Thursday, July 19, 2012

State and Globalization

The “state” is one of the most important and enduring concepts in the study of politics. Its philosophic and historical conception can be traced to the writings of Plato (arising out of man’s lack of self-sufficiency), Aristotle (state for  political animals), St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas (state as a divine institution), Machiavelli (state as  instrument of  power), and Hobbes, Locke and Rosseau (state and social contract). It was defined and redefined alongside the development of political science as an area of inquiry. In the early part of 20th century, the “Germanization” of the discipline popularized the Weberian notion of the state as an entity exercising a monopoly of “coercive authority” (violence) over a given territory which must be anchored on the process of legitimation. The modern state has been accorded with four key features: a defined territory, a permanent population, an effective government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states (internal and external sovereignty). 

Post-war political science witnessed the rejection of the concept of the state as a theoretical concept. Peter Bentley argued that is too ideological to be used as an organizing concept. Meanwhile, Michael Mann (Autonomous Power of the State) wrote that the state is withering away in the face of political authority, political administration and society. In 1950s, behavioralists like David Easton (The Political System, 1953) and Gabriel Almond (Politics of Developing Areas, 1960) replaced the state with the concept of “system” saying that the former is imbued with many meanings and cannot be operationalized. For Nettl[1], since the state is a product of continental European political science, it is not applicable to the study of other countries.

Despite the hyperglobalists’s declaration of the decline, erosion and “end of the nation-state”[2] due to forces of global capitalism[3], the state remains the significant, if not the primary, actor in international relations. It is being enhanced and reinforced due to the process of internationalization which requires the acquiescence of the states.[4] For skeptics, globalization has been used as an “ideological device by politicians and theorists who wish to advance a market-orientated economic agenda”.[5] Occupying the middle ground, the ‘transformationalists” argue that globalization has indeed transformed some of the  functions of the state (in its Westphalian sense) but not everything, especially as the final arbiter and negotiator in international treaties/relations.[6]


[1] Nettl, J.P. 1949. "The State as a Conceptual Variable," World Politics, 20 (July 1949): 559-592.
[2] Ohmae, K. (1990) The Borderless World: Power and Strategy in the Interlinked Economy. London: Fontana.; Ohmae, K. (1995) The End of the Nation-State: The Rise of Regional Economies. New York: Free Press.
[3] Strange, S. (1996) The Retreat of the State: The Diffusion of Power in the World Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[4] Hirst, P. and G. Thompson (1999) Globalization in Question. Cambridge: Polity Press.
[5] Heywood, A. 2011. Global Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
[6] Held, D., A.McGrew, D. Goldblatt and J. Perraton (1999) Global Transformations. Cambridge:Polity Press.

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