Tuesday, May 24, 2005

globalization and the Church's response (part 2)

In David Held's examination of the political dimension of globalization, he looks at the evolving status of nation-states. As is his manner throughout his book Globalization/Anti-Globalization, he posits the anti-globalist position with the globalist one.

With respect to the skeptics of globalization, he presents their view by saying that throughout the centuries, the rise of nation-states has been a defining moment in world history. The rise of national sovereign states bonded many various peoples within a particular geographic space and gave them a larger identity. Moreover, nation-states still claim a great role in the global theater. "For states in many places have increasingly claimed a monopoly of the legitimate use of force and judicial regulation, established permanent military forces as a symbol of statehood as well as a means of ensuring national security, consolidated tax-raising and redistributive mechanisms, established nationwide communication infrastructures….and built up a diverse array of national political, economic and cultural institutions," Held writes. And nation-states still hold a great amount of influence in the world stage, putting an exception to the idea that internationalization and globalization are advancing unchallenged.

In fact, Held writes that for skeptics, globalization receives some of its impetus to the decisions and paths made by nation-states. "International order is the order produced by the most powerful states. This understanding reinforces a skeptical attitude towards the claim that genuine global cooperation and robust international agreements could ever exist in a system of sovereign states," he writes. A truly international order, a predominantly global system, could only come to pass with the will of sovereign states.

In contrast to this, globalists would argue that because of a growing internationalization, the options and the role of nation-states are increasingly being assumed into the international level. Globalists would say that nation-states contain within them a diversity of populace. It has not always been a unit that is purely homogenized. A diversity of peoples make up the membership of sovereign states, just as the future international order will be made up of a varied and diverse set of territorial entities.

Also, globalists contend that the present situation poses a challenge for nation-states. An example presented here is the rapidity with which information travels, wherein "particularities of place an individuality are constantly represented and reinterpreted through regional and global communication networks" to use Held's words. As a result, new players in the international scene come to the fore. International and transnational organizations, which received their fuel from these fast passed communication networks, include intergovernmental organizations (IGO's), the number of which rose from just 37 at the beginning of the 20th century to 6.743 in the year 2000. IGO's are created "by the signature of an agreement between (at least three) governments engendering obligations among them." Moreover, the increased role of international policy-making forums, such as the World Trade Organization, G-7, IMF, the European Union, ASEAN, according to Held, can be added to this rise of IGO's. And a result of the emergence of relatively new actors in the world scene due to greater interconnectedness and rapidity of the flow of information is the decline in the effectiveness of individual governments and traditional policy making roles. This is mainly the case as national borders become increasingly irrelevant especially in a world where capital freely flows from one nation to another, and where goods and services travel more rapidly than before.

This is something that was also recently asserted in a new book on globalization by Martin Wolf, the chief economics commentator of the Financial Times. In his new book entitled Why Globalization Works, Wolfe writes that the reason why the world today is characterized by an economic fragmentation--with a divide between the rich and the poor--is due to a lack of "jurisdictional integration." This is another way of saying, according to the Economist, that the number of countries currently in existence inhibits economic growth. "For instance, [Wolfe] emphasizes that the world's economic fragmentation arises from its political divisions. Lack of 'jurisdictional integration' sustains bad government: in effect, there are too many countries" ("Economic focus: Too many countries?," The Economist, July 17-23, 2004, page 75). The implication of this is that in an era when economic well-being means a reduction of the number of nation-states, the relevance of the latter is increasingly being put into question. Admittedly this is one area in the book, according to The Economist's article, that many would take exception to.

In another recent article from The Economist, the negative effect of globalization on the viability of nation-states is also mentioned. One way this is manifested is the increasing use of collaborative associations, as in the G7 countries (currently comprised on the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, and Italy). Meeting since September of 1985, the countries that make up the G7 meet at least annually to coordinate the economic policies of nation-states.

The article points out that even the concerted efforts of two of the nations in the G7, acting bilaterally, could not force the hand of an international body such as the IMF, without the cooperation of the other member nations. For instance, when the United States and Britain asked the IMF and the World Bank to cancel all their loans to poor countries at the G7 meeting in October 2004, neither of the countries' initiatives went anywhere. However, "what the G7 proposes, the Bank and the Fund find hard to oppose for long" ("Economic focus: G-force," The Economist, October 9-15, 2004., page 72).

Another instance of this is the IMF's own initiative to set up a banking court. Because this idea had no backing within the G7, the Fund's idea had no support and as a consequence didn't get anywhere.

But to say that because of the new realities presented by globalization (where national boundaries increasingly become irrelevant with the easy flow of capital and goods and services from one geographic area to another) nation-states will become obsolete may be overstating the case. But what is perhaps becoming true is that the capacity of nation-states to act on its own, without any kind of support in the wider global community, is diminishing. What we are seeing are concerted efforts from groups of states in the global theater. A transformation has occurred on how nation-states act in the international scene. According to Held, "Globalization, conclude the globalists, is eroding the capacity of nation-states to act independently in the articulation and pursuit of domestic and international policy objectives: the power and the role of the territorial nation-states is being transformed."

A change therefore has occurred in which nation-states are not necessarily becoming obsolete, but rather that political and global power is being transformed and reconfigured, which necessitates nation-states banding together to arrive at and to implement policy decisions.

The next installment will cover the topic of culture as it relates to globalization.

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