Globalization and the Nation-State: Dead or Alive

By Brinkman, Richard L.; Brinkman, June E. | Journal of Economic Issues, June 2008 | Go to article overview

Globalization and the Nation-State: Dead or Alive

Brinkman, Richard L., Brinkman, June E., Journal of Economic Issues

There is a good deal of discussion in the globalization literature related to the question: "Is the Nation-State Finished?" (Holton 1998, 80-107; Ohmai 1995). Even as early as 1969 Charles Kindleberger stated that "[t]he nation state is just about through as an economic unit" (Kindleberger 1969, 207). Is this position correct, and further, what would a conceivable loss of nation-state sovereignty portend for the long-term dynamics of ongoing culture evolution?

The Cultural Complexities of Conception: The Nation, Nationality, the Nation-State and Nationalism

Figure 1, "The Evolution of Culture," depicts the sequential pattern of the stages of culture evolution. Culture evolves with the evolution of knowledge which in its application appears as technology. Technological advance, as a process of economic development relates to the core of culture and accounts for the dynamics of culture evolution. Figure 2, "The Evolution of Governance and Sovereignty," relates to a concomitant area, as a part of "that complex whole" known as culture. Governance and sovereignty are also manifest in a sequential pattern starting with tribal governance and city-states leading ultimately to nation-states, regional states and global states. Currently we find the existence of a cultural lag in which the global economy is accelerating faster than global governance. As we will argue, the adjustment to this global cultural lag will rest in part with a democratic polity embedded in the ongoing evolution and enhancement of nation-state sovereignty.



Over time the locus of sovereignty evolved along with the evolution of governance in the form of city-states, nation-states, and on to nationalism. The literature offers a wide dispersion of conception and theory as to what constitutes the meaning of a nation, nation-state, and nationalism, as well as sovereignty, in terms of origins and functions. "The sociological view according to Commons is the scientific study of the emergence, evolution, and role of institutions. With respect to sovereignty it is about the role of the state relative to other states" and, consequently, with the dynamics of culture evolution (Atkinson 1998, 35-37; Commons 1967). Sovereignty refers to authority, a supreme power, a sovereign as king, with a capacity to rule and control. In the context of our paper the sovereignty of the nation-state is in conflict with that of the megacorporate state.

During the feudal period, societies were fragmented in isolated manorial systems. Nation-states had as yet to appear. The collapse of feudalism leading into the stage of mercantilism promoted the drive toward national unity. "The emergence of national states governed by rulers ... was perhaps the most important political development of the early modern period" demarcated as the Commercial Revolution, circa, 1350-1750 (Heaton 1948, 221-23). The meaning of a nation, as part of a nation-state in general terms, relates to nationality which, in turn constitutes a "people" (Hobsbawm 1990, 5-8, 14-18, #13). Whereas the state is more related to political concerns and governance, the nation relates to the establishment of the nationality of a given people. A given nationality usually relates to ethnicity, a common culture and history, and a common language, all of which is demarcated by a given territorial boundary or geographical area. In specific examples some nations, as Switzerland, are characterized by more than one language, or might even lack a territory, as with Zionism. Nationality is not a biological given but is learned through a cultural experience of institutionalization.

The nation-state is not synonymous with the institution of nationalism. In terms of chronology, modern nationalism came into being during the American and French Revolutions in the latter part of the eighteenth century. This dating of nationalism was originally established by the two "Founding Fathers," Kohn and Hayes, in the early study of nationalism, and agreed to by others. …

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Globalization and the Nation-State: Dead or Alive


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