Academic journal article Boston College Law Review

Introduction: Globalization, Power, States, and the Role of Law

Academic journal article Boston College Law Review

Introduction: Globalization, Power, States, and the Role of Law

Article excerpt


Welcome to this Symposium, "Filling Power Vacuums in the New Global Legal Order," a joint issue (and effort) of the Boston College Law Review and the Boston College International and Comparative Law Review.1 The underlying premise of the Symposium is that globalization is reallo- cating power-political power, economic power, and military power- among global actors. Each of these developments has important impli- cations for law.

Globalization affects power in several distinct ways, all of which raise basic questions for law. Has globalization shifted power away from well-regulated actors to less regulated actors? How is globalization af- fecting the relationship between power and legitimacy that is central to our tradition of constitutional democracy? And what are the powerful doing with their power?

Of course, political scientists also study power, as do philosophers. Both perspectives are represented in this issue.2 Law, however, has a particularly complex relationship to power. Its role is not only to con- strain power and to protect the vulnerable, but also to serve power, to channel power into socially productive forms, to accomplish the aims of the powerful, and to determine who has power, and who does not.

I. Reflections on Globalization and Its Challenges

Before introducing the substantive contributions of our sympo- sium participants, I want to offer a few preliminary reflections on the nature of globalization and the opportunities and challenges it creates for us.

A. What Is Globalization?

One truth of the global era is that the role of the state is changing. How it is changing, however, is not always so clear. In some respects, globalization has arguably made states weaker or more vulnerable to global forces.3 Certainly the global financial crisis has shown us that no country or region, no matter how wealthy or powerful, can insulate it- self from the effects of the global economy, and that no single country or region can effectively regulate the global economy.4 When it comes to matters of security, no country or region is immune from the global- ized reach of criminality and terror, or from the destabilizing effects of regional conflicts, that the shifting global winds of ideology, power, and socioeconomic inequality inflame and intensify.5 Yet, in other respects, globalization may have strengthened the state. When we look at how difficult it continues to be for people to cross national boundaries, or how impervious many states remain to external human rights monitor- ing and redress, we see that rumors of the death of the state have been greatly exaggerated.6

At the heart of these changes is the fundamental technological transformation characteristic of contemporary globalization. Many commentators argue that the most distinctive aspect of globalization today is the revolution in telecommunications, computing, and the In- ternet that has essentially eliminated time and space as significant factors in many areas of human social interaction.7

The nature of our relationship to space and time is essential to questions of law and justice. As early as the eighteenth century, Im- manuel Kant referenced the normative implications of time and space when he argued for cosmopolitanism on the basis that human beings live on a spherical planet.8 In making this observation, Kant was prefig- uring globalization by reflecting on what it means to live on the surface of a globe.

If we consider globalization from the vantage point of time and space, then each phase in technological innovation-starting with the wheel and leading to the telephone, telegraph, and jet airplane-have steadily reduced the impact of time and space on human social interac- tion.9 Globalization today has taken this even further. Kant no longer has to walk around the planet-he can, in a sense, walk straight through it, instantly. The elimination of time and space as barriers has massive consequences. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.