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Has globalization destroyed the nation-state?

Has globalization destroyed the nation-state?

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It is too extreme to hold any conclusive viewpoint on a complex question. I argue it is the 'nation' which is under more threat than the 'state'. I will offer a discussion on the neglected area of culture and identity, welfare state survival and some research on nation-state strengths, to back this up. Nation-state reform is the necessary response.
It is too extreme to hold any conclusive viewpoint on a complex question. I argue it is the 'nation' which is under more threat than the 'state'. I will offer a discussion on the neglected area of culture and identity, welfare state survival and some research on nation-state strengths, to back this up. Nation-state reform is the necessary response.

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
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Has globalization destroyed the nation-state?
By Darragh McCashin
It is too extreme to suggest that globalization has destroyed (or is destroying) the nation-state. Insofar as this essay adopts this suggestion, it is undeniable though that the nation-state has been at least weakened, and has changed in various ways. Certainly, in light of the presentation on the numerous differing definitions of the globalization phenomena, itdoes appear narrow-minded to state that the nation-state is destroyed. Also, what exactlyis a nation-state? This too is a debated question. In my view, it is apparent that the
today is under more threat than the
which is merely acquiring new challengingtasks, at least regarding population’s cultural identity. To support these viewpoints, I willoffer a discussion on the neglected area of culture and identity, welfare state survival andsome research on nation-state strengths. Some parts of the literature may be guilty of over-indulging in purely economic globalization, which I will largely avoid. This is because only a broad view and awareness of the many interpretations of globalization canyield the most useful response to the essays complex question.
Tackling the definitions: What is globalization? What is the nation-state?
Globalization is a multifaceted phenomenon which is now being referred to and debatedfrequently within the media, academia and thus the public consciousness, with noconsensus surrounding what it is precisely. Nor is the location of a neutral standpointeasy to come by. The purpose of this section is to briefly show the complexity of thedebate by dissecting the essay question. More importantly, my interpretation of whatglobalization means in the midst of this complexity, is intended to lay the foundationfrom which this essay will work from. This allows for a clearer picture of what myinterpretation of globalization is (and is not), and how it is related to answering thenation-state question.To start, the rough definition many agree with (to some degree) is that globalization hassomething to do with the thesis that we all now live in one world (Giddens, 1999: 7), aworld of increasing interdependence (Giddens, 2006). Even still, there are dissatisfactionswith this simplistic definition. Robertson (1992: 8) believes globalization refers both tothe compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as awhole. It does not simply refer to the objectivity of the increasing interconnectednessclaim. It also refers to cultural and subjective matter, namely, the scope and depth of consciousness of the world as a single location. Matters are complicated further by thefact that the definition(s) of globalization may serve different purposes at the same time,and globalization is in the making and may be subject to periodic forms of un-making or even re-invention (Holton, 2005); hence the need for tackling the definitional issues.There are doubts as to whether it exists at all. In fact, when raising this point, it isinteresting to note that
The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology
describes globalisation as‘a new world order’ (Turner, 2005: 245). However, some argue that it is not new, nor is ita Western concept, because the processes of globalization have been occurring for 1
thousands of years (Sen, 2002). For example, Sen states that one could date globalizationto the spread of high technology of 1000 A.D. in China, such as paper and gunpowder,around the world.Perhaps the most useful framework for encapsulating the varying viewpoints in thisdebate is the distinctions between ‘
’, ‘
’ and ‘
’,as tabled in Held et al (1999: 10). The hyperglobalists (such as Ohmae), believe thenation-state is history due to the spread of global capitalism. Sceptics (including Held),on the other hand, have a different perspective in that they recognise the hyperglobalistconcern but hold no panic towards the nation-state’s future, and doubt much of the claimsin the modern globalization literature. The in-between position of the transformationalist(Held again) holds the view that the nation-state is no longer the only player because itsrole is changing considerably.Upon engaging with this framework, it is evident that the main driving force behindglobalization, which is sparking so much debate, is that of economic activity. However,that is not to say that there are not other forms of globalization, also of sufficientrelevance. I am referring to aspects of cultural and political globalization which is largelyexcluded from these types of framework analyses. Their exclusion is a definite weaknessin the literature (Tovey and Share, 2003); especially from a sociological perspective, andmeans one misses the social depths of globalization (Robertson, 2003: 3). Be it thecapabilities of subcultures (Roberts, 2005), or the consciousness-altering ‘global youthculture’ (Macionis and Plummer, 2005: 116-120), cultural globalization has the ability toweaken and devalue aspects of the nation, but not necessarily the state.The economics of globalization’s processes is unquestionably important of course, butwho is to say that the processes of cultural globalization are not worthy of analysis to thesame degree? A recognition and acceptance of the various breakdowns of the forms of globalization is crucial (as in Heywood, 2002: 137-146). This should appear more evidentas we now proceed to examine and define what the nation-state is.
The nation-state is a form of political organization, and a political ideal. In the first case, it is an autonomous political community bound together by the overlapping bonds of citizenship and nationality. It is thus analternative to multinational empires and city-states. In the latter case,the nation-state is a principle, or ideal type, reflected in Mazzini’s goal:‘every nation a state, only one state for the entire nation’. Thisacknowledges that no modern state is, or can be, culturallyhomogenous. There are two contrasting views of the nation-state. For liberals and most socialists, the nation-state is largely fashioned out of civic loyalties and allegiances. For conservatives and integral nationalists, it is based on ethnic or organic unity.
-Heywood (2002: 121)On top of Heywood’s helpful outline of the nation-state, it should be acknowledged thatnation-states have the ability to regulate and speak for their populations. However, the2
claim of nation-states to exclusivity in governance is by no means preordained (Hirst andThompson, 1999). A nation is a
 group of people
with a sense of unity based on theimportance the group attributes to a shared trait, attribute, or custom (Grigsby, 2005). Onthe other hand, a state could be defined as an
which claims rule-setting andrule-enforcing authority within its borders thereby having control of economic and fiscal policies, for example. Heywood’s explanation above combines nation and statedefinitions. Making this distinction is vital because it may be the case that the nation ismore in decline than the state is, as I suggested earlier. Bearing in mind the bulk of theglobalization literature is concerned with the economic side of affairs (i.e. the state) andfor clarity purposes, it is best to describe the modern international political order as madeup of states rather than nation-states; breaking up the term ‘nation-state’ is needed to prove that the concept of a ‘nation-state’ as a whole has not been destroyed.To conclude this section: I would classify myself within as being in the sceptic andtransformationalist schools of thought, but would stress the need for cultural aspects of globalization to be given focus. Moreover, I strongly agree with Robertson (2003) andHolton (1998) when they emphasise the need to also see globalization as humaninterconnectiveness or as a natural human condition, which is why identity will be lookedat later. In light of the contrasting definitional issues with globalization and nation-state,in addition to some basic weaknesses in the literature, I believe it is folly to make astatement that the nation-state is destroyed. At the same time, I do accept that it isindisputable that the nation-state has been weakened. Let us now proceed with examplesof the nation-state being weakened but not destroyed.
Globalization and the welfare-state: a crisis?
It is worthwhile examining the welfare provision component of the nation-state. After all,Held et al (1999: 206-282) inform us that in 1998, multinational companies had globalsales of over $9 trillion, accounting for about a quarter of world output and up to 70 per cent of world trade. This is in addition to the growing engagement of national economieswith the global order due to the rapid rise in foreign direct investment (FDI), both inwardand outward, for developed states, altering employment and thus social issues. On the onehand, employment in states can flourish due to inward investment. On the other hand, itcan decline in for some groups due to the increase in investment in cheap labour in theless developed states. A combination of these statistical realities puts the role of thewelfare-state into question.It is argued that globalization is a threat to inclusive social provision and with it thewelfare state. The increasingly borderless world (Ohmae, 1989) and dependence uponglobal financial markets rather than national monetary policies, among many other factors, is assumed to be a threat to welfare-state provision. Hirst et al (1999) examinedthe highly internationalized welfare states of small countries such as Denmark (often auseful comparison for Ireland due to certain demographics etc.), and Sweden. Also,Christopher Pierson (2006) and Hirst and Thompson (1999) examined this argument: inany case, any ‘destroying’ of the nation-state would surely be evident in this examinationof the welfare state.3

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