Towards a Global Polity

By Morten Ougaard; Richard Higgott | Go to book overview

2

The global polity and changes in statehood

Georg Sørensen


Introduction

This is an essay reflecting on the notion of globalization (defined as the expansion of social relations across borders) and a global polity (as defined in the Introduction to this volume) and its relation to sovereign statehood. A standard way of approaching the expansion of social and political interconnectedness across borders is the 'state-plus-approach'. It takes the conventional realist model of the sovereign state as its starting point and then adds on other actors, from individuals and NGOs to all kinds of international, transnational and global organizations. This view is not entirely wrong - there are an increased and more diverse number of actors on the international stage today compared to previously - but it is misleading in the sense that it indicates that the sovereign state is the same as it always was. Globalization and the emergence of political structures with transnational properties both affect and are in some ways part of a process of fundamental change of the sovereign state in ways that the 'state-plus-approach' tends to downplay or even fails to notice. The most important of these changes are the subject of this chapter. I outline how substantial statehood has changed in the post-1945 period. A postmodern type of state in the advanced part of the capitalist world and a postcolonial type of state in the periphery is identified. I also summarize the main changes in sovereignty. Overall, I hope these notes can help launch a discussion about the central questions in a research programme on changes in statehood and their relationship to globalization and a global polity. 1


Globalization, global polity and statehood

The concept of a global polity suffers from some of the same problems as its broader sister concept, that of globalization. Globalization is, in the broadest sense, the expansion of social relations across borders. As a starting point for research, there are at least two problems with this concept: first, it is misleading in that most globalization is not really global in scope; second, the notion of social relations is too broad and imprecise.

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