Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Beyond the Nation State

Writing in the New York Review of Books, Jessica T. Matthews reviews current books by Henry Kissinger (World Order) and Bret Stephens (America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Social Disorder). The Stephens is a doubtful polemic while the Kissinger is more reflective. Both are inscribed within the international regime established by the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years War in 1648 and established the state as the sole broker of international relations. The final two paragraphs:
While the Westphalian system has shaped relations among states for three and a half centuries, and continues to do so, its reign has profoundly changed during just the past two to three decades. Borders, to put it simply, are not what they used to be. In 1648, nearly everything that mattered could be located within a fixed boundary—not so today. The trillions of dollars sloshing around in cyberspace, pollution, globalizing culture, international criminal networks, and the stressed global commons of oceans, air, and biodiversity are all changing the world profoundly. So are tightly knit but nongeographic communities of national diasporas, ethnic groups and violent jihadists, corporations largely unmoored from any one country, and the gigantic global financial market—now almost twice as large as the global GDP.

These limits on global resources, porous borders, a globalizing culture that both fragments and amalgamates, and growing requirements for states to work together for mutual well-being if not survival all mean that today’s world order, and certainly tomorrow’s, cannot be seen only as a matter of the distribution of state power or as a system in which only states matter. The Westphalian order is not going away, but it is no longer what it once was. It’s too soon to see what that system and the new forces will produce as they co-exist; but it’s safe to say it won’t look anything like the familiar past.
H/t 3QD.

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