Is the Nation-State Relevant in a Globalizing World?

Guest Post by Professor Evguenia Davidova, Portland State University

Every textbook on nationalism or international studies starts with the assertion that the
international order constituted by sovereign states was established with the Westphalian
Peace in 1648. From the nineteenth century onward, the nation-state phenomenon spread
rapidly without anyone claiming a copyright on the concept, according to Benedict
Anderson. Until recently, the nation-state system, which assumes congruence between
the political and national unit (according to Ernest Gellner), was the norm in the world
system, and many wars were initiated in attempts at various territorial rectifications (for
example, the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913). And yet with the advancement of socio-
economic, political, and cultural globalization from the 1970s onward, many in positions
of influence began to question the relevance of the nation-state. Challenges came from
multiple power blocs: commercial, financial, political, military cultural, all of which
transcend national borders, from the TNCs, IGOs, and INGOs to the “global war on
terrorism” to the rise of supranational organizations, such as the EU.
The 2015 national elections in Greece is a poignant example of massive rejection of the
devastating role that the “troika” (the European Union, the International Monetary Fund,
and the European Central Bank) played in Greek internal politics. Many Greeks
perceived the imposed austerity measures as a violation of national sovereignty and a
significant core has considered opting out of the Eurozone and restoring their national
currency. It was a major victory for the forces on the left.
At the same time, EU/IMF interventions and the recent global financial crisis contributed
also to the rise of far right nationalist movements and parties claiming to be defenders of
national sovereignty. Their advancement into the mainstream of European politics has
been a rather a common phenomenon within the EU. It can be argued, therefore, that the
nation-state has maintained its vibrancy despite all the attacks and challenges. At least to this point.



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