Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nation state (1648-2030)

This ought to give your students something to discuss and write about. As a technicality, they ought to mentally insert "nation state" into the text wherever Parag Khanna writes "state" or "nation."

Parag Khanna is a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation.

The End of the Nation-State?
EVERY five years, the United States National Intelligence Council… publishes a report forecasting the long-term implications of global trends. Earlier this year it released its latest report, “Alternative Worlds,” which included scenarios for how the world would look a generation from now.

One scenario, “Nonstate World,” imagined a planet in which urbanization, technology and capital accumulation had brought about a landscape where governments had given up on real reforms and had subcontracted many responsibilities to outside parties, which then set up enclaves operating under their own laws…

[M]ost of us might not realize it, “nonstate world” describes much of how global society already operates. This isn’t to say that states have disappeared, or will. But they are becoming just one form of governance among many.

A quick scan across the world reveals that where growth and innovation have been most successful, a hybrid public-private, domestic-foreign nexus lies beneath the miracle. These aren’t states; they’re “para-states” — or, in one common parlance, “special economic zones.”…

In 1980, Shenzhen became China’s first; now they blanket China, which has become the world’s second largest economy.

The Arab world has more than 300 of them…

This complex layering of territorial, legal and commercial authority goes hand in hand with the second great political trend of the age: devolution.

In the face of rapid urbanization, every city, state or province wants to call its own shots. And they can, as nations depend on their largest cities more than the reverse…

Scotland and Wales in Britain, the Basque Country and Catalonia in Spain, British Columbia in Canada, Western Australia and just about every Indian state — all are places seeking maximum fiscal and policy autonomy from their national capitals.

Devolution is even happening in China. Cities have been given a long leash to develop innovative economic models, and Beijing depends on their growth…

The broader consequence of these phenomena is that we should think beyond clearly defined nations and “nation building” toward integrating a rapidly urbanizing world population directly into regional and international markets. That, rather than going through the mediating level of central governments, is the surest path to improving access to basic goods and services, reducing poverty, stimulating growth and raising the overall quality of life…

And yet more fragmentation and division, even new sovereign states, are a crucial step in a longer process toward building transnational stability among neighbors.

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