Has Globalization Reinforced or Undermined the Legitimacy of the Nation-State?

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Has Globalization reinforced or undermined the legitimacy of the nation-state?

Globalisation is a phenomenon that has been increasingly used in the lexicon since the latter half of the 1980’s, achieving widespread and common currency amongst politicians, political analysts, academics, economists, the media, business, trade and finance. The term has become synonymous with the “global village” concept, where nations and states are drawn closer together; where economic, political and cultural spheres extend across the world’s major regions and continents. A world where development in one part of the globe will impact life in another part of the globe.

The polemic surrounding the process of globalization has hitherto been a highly contentious and controversial matter, whilst at the same time achieving a level of fashion in its use. The many debates over globalization and governance have concentrated upon its implications for the nation-state and that globalization is depriving the state of its sovereignty. Furthermore analysts and commentators have linked the growth of global relations to the diminished nation-state, the decline of the nation-state and the retreat of the state. Others have gone further still to debate the ‘crisis of the nation-state’, ‘the obsolescence of the state’ and even the ‘extinction of the state’. What is certain is that the nation-state is evolving and is being reshaped before our eyes. This essay will examine the contention of whether globalization has reinforced or undermined the legitimacy of the nation-state? Globalization entails a concept of deterritorialization and a spread of supraterritoriality particularly with the growth of transnational political organizations such as the UN, the EU and others. Hence what is the future for the nation-state? Will state borders disappear and herald a new global polity and order as we enter into the twenty first century?

The term globalization has been used in a wide range of contexts and is often used in loose and vague contexts. It has been used to describe a process of modernity pertaining to the rapidly evolving information and technological age, communication and global media, for example CNN or News Corporation. Moreover it has been associated with progress, prosperity and peace. For others it is viewed as a modern form of imperialism and colonialism. A McDonalds or Hollywood encroachment, impacting on a nation’s culture and traditions. Or the challenge to a country’s economy, viewed as exploitation. Globalization might be viewed from an ideological perspective as ‘a stage of capitalism’ or success of the neo-liberal economic project and economic liberalization, in trade and finance. Paul Hirst and Grahame Thompson identify globalization as a new stage in international economic, political and cultural relationships, and specifically ‘large and growing flows of trade and capital investment between countries’ (1996). McGrew defines it as an ‘intensification of global interconnectedness’(1998)

In order to understand how globalization is challenging the nation-state, we must examine the concept of sovereignty and how it historically defined the contemporary nation-state. The Peace of Westphalia, in 1648, established the states-system in Europe creating distinct territorial states, each ruled by its distinct and separate government. Hence the Westphalian system defined the principles of statehood and sovereignty which subsequently has been a guiding principle of international relations, since 1648. The state could now exercise ‘comprehensive, supreme, unqualified, and exclusive control over its designated territorial domain.’(Baylis and Smith 2001, pp20). As a consequence this would mean that comprehensive rule would allow the sovereign state complete jurisdiction over all affairs within the state, whilst supreme rule would mean, recognizing no superior authority(such as Papal authority) and that the sovereign state would be the final arbiter...
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