Can National Sovereignty Survive The Era Of Globalization?

Can National Sovereignty Survive The Era Of Globalization?

There is a belief, implicit in the question, that national sovereignty should not only be considered outdated, but a source of division and violence within the world. The proposed solution to the problems in the world is to transcend the idea of the nation state through the evolutionary premise of globalization to ultimately create global governance. This essay will be divided into three main parts. The first part will establish the importance of the State in response to the first part of the question. Secondly, I will discuss the concept of globalization and hypothesise the ultimate realisation of globalisation as a New World Order. And finally, I will propose a possible balanced internationalist solution to the debate that does not see the state being eclipsed by globalisation, but a world in which statist, internationalist and globalist dynamics all inter-relate with one another.


The Sovereign State in Relationship to Globalization


The sovereign state came about following the interminable wars of Europe as the ideal ordering principle of international relations. Before the creation of the State, there was the Age of Empire, where the majority of the human race lived under some form of authoritarianism; Roman rule, Monarchical despotism, feudalism, organized religion and subjected to incessant wars. Life was, as Hobbes says, ‘nasty, short and brutal.’[1] In response to the breakdown of the imperial age came the Nation State, an idea based in natural law that provided continental stability, justice and order. ‘The general function of the State, was to bind a people together into a tight, emotionally satisfying unit.’[2] The State acted as a cohesive force in the creation of a united nation, exemplified by the unification of 19th Century Italy and Germany, from broken Empires to city-states into a nation The notion of Westphalian sovereignty referred to the development of the principle of exclusion of authority both de jure and de facto, meaning that within its borders the state had sovereign authority of decision-making. Once this concept was established as an internationally recognised principle, domestic sovereignty could now be implemented as the structures within the state could be potentially democratically legitimized by the local population,[3] through a social contract.


Those who are critical of the idea of a Nation-State, such as Friedrich Nietzsche, view the State as a monster;[4] a God unto itself. Nietzsche had stated that the State acts as an authoritarian entity which subjugates the human spirit and diminishes the quality of democratic life and creates wars of aggression. With this in mind, alternatives must be produced in order to bring humanity closer together through the self-realization of a will-to-power. Generally and historically there is a strong argument for the abolishment of the state, because nationalism actually divides the people of the world into different antagonistic groups, usually based upon ethnicity, culture, politics, and economics. In an anarchic world of supposed limited resources, states are in a condition of perpetual war. Therefore, the solution to inter-state war and intra-state war is a Liberal /Kantian vision of a global cosmopolitan community.


The particularism of the nation, despite its flaws, can offer the best opportunity for nations within states to achieve some measure of ‘the good life.’ States are already in relationships of complex interdependence and through sovereign recognition and reciprocity, the international system is a creation of an efficacious and just global order. Whenever this particularist idea or the identity and heterogeneity of a people is taken away and replaced by universalism, which is completely dismissive of cultural relativism and therefore authoritarian, the end result is always misery, renewed nationalism and rebellion.


As well-intended as Globalist theoretical positions may be, I would submit that these ideas when put into practice have their ultimate realisation in a tyrannical one world government. The most obvious example being the ideology of the Soviet Union based on a conflation of Marxism and Communism. A key theme of Marx was universal interdependence based on the ‘withering away of the state’[5] . The move from world socialism and finally to stateless communism is exactly the movement we are seeing today, where globalisation is to be realised with a concentration global authority. The failure of the Soviet experiment surprised the world, not because a utopian state of tranquility had been achieved and dissolved but because they could not see how the people of the USSR who were terrorised under an iron fist of oppression could ever escape. The universalisation of a particularity is the key battle on the globe today and perhaps, in light of the great empires of history and the three Abrahamic religions, it has always been so.


Therefore, my argument is based on the need for a balance between the universal and the particular, between the state and the global. Both statist and global forces are strong so the internationalist projection maintains the tension between the two in order to bring out the positive elements of both. The world is both universal or individual or global and common at the same time. Too much of one can ruin the balance. Either in the form of extreme particularism or unbridled sovereignty as was the case with Pol Pot and Cambodia or Messianic globalisation as was the case with the Holy Roman Empire, Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. Both extremes lead to mass murder of a global scale. So the compromise to placate the legitimate concerns of globalists, is not to abolish sovereignty or return to a world of Realpolitik, but soft globalized alternative, a ‘Society of States’ as envisioned by Hedley Bull and the English School of IR.  This balance is what ultimately Bull had to accommodate as he moved from being a staunch particularist, defending non-interventionist sovereignty to a soft solidarist acknowledging the reality of failed or despotic states and the need for humanitarian intervention in an internationalist world[6]. We cannot ignore common humanity as much as we can ignore the sovereignty of the individual.


Is Globalization Simply Westernisation?


Following the trajectory of the intellectual history of global and sovereign ideas into modern discourse on globalization is extremely difficult. The ideas of Rousseau’s ‘Federation of States’ where disputes between the member-states would be settled[7] or Kant’s ideas[8] of Perpetual Peace and of the homogeneity of civil constitutions in interdependent relations within holistic international community[9] and Enlightenment notions of Liberalism are the foundations for conceptualizations of globalization. But to what extent can we draw causality from these ideas to ‘democratic peace theory,’ the Responsibility to Protect, non-intervention and global governance especially in terms of proposing a definition of globalization?


Globalization, not surprisingly then, is a multi-faceted term with many different interpretations and instantiations. The conventional definitions given by Albrow “incorporation”, Ritzer “nothingness”, Held “the spatial-temporal” or Friedman “flat world” illustrate the diversity of perspectives of globalisation. But even then it is such a nebulous construct. Nebulous is not just an adjective, but actually a metaphor for globalization where the globe is surrounded by clouds, that knows no national boundaries, or sets of laws. These clouds are the global forces of capital, imperialism, religion, capitalism, MNCs, and the digital infrastructure. Given the complexity of the term I believe that in the first place it can be separated into three distinct yet overlapping types – hard, medium and soft. Soft globalization can refer to global communications, the internet, trade, financial flows, travel and so on. Medium globalization refers to ideas of regionalism, the Responsibility to Protect, International Law as power, International institutions and INGOs, where the line between internationalization and globalization is feint. The third trend of globalization is hard-globalism. That is ultimately the military implementation of global governance and the conduit to achieve a One World Government. This is by no means frantic conspiratorial pessimism. The modern policy was announced by President George H.W. Bush in his 1991 New World Order speech where he declared that ‘What is at stake is a Big Idea. It has also been projected by many world leaders since. A New World Order, where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind. With few exceptions, the world is now drawn together as one’[10]. The great concern I have is that this balance between the individual and the global is difficult to maintain. The inverse relationship between fighting the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and the dissipating personal freedoms is evidence of this. Furthermore, the idea that the GWOT is driven by a desire to maintain Human Rights abroad while stripping away civil liberties at home is a depressing irony. So that if globalization is unchecked, then we must acknowledge the possibility of a totalitarian NWO.


If we accept that American visions of world order are realist albeit veiled in liberalism then how can we account for the American idea of a NWO? Well it is exactly that oscillation between realism and liberalism that allows for the US to create a vision of the world with the power to implement a global order or in other words to universalize their Western notions of global order. This has been done at two levels through hegemonic power and discursive hegemony. The implementation of the Liberal Economic Order, NATO, the G12, WTO, ICJ, ICC, in relation to the former and ideas of  the End of History, Democratic Peace Theory, Humanitarian Intervention (R2P) in relation to the latter.  There is an element of legitimacy in the case of the American Empire that was lacking in Soviet rule. Nevertheless, it is extremely difficult to create global/regional governance if there are different cultures, nations, experiences in existence that differ to the imperial force, which in this case is Westernization, or specifically Americanization. So, the modus operandi of standardization consists of two types or the two levels mentioned above. The first type is the ‘winning the hearts and minds,’ by seducing the world into consumerism through an integrated economic network, and championing liberal and democratic ideals through the ideas of the End of History and Democratic Peace Theory. The second type will be the hard edge of globalization realized in the GWOT. The projection of this war is that it has no boundaries either temporal or spatial. In fact we have been programmed to seeing this war through the prism of a virtual and sterile computer game[11]. Those who argue for the War on Terror as a humanitarian crusade, to spread democracy and achieve world peace may not admit, not even realize, that what they are truly advocating is perpetual war. They may think that they are echoing Woodrow Wilson’s Liberal Humanitarianism of ‘making the world safe for democracy’, but they are in fact acting upon the idea of Trotskyism, which advocates perpetual war/revolution, or they are driven by Caesaropapist undertones with Messianic visions. These visions require a specific narrative, that the Western narrative is the most powerful discourse on the planet, therefore in order to achieve world peace all other cultures must adopt theirs as their own.


Soft Globalization: Cultural, Ideological and Economic


The movement from soft to medium to hard globalization is subtle, yet inexorable, as if a hidden hand is laying the foundations for a NWO. The classical example of soft globalization is basically Christianity produced in its modern form and projected onto the world as the Superman (Truth, Justice and the American Way), Batman (Nocturnal revenge as a projection of the GWOT) or Iron Man (automated Drones bombing and Cyber warfare).An illustration of soft globalization has been developed by George Ritzer, who proposes western-standardization as the ‘globalization of nothingness’. What he means by ‘nothing’ is that what is being implemented in other countries are usually devoid of substance.


The dehumanized person needs a substitute, which is catered for with the concept of the ‘global citizen’. Therefore, the seduction to think of globalization as having the freedom to fly first class around the world and to enjoy and experience the globe, actually hides the empty reality of globalization amounting to the worldwide spread of nothingness. [12] Heterogeneity and difference is being replaced by the homogeneity of nothingness. Globalization imposes itself and casts a shadow over the uniqueness of life. If every one is the same it is easier to administer global justice as it is to control the masses especially when things are brought down to the lowest common denominator of nothingness.


If international law is an ideological power unto itself that is no longer an extension of the Great Powers, but in effect acts upon them, then certainly the same can be said for capitalism as a force acting upon the nation-state. Where globalization is the integration of world economics, national governments are becoming less relevant, losing their powers not only to influence macroeconomic outcomes and implement social programs, but also to determine strategies for managing the industrial economy[13]. The nation state is but a pawn in the invisible hand of the global market. Weiss goes on to say that advocates of globalism wish for the demise of the nation-state as an international actor, the dissolution of national capitalism along with intuitions, welfare systems and industrial policies and ultimately worldwide convergence on one kind of economic systems, the Anglo-American-style free market capitalism. This ‘new world order’ in which global governance networks of technology as well as international institutions such as IMF, World Bank, WTO and UN[14] are a measure of internationalization and at the same time they are the precursors to global governance.


Medium Globalisation or Regional Internationalisation: The EU


The closest example of the economic, political and intended cultural ‘winning the hearts and minds’ stage actually being put into practice can be seen within EU, with the artificial construct of being ‘European’. This Union has seen the ideas of Rousseau and Kant put into practice where we can see regionalism, interdependence, democratic peace theory and redistribution of wealth. It is essentially the ‘New Soviet’ where the same concepts are implemented such as the ‘withering away of the state’ which is reflected in the single currency of the ‘Euro’ and the ‘Europeanizing’ other nations would bring other countries up to the standards of other countries in the EU. Europeanism has now gone to the extent of having complete contempt for any form of patriotism, that the unelected EU President Herman van Rompuy has gone so far to publicly express that ‘The age of the nation state is over and the idea that countries can stand alone is an illusion and a lie’[15]. Furthermore, German Chancellor Merkel has recently announced that in order for the EU to remain sustainable, Eurozone members must be prepared to cede sovereignty to European institutions[16]. In this respect, the state will not disappear from the face of the earth, but simply become hollow. The Sovereign State is under unprecedented stress as it’s threatened by internationalist norms imply that they are not free to be able to set their own rule about the treatment of individuals within their own borders[17]. The natural reaction of this top-down achievement of ‘peace’, has been met with growing resentment and anger. This is represented by the people of the member states of the supporting the Euroskeptic movements and parties, which were was considered fringe now exploding with democratic support. Therefore, the resiliency of nationalism will obstruct the seamless introduction of a New World Order. As Stephan Krasner has noted intrusive international norms are old, not new, phenomena[18]. Nevertheless, a united Europe as part of the Western agenda of Globalization is a much stronger bulwark against the Russian Empire than individual nation states.


Hard Globalization: The Global War on Terror


The third stage is the implementation of the global order onto the world. Not only has the West a vision of world order but it also has the power to impose it upon the world. In other words, the US has the power to impose its form of universalism onto individual states that might not adhere to Western globalization. While Russia and China are obstacles to the New World Order the only other great power on the planet that has an antithetical view of global order is Islam.


Slowly, under the guise of the GWOT, where states do not capitulate, the hard power of military intervention rains unrelentingly upon them. This neo-imperialism is given legitimacy by the cover of ‘humanitarian intervention’. The arguments for intervention are that an international society has a ‘moral duty’ to provide military aid and humanitarian assistance. Their argument is based on the view that ‘the sovereignty of states must no longer be used as a shield from gross violations.’ As seen in terms of the problem of post conflict peace building interfering with the internal affairs of others simply complicates and even prolongs the misery of the situation and nations until such time that Western notions of democracy and liberalism can be instituted.


It is my great fear that the ultimate goal of Westernization veiled as truly universal globalization entails the masking or re-branding ‘Soviet Man’ as ‘Global Citizen’. Proposals of universal ethics or common standards of human rights are always culturally biased[19]. This is rationalized by the Globalists that they have taken the higher moral ground to do the ‘greater good’ in order to achieve world peace. This argument can be found in Plato’s Republic where Trasymachus’s doctrine of ‘justice as the interest of the stronger’ prevails over Socrates definition and has absolutely no tolerance for morality that is not adopted by what suits the strong, the powerful, the ruling party, or the conservative order[20]. My argument is based on the view that morality and culture are relative and therefore there is no claim to universalism[21]. The military oppression of individual nations by the universal or global power through the GWOT is the ultimate act of political power in the sense that it will be the Global Government that will determine what is common-sense, rational or irrational and dangerous under the scope of Democratic Peace Theory as an Imperialist pretext for invading countries.


A Possible Solution – The English School of International Relations 


According to the Anarchical Society, States are not isolated power-seekers but live in a system which is not only sociable in many respects but which is also governed by certain rules and norms of behavior. For Bull, the society of states does have a distinct identity, but it shares the stage with a host of social forces and movements operating transnationally which also influence the nature and evolution of world politics[22]. This international society exists when a group of states, conscious of certain common interests and common values, from a society in the sense that they conceive themselves to be bound by a common set rules in their relations with each other, and share in the workings of common institutions[23]. This pluralist’s position is based in the Grotian world view as there is a universal standard of justice and morality against which the actions of states and individual may be judged[24]. This is the balance between sovereignty and globalization that allows for these two forces to be in relationship to one another. Especially as ‘In today’s world, with growing international awareness of cultural and political difference, there is both the space and the need for the reconsideration of alternatives to the universalizing rationalist paradigm that dominates Euro-American political theory.’[25]



Therefore my position is not entirely essentialist or relativist. Nor is it ambiguous or equivocal especially where ideas of world order are posed in binary extremes. My argument rests on the reality of both sovereignty and globalization with internationalization being the most positive outcome and indeed dynamic that enters into a relationship with the other two. So the future of sovereignty in an era of globalization will be eclipsed by this desire to impose a NWO unless the balance between the universal and the particular can be maintained. This will be the real tension in international relations during the rest of this century.




Barkin, N (2013) Merkel says euro members must be prepared to cede sovereignty,


Belllamy, A (2003) Humanitarian Intervention and the Three Traditions, Global Society, Vol.17, No.1


Bull, H (1977) The Anarchical Society, Columbia University Press, United States


Bush, G (1991) George Bush and His Dreams of a Unified Europe in a New World Order,


Hobbes, T (1958) Leviathan, Parts One and Two,  Prentice Hall: New Jersey, United States


Marx, K (1848) Manifesto of the Communist Party, Marx/Engels Selected Works, Vol. One, Progress Publishers, Moscow


Jones, C (2002) A Lost Tradition: Nishida Kitarō, Henri Bergson and Intuition in Political Philosophy, Social Science Japan Journal, Vol. 5, No. 1.


Kainz, H (1987) Philosophical Perspectives on Peace: An Anthology of Classical and Modern Sources, London


Krasner, S (2001) Abiding Sovereignty, International Political Science Review, Vol.22, No. 3.


Martin, D (2010) Nation states are dead: EU chief says the belief that countries can stand alone is a ‘lie and an illusion’, Mailonline


Nietezche, F (1976) The Portable Nietzsche, Penguin Books: New York


Quigley, C (1966) Tragedy and Hope, The Macmillan Company, Canada


Ritzer, G (2003) Globalization of Nothingness, University of Maryland MD


Weiss L (1999) Globalization and National Governance: antinomy or interdependence? International Studies, Vol.25, Issue 05.


Weiss, L (2000) Globalization and State Power, Development and Society, Vol.29, No. 1.


Wheeler, N (1996) Hedley Bull’s Pluralism of the intellect and Solidarism of the will, International Affairs, Vol.72, No. 1.


Williams, M (1989) Rousseau, Realism and Realpolitik, Millennium, Vol. 18, No.2.


Vincent, R (1978) Western conception of a Universal Moral Order, British Journal of International Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1.


[1] Thomas Hobbes (1958) The Leviathan, Parts One and Two,  Prentice Hall: New Jersey, p. 107.

[2] Carroll Quigley (1966) Tragedy and Hope, The Macmillan Company, Canada p.27.

[3] Stephen D. Krasner, Abiding Sovereignty, ‘International Political Science Review,’ Vol.22, No.3 (2001), p. 232.

[4]Friedrich Nietzsche (1976) The Portable Nietzsche, Penguin Books: New York, P. 160.

[5] Karl Marx, Manifesto of the Communist Party, Marx/Engels Selected Works, Vol.1 (1848), p. 50.

[6] Nicholas Wheeler, Hedley Bull’s Pluralism of the intellect and Solidarism of the will, International Affairs, Vol.72, No. 1 (1996), pp. 91-107.P. 95.

[7] Michael Williams, Rousseau, Realism and Realpolitik, Millennium, Vol. 18, No.2 (1989), pp.185-203.P 186.

[8] While the true intellectual foundations for globalization and cosmopolitanism are found with Classical Greece, the modern intellectual foundations of this outlook find their origins from the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant. Indeed the historical foundations are also there in the form of the Greek and Roman Empires, the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, the Holy Roman Empires, the British Empire, China as a civilizational Empire, Russia as an Imperial Empire and the American Empire with the driving motivations being colonialism, exploration, capitalism and imperialism.

[9] Howard Kainz, Philosophical Perspectives on Peace: An Anthology of Classical and Modern Sources, London, (1987), pp.65-86.P 75.

[10]George Bush,1991, George Bush And His Dreams Of A Unified Europe In A New World Order,

[11] On this point see the works of James Der Derian who has also written on the New World Order.

[12]George Ritzer,(2003) The Globalization of Nothing, University of Maryland, United States

[13] Linda Weiss, Globalization and National Governance: antinomy or interdependence?, International Studies, Vol.25, Issue 05, (1999), pp.59-88.P.60.

[14] Linda Weiss, Globalization and State Power, Development and Society, Vol.29, No. 1(2000), pp.59-88.P.12.

[15] Daniel Martin, 2010, Nation states are dead: EU chief says the belief that countries can stand alone is a ‘lie and an illusion’, Mailonline

[16] Noah Barkin, 2013, Merkel Says Euro Members Must Be Prepared To Cede Sovereignty, Https://

[17] Stephan Krasner, Abiding Sovereignty, International Political Science Review, Vol.22, No.3, (2001), pp.229-25.P.234.

[18] Loc. Cit.

[19] Alex Bellamy, Humanitarian Intervention and the Three Traditions, Global Society, Vol.17, No.1, (2003), pp.3-20.P.3.

[20] R.T.Vincent, Western conception of a Universal Moral Order, British Journal of International Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1, (1978), pp.20-46. P. 21.

[21] R.T.Vincent, Western conception of a Universal Moral Order, British Journal of International Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1, (1978), pp.20-46. P. 21.

[22] Hedley Bull, 1977, The Anarchical Society, Columbia University Press, p. 240

[23] Hedley Bull, op. cit., p. 241

[24] Hedley Bull, op. cit., p. 25

[25] Christopher S. Jones, A Lost Tradition: Nishida Kitarō, Henri Bergson and Intuition in Political Philosophy, Social Science Japan Journal, Vol. 5, No. 1 (2002), pp. 55-70. P55.