Future of the Nation-State
21st, January 2013
The nation-state is a concept that rose fairly recently. Back in the 16th and 15th Centuries, this was non-existent. Before the nation-state, people did not think of themselves as belonging to a nation. They were confined to their villages only, and had little or no knowledge of the outside world. There was a great variation in the laws and practices by different countries. In addition, the rulers of a country had less influence, compared to the local lords, who had great influence in society. This however, changed when in the rise of modernity; monarchs emerged and slowly took over power and authority from the local lords. The emergence of the monarchs therefore, laid a foundation for nation-states. In the 19th-Century, the modern nation-state, which is integrated, was established first in the European world. However, the 1648 peace of Westphalia is the most important aspect in the establishment of the nation-state, as it allowed for the sovereignty of the nation-state. The nation-state today is on the verge of decline, because of the forces of globalization and devolution, which have reduced its sovereignty.
The nation-state was considered the dominant social entity in the world starting the mid-19th Century, as the state and society were virtually merged to become one entity. However, many changes happening in the world have led to changes in the dominance of the nation-state as the most influential social entity. The cultural revolution that began in the West had a great influence on the nature of the nation-state. Other important factors that affected the nation-state include the international communist movements, increased freedom of capital transfer across international borders, and political, social, and economic dysfunction in former colonies of Asia and Africa. By the beginning of the 1990’s, the role of the nation-state was reduced due to different global forces (Creveld, 1999).
The future of the nation-state is uncertain today. There are different factors that have been responsible for the diminishing importance of the nation-state. These are globalization and transnationalism, and devolution. Globalization has led to the breaking down of national boundaries, as different countries can now interact economically, socially, and politically. Globalization has paved way for transnationalism, and it is anticipated that in future, there might be a transnational government. Transnationalism today occurs at the political level. International organizations such as the World Trade Organization and the United Nations are responsible for transnationalism, as they provide economic security and military protection to a variety of vulnerable countries. On the other hand, the European Union has broken down all national boundaries in its member states, paving way for high levels of interaction (Creveld, 1999).
Devolution has been adopted by various nations today. This grants power and authority to the local government and not the central government. This is why the process is called devolution, as power is taken away from the central government, and given back to the local government. When the central government, which is core of the state, loses power, the sovereignty of the state reduces. If these trends of globalization and devolution persist, there are possibilities that a transnational government will replace the nation-state. However, only time will tell what the future holds for the nation-state (Creveld, 1999).
According to Creveld (1996), the capability of the state to fight others for self-defence is on the decline. This is a proof that the function of the nation-state is slowly fading. Initially, defence was among the main reasons for the formation of the nation-state. Failure to perform that today is a clear indication of its decline. The events of French Revolution in the 18th Century and industrial revolution sparked transnationalism, which is responsible today for the decline of the nation-state. Creveld also notes that modern technology, education, and the media played a role in the formation and decline of the nation-state. Early technology forms such as railway and telegraphs enhanced infrastructure, thus transport and communication was effective within nation-states. However, advanced technology enabled international transport and communication, thus breaking the barriers between countries. Nation-states today embrace foreign currencies such as the dollar in order to participate in international trade. On the other hand, the media, including television, radio, and the present internet has resulted in access of information from different countries, thus breaking down boundaries between countries. The decline of nation-state in developing countries has been influenced by civil wars because of failure to maintain public order. Apart from public order, extreme forces of capitalism have torn down different nation-states as the gap between the poor and the rich widen. Although the nation-state is on the verge of decline, newer states continue to be established today. However, these seek to integrate with other established states, thus losing their sovereignty already before they establish themselves (Creveld, 1999).
Although there is fear and uncertainty that the nation-state might soon collapse, this might not be the case, considering that some states have strongly established themselves. Hauss and Haussman (2012) classified nation-states into two major categories, basing on their weaknesses and strengths. These are weak and strong states. Overall, strong states have a strong and stable political, social, and economic environment, which is established by the state’s rule of law and government. People in strong states can build and invest in their future. On the contrary, in weak states, the political, social, and economic environment is unpredictable, thus the people’s future is unsecured. Results of a strong state include greater involvement of the government in the state economy, high political involvement because of high political interests in state matters, and party systems are based on responsible party governments. With these characteristics of strong-nation states, it is hard for them to collapse, compared to the weaker states, faced with vast uncertainties. Therefore, it is not possible to generalize that the nation-state will collapse, as there exists stronger states today, which can withstand effects of globalization and devolution to maintain their sovereignty.
Creveld, M. (1999). Rise and Decline of the State. London: Cambridge University Press.
Hauss, C. & Haussman, M. (2012). Comparative Politics: Domestic Responses to Global
Challenges. New York: Cengage Learning.
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