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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What is Globalization? - part 3

The Territorial State and Global Politics
  • Conventional maps of the political world disclose a very particular conception of the geography of political power. With their clear-cut boundary lines and unambiguous colour patches, they demarcate territorial areas within which there is assumed to be an indivisible, illimitable and exclusive sovereign state with internationally recognized borders. At the beginning of the second millennium, this cartography would have appeared practically incomprehensible; even the most well-travelled civilisations would have been able to make little sense of the details of the known world today.
  • Two fundamental transformations have affected the shape and form of modern politics. The first of these involved the development of territorially based political communities. The second has led to an era of emerging multilayered regional and global governance.
  • The first transformation was marked by the growing centralization of political power within Europe, the sedimentation of political rule into state structures, the territorialization of politics, the spread of the interstate order, the development of forms of accountability within certain states and, at the same time, the denial of such accountability to others through colonial expansion, the creation of empires and war.
  • The second transformation by no means replaced the first in all respects, although it was correlated with the final demise of empires. It has involved the spread of layers of governance both within and across political boundaries. It has been marked by the internationalization and transnationalization of politics, the deterritorialization of aspects of political decision-making, the development of regional and global organizations and institutions, the emergence of regional and global law and a multilayered system of global governance, formal and informal.
  • This second transformation can be illustrated by a number of developments including the rapid emergence of international agencies and organizations. New forms of multilateral and global politics have been established involving governments, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and a wide variety of transnational pressure groups and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs). In 1909 there were 37 IGOs and 176 INGOs, while in 1996 there were nearly 260 IGOs and nearly five and a half thousand INGOs. In addition, there has been an explosive development in the number of international treaties in force, as well as in the number of international regimes, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation regime.
  • To this pattern of extensive political interconnectedness can be added the dense web of activity of the key international policy-making fora, including the UN, G7, IMF, WTO, EU, APEC, ARF and MERCOUSUR summits and many other official and unofficial meetings. In the middle of the nineteenth century there were two or three interstate conferences or congresses per annum; today the number totals over four thousand annually. National government is increasingly locked into an array of global, regional and multilayered systems of governance - and can barely monitor it all, let alone stay in command.
  • The substantial growth of major global and regional institutions should be highlighted. In the context of state history the latter are remarkable political innovations. While the UN remains a creature of the interstate system, it has, despite all its limitations, developed an innovative system of global governance which delivers significant international public goods - from air traffic control and the management of telecommunications to the control of contagious diseases, humanitarian relief for refugees and some protection of the environmental commons.
  • At the regional level the EU, in remarkably little time, has taken Europe from the disarray of the post Second World War era to a world in which sovereignty is pooled across a growing number of areas of common concern. Despite its contested nature, the EU represents a highly innovative form of governance which creates a framework of collaboration for addressing transborder issues. There has also been an acceleration in regional relations beyond Europe: in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and, to a lesser degree, in Africa. While the form taken by this type of regionalism is very different from the model of the EU, it has nonetheless had significant consequences for political power, particularly in the Asia-Pacific (ASEAN, APEC, ARF, PBEC, and many other groupings). Furthermore, there has been a growth in interregional diplomacy as old and new regional groupings seek to consolidate their relationships with each other. In this respect, regionalism has not been a barrier to changing forms of political globalization - involving the shifting reach of political power, authority and forms of rule - but, on the contrary, has been compatible with it.
  • There has, moreover, been an important change in the scope and content of international law. Twentieth century forms of international law - from the law governing war, to that concerning crimes against humanity, environmental issues and human rights - have created the basis of what can be thought of as an emerging framework of 'cosmopolitan law', law which circumscribes and delimits the political power of individual states. In principle, states are no longer able to treat their citizens as they think fit. Although, in practice, many states still violate these standards, nearly all now accept general duties of protection and provision, as well as of restraint, in their own practices and procedures.
  • Global politics today is anchored not just in traditional geopolitical concerns, but also in a large diversity of economic, social and ecological questions. Pollution, drugs, terrorism, human rights are amongst an increasing number of transnational policy issues which cut across territorial jurisdictions and existing political alignments. These require, and will continue to require, international cooperation for their effective resolution.

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