear to me that the impact of globalization is multi dimensional. Consequently the triumph of globalism over nationalism remains an ironic claim if not dubious; this is so because at every point of convergence the state remains an unsurpassed political actor for global engagements.

While I do not affirm to be statist in my disposition or ascribe to the borderless world thesis, I correspond from my finding, that states are responding to the dynamics of global pressure and that the market is still subject to state control to some extent.

In sum, the world has become anarchical with the technological advancement of our age, much as economic globalization has made the world replete with global product. Therefore the structure of global governance rests upon an engaging society of state rather than an imaginary global society. Hence impartial proposals, trade-offs and negotiations will help erect a true international society.


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