In the early stages of Globalisation (1600 -1950s especially) Nation States were very powerful – Colonialism for example was led by European governments and monarchies and the most serious conflicts tended to be between nation states – culminating in World War 2. However, since then, many globalisation theorists argue that increasing global flows in trade and communications have reduced the relative power of Nation States…..
Evidence for the power of Nation States declining
- National Governments increasingly face problems that are too big for them to deal with on their own – examples of such global problems include – dealing with these problems increases the need to co-operate and reduces the power of individual nation states environmental problems, international terrorism, drug and people trafficking and the threat of global pandemics.
- The United Nations and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights – limits the power of Nations to restrict the freedoms of individuals. Linked to this we have an international court where some dictators have been tried for crimes such as genocide.
- Global Social Movements such as the green movement and the occupy movement are increasingly interconnected – which are critical of nation states – also part of ‘cultural globalisation’.
- Some Transnational Corporations are bigger than Nation States – and so wield power over them – BP for example makes £25 billion profit every year and employs thousands of British workers – it is so crucial to the UK economy that the government has little choice but to keep it sweet, and the same is the case with many of our largest banks.
- Transnational Corporations increasingly hide their money in Tax Havens, it is difficult to see how individual governments can stop this happening without some kind of global regulation in place that goes above the level of Nation States.
- According to the United Nations there are nearly 80 million refugees in the world – more people who are effectively ‘rejected’ by the Nation State system.
Evidence for Nation States still retaining power
- The World’s leading Nation States still maintain huge military capacity – the US spends more than $680 billion in 2010 on its military and Britain maintains a standing peace-time army of around 100 000 troops.
- Pessimists argue that the World Trade Organisation simply represent the interests of the most powerful nations – namely America.
- ‘National Identity’ is still important to billions of people – there is a trend to more nation states – as present nations divide.
- Brexit and the election of Donald Trump also suggest an increase in the number of people wanting to restrict the free-migration of people, no other institution can realistically do this, other than the nation state.
- Government responses to Covid-19 in 2020 have been a reminder of the power and possible important of Governments in dealing with international pandemics.
Find out more
- This 2018 Guardian Article is a very interesting read on this topic.