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Has Globalization Destroyed The Nation State Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 3188 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In these days, globalization has been quite frequently discussed in different fields. Hence there are a variety of theories and standpoints on globalization and its influence. Many scholars turn their attentions to the relationship between globalization and nation-state and some sociologists argue that globalization will destroy the nation-state.

This paper firstly outlines the developing procedure of globalization and briefly introduces the debate on the nation-state within a global context. Next, it respectively study the political, economic and cultural influences caused by globalization over the nation-state. Additionally, this paper strives to assess the role of global media in the process of globalization. Finally, it tries to find out the answer to this question ‘Has globalization destroyed the nation-state?’

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Robertson is one of the first sociologists to define globalization as ‘the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole’ (1992:8). Following him, there are a collection of views and research on the issue regarding globalization. Globalization is a process which stems from the international organizations, typified by the United Nations. And until the end of the cold war, the concept of globalization became mature after 1989, which refers to a ‘borderless’ world where people, goods, information could flow freely. The greater development of globalization was driven by the digital communication technologies from the late 1980s, affecting the economic activity and personal behavior in a new way. Besides, globalization is not a separate process which includes economic globalization, political globalization, and cultural globalization and so on. Thus, it can exert impacts on numerous fields. Nation-state is also the product of full development of the globalization after around 1875, when international communication and exchange transcended societal boundaries. (Ray, 2007)

The debate on the nation-state within the context of globalization

According to Walker Connor, ‘The term nation-state was originally intended to describe a political unit (a state) whose borders coincided or roughly coincided with the territorial distribution of a nation’ (1994:42). Today, because of the confusion between nation and state, nation-state has lost its original meaning and generally represented all states. While, as Beck,Ulrich(2000:4) writes ‘The nation state is a territorial state: that is, its power is grounded upon attachment to a particular place(upon control over membership, current legislation, border defense, and so on). ‘

From the above viewpoints, it is not difficult to conclude that the concept of nation-state emphasizes the ‘border’ and its authority is closely tied to the territory. It might be the reasons why nation-states are evitable to be largely influenced during the process of globalization. Subsequently, more and more scholars begin to claim that under the global background, nation-state has become outdated and will eventually wither away. As Alvin Toffler argues that ‘As nations are torn apart and restructured…a world in which the nation-state has become, for many purposes, a dangerous anachronism’ (1981:23). What is more, Michael Mann(1997:473) points out that most of the scholars including postmodernists, geographers, sociologists and economists, suggest globalization is weakening the nation-state with similar statements such as ‘undermining’, ‘undercutting’, ‘outflanking’ or ‘marginalization’ of the nation-state. On the contrary, Michael Mann (1997) poses two political counter-theses: For one thing, state institutions still have causal efficacy to maintain social existence. For another thing, globalization is unable to have the same impacts on all different states.

Political influences on the nation-state

Globalization has weakened the sovereign status of the nation-state in the international relations. Nation-states have the power to deal with domestic and foreign affairs according to their own will, without being controlled and interfered by other states. That is to say, states have the independence and freedom to choose their own political, economic, social system and development direction, which is the symbol of national sovereignty. ‘Sovereignty’ is the supreme power of one state to deal with domestic and foreign affairs and it is unified and indivisible. However, to be objective, globalization has led to unprecedented development of international organizations and there have been more and more international organizations play important roles in international relations. It should be mentioned that international organization has contributed greatly to develop international politics, economy, culture, technology and so on, to coordinate the international political and economic relations, to mediate international disputes and to strive for world peace. Meanwhile, there has been an increasing tendency that international organizations even carry out some governmental functions, such as disarmament, regional conflict, ethnic disputation, and even political democratization of nation-states. As a result, the sovereignty of the nation-states would be weakened to different degree. For instance, the United Nations, the Word Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the European Union and some other International Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), they can institute rules and clauses which can regulate the governments of member states, constrain and influence the decision making process of sovereign states. As Larry Ray¼ˆ2007¼‰ mentions ‘…globalization possibly weakens the effectiveness and cohesion of the nation-state as its traditional functions are hollowed out – transferred upwards to international organizations …’ What is more, it seems that the power of the international organizations keeps on expanding. From peacekeeping operations to the weapons inspections, from supervising the general elections of member states to coordinating domestic partisan struggle, the United Nations operations have become increasingly transcend the boundaries of national sovereignty.  The ever-increasing numbers and power of international organizations is just one of the obvious phenomena of globalization process. Nevertheless, it can support the viewpoint hold by Beck,Ulrich(2000:3) ‘ Globalization …are thus intended to shake off the fetters not only of trade unions but also of the national state, to deprive national politics as such of its power.…the final aim is to dismantle the existing responsibilities and apparatus of the state, to bring about the anarchistic market utopia…’

Economic influences on the nation-state

Globalization is on the basis of economic globalization. In the process of economic globalization, the developing countries introduce foreign investment, bring in leading technology, learn advanced managerial experience and transform industrial structure, so as to promote their economic development. At the same time, the developed countries take advantage of the cheaper labor and abundant natural resources in order to ease the domestic supply and demand, increasing economic growth. While, globalization is undermining the economic foundation of nation-states, giving rise to inestimable repercussions.

Firstly, the control of the nation-states on domestic economic developments has been softened up to some degree during the process of globalization. On one hand, economic globalization takes place in the form of market economy which lays great emphasis on the power of free market, advocates abolishing various restrictions on economic activities and opposes to state interventions In economic process, market work as an ‘invisible hand’ to modulate social production and resource allocation. To enable markets to function effectively, states have to give up some managerial authority. It seems that nation-states have been losing their control on the national economy which could be potentially dangerous to the nation-state. On the other hand, Globalization has integrated the economic development of different nation-states into the international economic order. Any state, who wants to participate in the international division of labor, enter into the world economic integration process, must abide by the game rules of international market. For example, WTO Agreement is about international trade rules on the states or other economic entities and requires WTO members to ensure their domestic legislation and trade policy in conformity with the rules. Otherwise, it can not become a member of WTO. If there is a member that violates the rules, WTO can even impose economic sanctions against it. As mentioned above, it might gradually show that globalization is a new form of imperialism imposing western political and economic dominance over other countries and becomes a threat to nation-states. (Larry Ray, 2007)

Secondly, one of the principal features of globalization is the remarkable development of transnational corporations (TNC), which has become a major driving force of economic globalization. It must be acknowledged that transnational corporations inject capital, introduce technology, create a huge number of jobs and provide professional training to the staff, which will have some positive effects on the host countries. However, on account of the information asymmetry and strength disparity, transnational corporations, with the predominant technology, management, brand, marketing and any other advantages, quickly occupy the domestic market, attacking the national industry of developing countries. Worse, what transnational corporations tend to transfer to developing countries primarily is mature industry or ‘sunset industry’. They apply serious restrictions in technology diffusion and transfer, which is not conducive for host countries to upgrade technology and transform industrial structure. Transnational corporations use international investment to achieve globalized production and sales and create new international relations and industrial patterns, influencing the target and direction of the host countries’ industrial structure transformation. This shows that the transnational corporations are playing a more and more critical role in the global resource allocation and a number of developing countries of which some industry or even the economic lifeline has been under the control of transnational corporations.

Thirdly, global investment is usually interested in high-tech industries, which might affect the employment of general workers, increasing the extent of the difference between rich and poor, aggravating social instability. Now, it should be noticed that globalization is sapping the nation-state by its global free market where the state governments are forbidden to intervene in economy. However, some scholars begin to notice that it is no longer a pure economics issue. Beck,Ulrich(2000) claims that nation-states have been deprived of their capability to reduce the gulf between rich and poor and they are unable to even out the social distribution.  It indicates that nation-states are in a crucial dilemma. Although they are being threatened by the rising tide of globalization, they still can not shut themselves off from the globe.

Cultural influences on the nation-state

Along with the progress of economic globalization, Science and technology, economy and trade, international cooperation and exchange has advanced human culture to a new era of globalization. Economic activities are important means of cultural exchange and dissemination. Growingly close international economic cooperation has promoted cultural exchanges among nations and even influence the cultural production and consumption. In contemporary information era, with the help of omnipresent and even omnipotent media, information from various countries is more likely to flow around the world across boundaries. Whereas, both the popular culture and even core culture of developing countries seems to be considerably affected by globalization.

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On one hand, developed countries make use of powerful media, such as internet, satellite television and newspapers and so on, spread and penetrate western ideology and culture to other countries in the world, which may dangerously shake the ideology, value, national culture and religion in some developing countries. On the other hand, in the wake of globalization, culture has began to exceed the original theoretical level and quickly entered into the daily life, bringing about huge impacts on every fields of the society. The spread of western culture has not only deeply eroded the national culture of developing countries, but also has exercised subtle influence on these countries, in terms of the lifestyles, consumption patterns and social psychology of the local people. In particular, western culture constantly infiltrates mentality, swaying the local people’s hidden desire, needs and thoughts to varying degrees. Hereby, the historical accumulations of multiple national tradition, national psychology and national dignity have never been enormously challenged before. Oriental culture and Western culture, pre-modern culture, modern culture and post-modern culture are altogether squeezed into one plane and consequently cultural crash and cultural collision keep occurring. Just as developed countries and developing countries, they have far different cultural background, cultural process, and cultural construction and so on, which are probable to aggravate conflict and contradiction in respect of ideology.  

Despite the approval of free trade, globalization has been unavoidable to yield cultural coercion within the global market activities, badly constraining and interfering with the autonomy of the nation-state and the development of national culture. Globalization has implied a very practical and objective logic: Via raising the global economic interdependence among states and nations around the world, globalization has eliminated the uniqueness and distinction and likewise has continuously strengthened the cultural control and institutional pressure from western developed countries. While, weak states and nations, to some extent, automatically place themselves into a set of integrative order which is made by others. Accordingly, globalization is actually a running process of sapping the framework of nation-state and national culture and has set up an inextricable alien ruler within some weak nation-states. Those nation-states which are at a disadvantage in the process of globalization have become new cultural colonies. Obviously, such nation-states are facing a series of formidable problems, how to maintain the national dignity and cultural tradition as well as how to survive in the fierce global competition.

The role of global media in the process of globalization

The development of globalization is symbolized by the media and information flows. With the improvement of communicative technology, media has been playing a significant role in daily life. Larry Lay (2007) observes that A globalized world has become progressively instant, people locating in different places, are able to experience and share simultaneously through access to digital communicative technologies, setting up complicated social interconnections with the impetus of high-speed of communications. Thus media has caused some boundaries in national, cultural, and political field fall down. Media has pushed the globalization but also aggravated the cultural instantaneity. Nowadays, it is much easier for the people to get access to the information than ever before. Gradually, people form a habit of rapid cultural consumption and culture has become a disposable commodity filled with low-grade entertainments. Hereby, Globalization can be seen as invasion and erosion to national culture and ways of life.

Has globalization destroyed the nation-state

As mentioned above, globalization has resulted in significant changes of nation-states politics, economy and culture. Nevertheless, it does not follow that globalization has destroyed the nation-state.

Politically, Capitalism and Socialism are two fundamentally opposed social systems which have irreconcilable contradictions. Globalization is the historical phenomenon in the wake of Capitalism development. The developed capitalist countries are still the dominant force in the contemporary world and acting as international rule-makers. In the context of globalization, Conflicts between capitalist countries and socialist countries not only exists, but sometimes even intensifies. This indicates that globalization is not a peaceful process, but rather full of sharp competitions between the states. Hence, with this understanding, it is unlikely to it is unlikely to develop the global political community.

Economically, in the process of globalization, in order to keep up with the international trends, nation-states have transferred a proportion of economic decision-making power but it does not mean giving up the economic sovereignty of the state. A powerful government should firmly control its economic lifeline and grasp the economic development power, such as strategies and tactics of economic development and economic regime and policies. Or else it is possible to repeat the same failures of Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. As a result, in order to safeguard the interests of nation-states, ensure their own economic security and social stability, nation-states are bound to highlight and strengthen the national consciousness and state functions.

Culturally, globalization indeed facilitates the national culture exchange and combination. And yet, national culture combination does not signify that the ‘common culture’ has already been created in the process of globalization. Cultural clash always exists which lies in the differences and contradictions of economic interest and the reason why there are economic interest contradictions is because of the existence of stakeholder–nation-states. National culture fully reflects the civilization and wisdom of one nation-state and is spiritual connection to bind the state and nation. National cultural, constituted by specific language, lifestyle and geography and so on, is deeply rooted. Therefore, globalization is unable to eliminate the national culture. Instead, it may raise the importance of national culture and then strengthen national culture.

To sum up, although globalization has differential effects on politics, economy, culture and social life of nation-states. It can not change the objective fact that nation-state exists and keeps developing.


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