Martin Shaw Theory of the Global State: Globality as Unfinished Revolution Cambridge University Press 2000 Draft
Intimations of globality: Hamlet without the Prince
The social sciences have long contained, in a double sense, the challenge of the global. The modern tradition of social theory and analysis has encapsulated the essentially political tension at the heart of globalization. On the one hand, the master-ideas of social thought, developed from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries, centred on concepts of universal, implicitly global significance – civil society, capitalism, industrialism, modernity. On the other hand, the twentieth-century institutionalization of the social sciences in academic disciplines, research and teaching practice have largely nationalized-and-internationalized these concepts. Theory and analysis have come to refer, implicitly if not always explicitly, to the national and international frameworks of state and society that dominated social relations in the mid-twentieth century heyday of the nation-state.
The new transparency of global relations has therefore brought with it a conceptual crisis in the social sciences. Since the very meanings of core concepts change in a period of transition, we need to redefine them for a global age. Globality challenges the disciplines to move beyond the ways of thinking which have predominated in their historic development. We need, too, to re-imagine the inter-relations between the different social science disciplines.
In this chapter, I examine, first, how the social sciences have been contained by pre-global thought, and second, the forms that the amplification of the global has taken. In the light of the argument of the first chapter, that globality has political roots, I especially explore the intimations of global politics in the literatures, in order to demonstrate the limitations in the ways which state power and political transformation have been understood. I aim to show, first, that global theory has systematically underestimated the political, and second, that theories of political change have not seriously grappled with the global.
Social science as stamp-collecting
It is not too far-fetched to liken the world-view on which a great deal of mainstream social science is based to that of the stamp collector. As a youthful philatelist in the mid-twentieth century, I sorted my stamps by political jurisdiction. I directed my attention to the national forms – technical and symbolic – through which both intra-national and international communication took place. I was not so concerned with the manifold social relations – personal, commercial, professional, etc. – which these forms concealed, although these were much more important, almost certainly more interesting, and less constituted by the apparatus of statehood.
Much social science sorted social relations in the same way, simply assuming the coincidence of social boundaries with state boundaries and that social action occurred primarily within, and secondarily across, these divisions. Social relations were represented by the national societies that were assumed to frame them. Just as I collected the various ephemera of national postal systems, social scientists collected distinctive national social forms. Japanese industrial relations, German national character, the American constitution, the British class system – not to mention the more exotic institutions of tribal societies – were the currency of social research.
The core disciplines of the social sciences, whose intellectual traditions are reference points for each other and for other fields, were therefore domesticated – in the sense of being preoccupied not with Western and world civilization as wholes but with the ‘domestic’ forms of particular national societies. Jan Aart Scholte has called this tendency ‘methodological nationalism’ and 'territorialism'. What it involved, above all, was a slippage from the general to the particular without bringing into the open the problematic abstraction involved in isolating the national case.
The particular was often assumed to be representative of the general. In sociology and political science, for example, American or British society, state and capitalism with all their idiosyncrasies were often held to typify society, state or capitalism as such. This tendency was not confined to conservative theorists like Talcott Parsons. C. Wright Mills’ radical critique of the 'power elite' was often presented as an alternative model of power in modern society without acknowledging the American specificity that he put at the heart of his account. Marxists could write about class in Britain as though it was a typical rather than a very peculiar case of a capitalist society.
In the domesticated core social sciences, when the general pattern of social relations on a world scale came to be represented by more than a single case, it was not usually by global, transnational or even international relations but by the comparative method. Comparing different particular social forms came to substitute for understanding the relations between them and the general structures within which these comparisons might be explained. National and comparative sociology and politics increasingly dominated the core disciplines in practice.
International relations conformed to this pattern as the exception that proved the rule. In the early post-war decades, when international realism was codified, world order could only be conceived in terms of the international. In a world of nation-states, internationality represented the relations between units and actors under this single, simple rubric. The inter-national, of course, meant inter-state, since states were mostly assumed, by definition, to represent ‘their’ nations. The relationship between state and nation was unproblematic, indeed symbiotic.
The division of labour, between the domesticated disciplines and international relations, reflected a central irony of the Cold War West. Although Western nation-states were casting off the military rivalries of centuries to create a common network of power, with an increasing number of bloc and world institutions, national forms remained dominant. Western integration was first of all cooperation between the nation-states and, reflecting them, national societies that had emerged from the era of total war. Commonality presented itself first as the alliance and similarity of what continued to be seen as distinct units.
No wonder, then, that the comparative method became so influential in Western social science and that instead of global knowledge, international research generated comparative studies. The genre has gained new life, indeed, at the end of the twentieth century with the increasing dependence of much European social research on European Union funding with its in-built balancing of national interests. The post-Cold War incorporation of Central and East European nation-states within the Western social science orbit has only accentuated this trend. Increasingly, however, the comparative method seems anachronistic, as simultaneously not just the Western world and its European sub-unit, but world society as a whole, begin to see themselves as integrated wholes. Within these larger frameworks, relations between individuals, firms, social groups and cultures are not necessarily, simply, or even primarily mediated by nationality-internationality.
The crisis of ancien régime social science
The possibility of global knowledge released by the end of the Cold War involves the simultaneous transformation of both concepts of nationality and of the ways in which integrationary, internationalist tendencies have been understood. The removal of the border of violence between the bloc worlds has accelerated the tendency to see national borders, too, as partial and relative. The dissolution of the ideological worlds has simultaneously loosened still further the sense of discrete nation-state units that were the building blocks of the Cold War. For all the posturing of new nationalists, the nation-state is indeed constantly relativized. The links between people can no longer be squeezed into a national-international straightjacket, even if this is still very much one of the dimensions which define them. This is as true of social relations ‘within’ states as it as of those ‘across’ their borders.
Instead social relations are increasingly grasped in their genuine complexity, as interpersonal, familial, industrial, commercial, professional, local, regional, transnational, world-regional, global – as well as national and international. Most social relations still have some national-international aspect. For example, my e-mail address is 'firstname.lastname@example.org’, but the national signifier is of fairly trivial importance, since neither the content nor the mechanism of my communications depends necessarily on their national character. This exemplifies the fact that often the national-international is a residual category of convenience in global relations.
In this variety of terms in which social relations are now understood, some are intrinsically spatial (local, regional, national, transnational, international, world-regional) while others (interpersonal, familial, commercial, professional, lifestyle, movement) do not assume a particular spatial content. Global has an obvious spatial reference but, as I argued in Chapter 1, its significance goes far beyond this. The global is the largest and most inclusive spatial framework of social relations – and interplanetary exploration apart, the maximum possible framework. Its development represents the partial overcoming of the major divisions of the world – cultural as well as territorial. Precisely for these reasons, globality includes both the spatially and non-spatially defined differentiations of the world.
It is not accidental, therefore, that global categories have emerged as main forms of the new theoretical discourse of the social sciences, and that the global has a different significance from the other terms. Those who oppose regional or transnational to global change therefore underestimate the significance of current transformations and misunderstand the debate on the global. To talk of global transformations does not mean that all relations are of a spatially worldwide or transregional kind. Rather global transformation, involving fundamental changes in both the spatial and non-spatial dimensions of social relations, includes the regional, transnational etc. – whereas none of these terms can include the global.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, therefore, social theory is becoming conscious of a global revolution. This represents a deep crisis for the social sciences. It is leading to the most important transformations of the structures of social knowledge in recent times. At the centre of these transformations is the question of whether the core disciplinary subjects can reconstitute themselves in global terms. So far, the evidence is that the theoretically constitutive subjects of sociology, politics and economics have indeed been largely disabled by their inherited methodological nationalism. Despite important new shoots, the mainstreams have hardly been globalized.
Writing of the nineteenth century, Mann notes that ‘Throughout this period the nation-state and a broader transnational Western civilization competed as basic membership units. Sociology’s master-concept, "society", kept metamorphosing between the two.’ Later, sociology was organized around the twin concepts of industrial and capitalist society. Both of these clearly held a potential for global understanding, but in the mid-twentieth century they were overwhelmingly operationalized as national categories, with the comparative sociology of national societies substituted for global knowledge.
Even the new Marxism of the 1970s – with exceptions such as ‘world-systems’ theory that had their own characteristic weaknesses – largely adapted itself to the national contexts of existing social science. Since the Marxist revival petered out, there has been if anything a further domestication of sociology, pragmatically integrating it in national and sub-national contexts. The understanding of politics, the international and the global have been addressed by thinkers like Mann and Giddens, but their work has impinged only slowly on the institutionalized intellectual context of the discipline.
Moreover, 'global' ideas have met resistance. Barry Smart, for example, explicitly opposes the idea of a 'global sociology', 'with its connotations of a universalising, indivisible discipline', preferring the notion of 'a sociology of globalisation, or better still, sociological analyses of processes of globalisation.' For him, the idea of a 'global sociology', implying that 'there already exists a worldwide culture', is mistaken. Elevating the notion of 'society' to a global level suggests that 'the peoples of the world are incorporated 'into a single world society, global society', and this will not do. Moreover, where 'global' sociology has developed, the global has been largely conceived in socio-cultural terms. Thus for Leslie Sklair, 'the global system' is based on 'transnational practices' rather than 'state-centric' relations.
Political science is arguably even more afflicted. In political theory, certainly, the normative agenda of globalization has led to a new problematization of the division of international and domestic politics. What is at stake, as David Held argues, is nothing less than a fundamental recasting of political theory as it has developed within the liberal-democratic nation-state. Democracy and other political values have to be reconstituted in global – or in Held’s word, cosmopolitan – terms.
However, in empirical political science the standard demarcation of national and international remains especially disabling. Comparative politics suffers from much the same weaknesses as comparative sociology, but politics has the vices as well as the virtues of the more explicitly national focus involved in studying states and party systems. Political studies adapt by analyzing politics as process, at the expense of grasping the transformation of content. Thus the European Union or the United Nations can be seen as offering new contexts in which to explore the mechanics of political life and institution-building, rather than challenges of historical change. Even in historically oriented political studies, writers like Hirst and Thompson have emphasize the continuing role, rather than the transformation, of the nation-state, and have seen (limited) transformation in international as opposed to global terms. These diverging responses in political theory and political science raise, therefore, the problem of the continuing coherence of politics as a field, and its increasingly uncertain relations with international relations.
As to the third constitutive discipline, economics, its widespread failure to recognize itself as a qualitative social science has not helped it to open up to the global. There is a real paradox, in that economic relations are universally acknowledged to be central to globalization, but professional economists are hardly in the forefront of theorizing the phenomenon. It is symptomatic that the economic relations of globalization are picked up more substantially in geography, sociology and (especially) the burgeoning field of international political economy (or IPE) which is closer to, or within, international relations and geography rather than economics. IPE is an interesting case of a general trend, that global issues are often best addressed through interdisciplinary fields and in subjects that are less constitutive of the social sciences as a whole.
The disciplines of anthropology, geography and international relations have shown greater openness to global understanding than economics, politics and sociology, the historically defining fields of social science. Interestingly, the former are all fields in which historically the national-international nexus was formerly not just a methodological bias, but more or less explicitly constitutive. The openness of both social anthropology and geography to globalization debates follows their abandonment of nineteenth and early twentieth-century nationalist and imperialist constructions of their subjects. These subjects underwent theoretical and ideological transformations earlier in the post-war period, which have prepared the way for the recognition of globalization.
Thus the old colonial-inspired traditions of social anthropology distintegrated with the independence movements of the 1960s, which required new ways of conceiving spatially differentiated relations. The discipline’s bias towards the study of less formal social relations facilitated an interest in relations defined in non-territorial and non-national ways – within and across rather than limited by state borders. The subject was thus implicitly globalist before global debates seriously developed. In particular, anthropologists have explored the transformation of culture in plural and hybrid forms.
In geography, similarly, the old geopolitical foundations of the subject have long since eroded, rendered anachronistic by the collapse of empire. In geography’s case, however, space remains a master-concept, and even before global debates became widespread, geographers mapped economic and social relations in post-national terms. Not only have geographers been in the forefront of analyzing the economics of globalization, but the concept of space has also been peculiarly problematized, and geographers have accommodated debates on time, space and modernity from social theory. The result, however, appears to have been the decline of a distinctive disciplinary sense, as the boundaries between geography, political economy, international relations and sociological thought have become more and more fluid.
Critical geographers have embraced this new fluidity and redefined the role for geography within it. Peter Taylor, for example, sees geography as 'marginalized' in the old 'state-centric orthodoxy' of the social sciences. 'The mainstream social science trilogy of sociology, economics, and political science', he argues, 'neglected questions of space and place because they failed to problematize the embedded statism in which they developed.' 'New spaces' are opened up in theory, however, by the 'new heterodoxy consequent upon globalization', in which 'the new subtleties of social space are integral.' Thus Taylor sees geography as particularly equipped for a social science which is discarding 'embedded statism' (by which he means something similar to Scholte's 'methodological nationalism' and 'territorialism').
Other geographers have made less of a disciplinary pitch: Simon Dalby, for example, calls for 'the transgression of boundaries, academic and geopolitical', and argues that 'the discursive difficulties of contemporary world politics suggest the need for multiple and overlapping maps'. He especially advocates crossing 'boundaries between international relations and contemporary thinking in political geography'. This tendency is reinforced by the development of a postmodern 'critical geopolitics', in which geopolitical boundaries are regarded as socially and culturally constructed.
In such transformations of disciplinary relations, an increasingly important role is played by interdisciplinary fields – such as environmental, communications and cultural studies as well as IPE – which have often seen the most radical posing of global transformation. An early example, of course, was development studies: in the post-colonial era, this was a principal arena for issues of world political economy and world sociology. But development studies also embody some of the contradictions of social science that is emerging from the national-international framework. Paradigms dominated by national-international conceptions have dominated the field, from the simple Western-sponsored stages-of-development model, to the more radical promise of autonomous national development that issued from the critique of imperialism. Some development studies have, as a result, a curiously old-fashioned flavour at the beginning of the twenty-first century. When it makes the nation its premise, development studies, too, is challenged by contemporary global change.
Other interdisciplinary fields have been more obviously congruent with emergent globalism, but have also exemplified its difficulties. Communications and media studies have had an empirical importance because of the centrality of communications developments to globalism. And yet the communications literature, in stressing the technological mechanisms of worldwide linkages, still leaves us with the question of how to understand their content. Critical political economy approaches, which emphasize the dominance of Western media corporations, are in danger of missing the novelty of contemporary global communications. Media roles crystallize in contrasting ways, in critical tension with as well as supportive of globally dominant interests.
In cultural studies, issues of global content have been more explicitly addressed. The field has housed debates that have been influential in introducing globalization issues into sociology – and more recently international relations. Nevertheless it is difficult, as I shall argue later in this book, to encapsulate globality primarily in terms of culture. Globality represents a fundamental transformation of social relations in general. A correspondingly broad-based conception of a renewed, global social science is necessary.
Limits of the international
International relations is the field that superficially most resembles an arena for globalized social science. Certainly the discipline of international relations, much more than the core social sciences, was a Cold War product: it represented the bifurcation of superpowers and blocs rather than the burgeoning global relations that underlay them. Nevertheless, the erosion of the historic statist core of the field can be traced at least to the period of détente in the 1970s. Rather as geography and social anthropology were transformed in the aftermath of empire, so the ending of the Cold War has led to an accelerated renewal of international relations, making disciplinary definitions of the subject increasingly problematic.
If only at the level of theoretical debate, and outside the United States, the dominant realism has imploded since 1989. The field of international relations is currently one of the most highly theoreticized of the social sciences, its intellectual ferment testifying to serious issues at stake. A wide range of critical approaches jostles for dominance with new versions of realism and neo-realism. This has opened up the subject (in some eyes at least) as an interdisciplinary field for specialized global studies: global political economy, global environmental politics, global gender studies, etc.
International relations has the unique advantage for the purposes of global debate that while it assumed the national, it was at least constituted above the national level. In the Cold War era of institutionalized internationalism, the international encapsulated the dominant form of the emergent global order. It was possible for international relations to theorize world-level problems, if only as matters of international cooperation. In doing so, however, international relationists gave little more attention than any other social scientists to the specificity of the global. Instead they often encouraged a seamless elision of global with international politics.
This transformation is however very problematic. The international and the global are not two ways of expressing more or less the same idea. Certainly, global relations depend in practice on international, including interstate relations. This aspect, explored more fully later in this book, is a source of much confusion. But the two concepts are of fundamentally different kinds. There is a core contradiction between them. Globality involves the unification of the social world and the relativization of difference within it. The international represents the division of social relations by national (historically, state; now increasingly, cultural) boundaries and the definition of particular kinds of difference as constitutive. The global incorporates manifold spatial relations: the international defines certain relations as central.
Global understanding can explain the international (including its defining contradiction and confusion between international and interstate). International theory cannot understand the global, except in the limited sense of one spatial level of inter- or trans-state relations. More radically, international relations may see in globality its own negation – the undermining of states, interstate relations and the international. These ways of comprehending the global are however profoundly limited: first, because the global is much more than a spatial level, and second, because global transformations involve the reconstitution, rather than the simple undermining or overcoming, of state forms and interstate relations.
International studies offer both empirical space for many fields of global enquiry, and tantalizing prospects of theoretical reformation. Ultimately, however, the disciplinary definition of the international is as limiting as the nation-centred operationalization of universal categories in the core disciplines. Most of the attempts to resolve this problem in international theory have remained ad hoc: greater emphases on non-state actors, supplementing strategy with political economy, cultural theory, feminism, etc. As we shall see below, even the most tightly focussed global theory remains seriously limited.
As in any major theoretical transition, much attention has been focussed on 'metatheoretical' issues. For Steve Smith, the division between 'constitutive' and 'explanatory' theory - between a view of the social world as like the 'natural' world ('that is to say as something outside of our theories') and of the social world as what we make it - is the key difference. 'Radically different types of theory are needed', he argues, 'to deal with each of these cases and these theories are not combinable so as to form one overarching theory of the social world.' Thus attempts to overcome the differences between these types of account, such as the scientific realism of Roy Bhaskar and the structuration theory of Giddens, are viewed as untenable. There is 'a fundamental divide within social theory, one which gives space to attempts to ground theory via hermeneutics as well as by appeal to functional or structural notions.'
This meta-theoretical divide crosses, however, the major substantive division in contemporary theory between traditional international and new global theorists. Postmodernist and constructivist writers, who for Smith are the consistent 'constitutive' theorists, have often underestimated the character of global change. Alexander Wendt, for example, argues that 'since states are the immanent form of subjectivity in world politics, this means that they should be the primary unit of analysis for thinking about the global regulation of violence. In that sense states still are at the center of the international system, and as such it makes no more sense to criticise a theory of international politics as ''state-centric'' than it does to criticize a theory of forests for being ''tree-centric.'' … In sum, for critical IR theorists to eschew state-centric theorizing is to concede much of international politics to Neorealism.'
Let us examine these claims. First, Wendt exhibits a slippage from 'world' to 'international' politics, wherein lies a fundamental difficulty. Naturally states are the prime collective actors in international politics, understood as interstate politics, in the same tautotological sense that trees are integral to forests. But by no means can we assume, thereby, that they are the prime sources of subjectivity in world politics. Nevertheless, it remains true that world politics as a whole are, in a sense which Wendt's formulae do not allow us to understand, 'state-centric'.
This paradox arises precisely because state power is a structural formation, in the sense that the 'subjectivity' of states (both of states as collective actors and of individuals and other collectivities acting within the state as a 'place') helps to constitute objective structures that face all actors, state and 'non-state'. Moreover, when Wendt sees interstate politics as a field quite distinct from world politics, economy and society in the fuller sense he takes certain kinds of state subjectivities (within which the autonomies of international politics are subscribed) at face value, instead of understanding them in their larger social context.
In so doing, Wendt's subjectivist social theory reveals unexplored structural assumptions, i.e. about what has already been constituted and hence is objectively important. By prioritising state subjectivities ('anarchy is what states make it') he tends to write out others. 'Consider', he asks us, 'the debate about the causes of the recent Bosnian Civil War.' To which debate is he referring? Clearly it is not the debate among the victims, most of whom are highly conscious of the roles of the Serbian and Croatian states in causing their misery. Nor is it the debate in the International War Crimes Tribunal, in which the war has been ruled an international conflict. The Bosnian war has rarely been described as 'civil' anywhere in Europe. One can only assume that either Wendt is reflecting the less-well informed sectors of US opinion, and/or that he is articulating an old (structural) prejudice that a war that is not straightforwardly interstate must be a 'civil' war.
What this case reveals is that because they lack an adequate sense of structure, would-be constitutive theorists often miss the relations that genuinely constitute politics. Without theories of the structures of power, we cannot locate action, any more than without understanding actors we can grasp structures. There has been considerable debate on the formal solution of the agency-structure dilemma in international theory. But what this discussion suggests is that reflection on historical dilemmas needs to be fed into metatheoretical discussion; moreover these relations cannot be resolved at the level of meta-theory.
This case also suggests that we should not mistake metatheoretical differences for the major divide in understanding contemporary world politics. On the contrary, the key differences are between those who recognize and understand the character of the broad historic changes of our times, and those writers whose theories reflect old structures and ways of thought. In international relations, as elsewhere, change is uneven and contradictory. As we saw in Chapter 1, there is a widespread recognition of post-Cold War change; the idea that world politics is now 'postinternational' has been proposed; and there is considerable influence of postmodern thought. But none of these amount to an understanding of globality. The remainder of this chapter will look at the ways in which the global has been approached, particularly in international relations, and the extent to which new global relations and forms of politics have been illuminated.
Economism and sociologism in global theory
By the end of the twentieth century, although the acknowledgement of the global was widespread, there was not yet a coherent global theory. Global understanding was developing in the social sciences in two main forms. There were accounts of globalization as a process, and studies of various social phenomena at the global level – global political economy, culture, etc. In the first case, globalization is often discussed without defining the global. In the second, global is an adjective qualifying predefined social forms, but its particular meaning is often equally unclarified. The problem for the new, globalized elements of the social sciences in general is that while they have incorporated global issues, global theory is still in the early stages of development.
Neither globalization theory nor adjectival globalism answered the key questions: the nature of the global, the kind of change that it signified, or the transformations of social-science concepts that are entailed. Underlying both approaches, there were often three related kinds of weakness to be overcome. First, there were tendencies to confuse the social and spatial aspects of globality, reducing global change to its spatial dimension. Second, there were tendencies to underestimate its political and specifically state dimensions. Third, there were tendencies to represent global relations as mechanical processes of connection, in which conscious human action was diminished.
The global has been grasped as primarily economic, social or cultural – the state seen as the passive receiver of the effects of globalization, politics understood as an epiphenomenon of these other kinds of transformation, agency largely absent. The strength of these tendencies is emphasized by the fact that they prevail in studies of global phenomena even in fields which have traditionally emphasise the state and politics. It has proved particularly difficult to conceptualize the political dimension of global relations.
Even international relations, which has been constituted as a discipline by inter-state and political relations, has found it difficult to conceive of globality except as the negation of statehood and politics. Thus a new textbook defined globalization as ‘an ongoing trend whereby the world has – in many respects and at a generally accelerating rate – become one relatively borderless social sphere. ... Global phenomena can extend across the world at the same time and can move between places in no time; they are in this sense supraterritorial.’
An emphasis on the borderlessness and supraterritoriality of the global was common, but also symptomatic of a collapse of serious state theory in international relations. For radical international theorists, escaping from the disabling realism of more traditional theory, often simply fled from the notion of state as well (in this sense, Wendt's comment quoted above is apposite). The tendency to discuss globalization as though it were primarily a set of socio-economic processes linked to the market liberalization of recent decades, which undermine the state, has been given widespread credence. This in turn has opened up the argument to the easy rebuttal which shows how much of world trade, investment, etc., remain within national economies. The debate then becomes trapped in this stale dilemma of globalization versus the nation-state, to which I referred in Chapter 1.
It is interesting to note how widely post-realist international relations has been influenced by this ‘economism’ (and to a lesser extent, as we shall see, a parallel ‘sociologism’) and has advanced over-economic (or narrowly social) interpretations of world politics and the changing roles of states. The over-reliance of critical theorists on broadly Marxist approaches is part of the explanation for these failings, but their scope is wider than these influences. From the earliest days of transnational, let alone global, theorizing, critics of realism have rejected two key notions: the centrality of the state to world affairs, and of military power to the state.
Thus the pioneers of transnationalism, Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, in their argument about ‘complex interdependence’ – a theory of the 1970s epoch of détente – saw realism as characterized, in its emphasis on state and military power, by a false conception of the issue agenda. In contrast, they emphasized the ‘absence of a hierarchy among issues’ which meant that ‘military security does not consistently dominate the agenda’. Military force was no longer used, they underlined, by governments within the transatlantic region against each other. Both these assertions were (and are) empirically valid and important, but Keohane and Nye’s pluralist methodology prevented them from seeing beyond the surface agenda of policy-makers to the dimensions of power which defined states as institutions. They therefore set a trend when they drew – despite some important qualifications – the false conclusion that military force now had a ‘minor role’ in international politics.
Keohane and Nye’s work helped push international relations towards what has since become known as ‘political economy’. Their concept of ‘complex interdependence’ remains seminal. They failed however to explicitly refine, let alone redefine, the conception of the state which realism had left behind. The state for them was still the nation-state, and interdependence at the political level was only conceived in terms of ‘international organization’ and above all the variety of issue-based ‘regimes’. Because they had no coherent conception of the state to set against realism, they also failed to define the continuing importance of military power.
These weaknesses were also to prove seminal. In subsequent international relations and international political economy, 'interdependence' was largely conceived in the limited terms that they had defined. The state itself was still conceived in terms of the national entity, while linkages were seen in terms of common adaptations to the world market and in terms of discrete regimes. The economic functions of states were separated from their political-military roles. No comprehensive account was developed of the inceasingly integrated Western state in its military-political and economic aspects, in its international organizations, bilateral relations and role in the world system as a whole. Accounts of the global were developed, but primarily in an economic sense, with the political-military framework of state power – and therefore also the political meaning of global change – missing.
Keohane and Nye eschewed grand theoretical alternatives to realism, and especially Marxist-derived ideas. However elsewhere in the 1970s political economy approaches were developing, especially in European sociology and political science, often based on Marxism. Much further development of international political economy, even in North America, also followed this trend. However both non-Marxist and Marxist-influenced international political economy followed Keohane and Nye in failing to offer a redefinition of the state, and presented similarly accounts of 'interdependence'. Thus Kenneth Ohmae dramatically proclaimed the 'end of the nation-state' and its replacement by ''region states' in geographical units like northern Italy and Hong Kong. Susan Strange, analysing the role of the state in the world economy, identified 'the retreat of the state', or 'a decline in the authority of the state within its territorial borders' – a theme echoed in Martin van Crefeld's account of the 'decline of the state'.
Others noted changing functions of states, such as the rise of the 'trading state', devoted to managing the balance of payments, encouraging exports keeping manufacturing enterprises competitive. Philip Cerny argued that there was a more complex 'structuration of the state … in today's world marketplace'. For him, the structural changes which states and state actors are involved in today may lead to a significantly different configuration in the future. However this did 'not mean that the state will be superseded', merely that it 'may have to change more than ever in order to turn its capabilities to the problems which are increasingly faced in the world economy if it is to maintain some kind of virtuous circle of structuration.' The trend was the 'change from the welfare state to the competition state', devoted to success in the more open world economy.
Thus these writers continued to identify the state with the national entity, but noted the changed circumstances in which such entities now operated. None of them seriously problematized the shift towards an economic determination of nation-states, in the context of either the weakening of classic military functions, or the transfer of military functions to transnational institutions of Western power. Neither were these concerns evident in the more developed version presented by Robert Cox, who introduced a loosely Gramscian conception of international power relations. His bowdlerized Marxism was heavily centred on the concepts of ‘production’ and ‘social forces’, with ‘states’ and ‘world orders’ seen as dependent on the ‘historic blocs’ or configurations of social forces which underpinned them. Gramsci’s own work, as we saw in Chapter 2, had been concerned with the relationships of consent and coercion, culture and politics, in the nation-state. New Gramscian global theory has centred, from the start, on political economy, and relations of direct coercion, or violence, have tended to be downplayed.
Cox replaced 'complex interdependence' by the ‘internationalization of production’. Where Keohane and Nye had seen regimes and international organization, Cox talked of ‘the internationalizing of the state’. The potential of this concept was hardly developed, however. This was partly because Cox devoted most emphasis to the domestic blocs underlying what he called ‘neoliberal’ (Western) and ‘developmental’ (Third World) nation-states. It was also, however, because the concept was internally weak, being defined as ‘the global process whereby national policies and practices have been adjusted to the exigencies of the world economy of international production.’ The problem was not only, therefore, that Cox saw ‘internationalization’ in purely economic terms. It was also that he saw it primarily as a process whereby national policies were adjusted to the exigencies of international capitalism. Capitalism existed at the international and global levels, but the state remained national in form: it was internationalized in economic content, but not in political form. Cox recognized the European Economic Community as a major instance of internationalization, but this too was defined in purely economic terms.
While Cox adapted Marxist economics and Gramscian political sociology, he too set a trend, for Marxist-influenced international theorists, in failing to refer to Marx’s own writing on the state – with its conception of this institution as comprising ‘bodies of armed men’. The military-political side of the state was not even granted the residual role that it had played in the account of Keohane and Nye (who were still debating with realism). In Cox, who seemingly takes this settling of accounts for granted, the state was subsumed entirely in socio-economic dynamics, and world politics defined as the formation of blocs based on social interests. In his shadowy references to military activities and expenditure, military power became a mere function of political economy. Cox's 'Gramscian' account left the state where it had been in Keohane and Nye: as a still-national entity operating in conditions of economic interdependence, now redefined as those of the world market economy and capitalist hegemony. Although the idea of the 'internationalized' state had been introduced, no real attention was given to the structural changes in state power itself.
The significance of state ‘internationalization’ is more clearly indicated in Stephen Gill’s writing on ‘trilateralism’ that takes its cue from the same Gramscian source. Gill’s work is more sophisticated than Cox’s, particularly in the way it utilises Gramscian concepts. Gill’s work advances Cox’s argument by defining an ‘American-centred transnational hegemony’ and exploring the trilateral relations between Japanese, European and American power. Gill considers the military dimensions of power more explicitly than Cox, but still from the point of view of political economy. Finally, he contributes a sociological dimension with his study of the Trilateral Commission as part of an emerging ‘international establishment’.
The Marxist basis of the argument is more clearly indicated – but still fails to include the theory of the state, the author preferring to start from world systems theory and Gramsci. Still missing, indeed, is any explicit reconsideration of the nature of states and state forms in this process of internationalization, and any overall evaluation of the role of military power in the state. This nuanced offshoot of Marxism adds, therefore, a ‘sociologism’ to the ‘economism’ of previous post-realist international theory. The sociologistic pattern is also pronounced in Kees van der Pijl’s pioneering account of the making of a transatlantic ruling class. He has continued to elaborate this perspective in a series of works, recently focusing on the 'international cadre class', up to the present day. Although van der Pijl presents Western rulers as an increasingly coherent group of powerholders, in an account spanning a century of war as well as economic changes, he has little to say directly about inter- or transnational state organization.
The strongest statement of sociologism is Robinson's. For him, 'Polyarchy, or … ''low-intensify democracy,'' is a structural feature of the new world order: it is a global political system corresponding to a global economy under the hegemony of a transnational elite which is the agent of transnational capital.' There is 'a transnational hegemonic configuration … conceptualized on the basis of the transcendence of the competitive nation-state framework, yet not on the transcendence of capitalism as a world system. This emergent configuration may be conceived in social (class), institutional and spatial terms. The social composition of the configuration is of class fractions drawn from the different countries and regions of the three clusters and increasingly fused into a transnational elite … . The institutional embodiment of this configuration is the TNCs driving the global economy and society, taken together with emergent supranational institutions … . A 'transnational managerial class at the apex of the global class structure provides leadership and direction to such a new ''historical bloc.''
What is notable here is that the hegemonic formation of globality is identified primarily with the transcendence of the nation-state system by capital, rather than through new forms of state. The 'institutional' forms of the new hegemony are once more identified primarily with transnational corporations, only secondarily with 'supranational institutions'. Robinson explicitly considers the question of state internationalization, but sees it as 'lagging behind the globalization of production'. He argues that 'first, predictions or discussion of a world state should be seen in the long historical context; and second, the emergence at some point in the future of a world state could come about through a lengthy, tension-ridden, and exceedingly complex process of the internationalization of the state.'
In Marxian and Gramscian international political economy, therefore, the globalization of power is primarily the development of global economic and social forces. The relations and forms of the internationalization or globalization of the state, and especially the role of military power within this, remain highly elusive. Robinson's formulations simultaneously reproduce Cox's restricted concept of state 'internationalization' as the adaptation of the nation-state to globalized production; and at the same time, point tentatively to a more expanded concept. Yet there is no sense here of the real historical sequence, in which the profound internationalization of the Western state, rooted in the outcomes of world war, was a structural precondition for all the 'globalization' of recent decades.
Craig Murphy is the one writer from this school who has looked in detail at some of the forms of international state organization. He argues that the nineteenth-century 'Public International Unions', the League of Nations system and the post-war United Nations system are not just three successive generations of world organizations. 'We need', he argues, 'to link their history to that of industry by saying that each new generation begins when an agency regulating a revolutionary new communication technology appears.' He argues that the driver for the development of international governmental organizations (IGOs) has been the extension of markets, by facilitating transportation and communication, protecting intellectual property and reducing legal and economic barriers to trade.
'The actual turn-of-the-century trading area', Murphy points out, 'that was partly regulated by the Public International Unions extended the continental marker to the overseas dependencies of the European empires. In contrast, the actual trading area partly governed by the IGOs after the Second World War remained smaller than the world linked by radio and the airplane. It covered the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the club of wealthy market countries linking western Europe, Canada, the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and all their economic dependencies in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, but excluded China and the Soviet Union. Within these geographic limits appeared successive world orders, concrete historical political and economic systems, the ''turn-of-the-century Interimperial Order and the postwar ''Free World'' Order.' What is striking about this account is that it implies that 'world' international organizations are in fact dependent on tighter forms of worldwide state organization, namely the European empires and the Cold-War Western bloc. But Murphy does not investigate these forms of internationalized state, or the relationship between their political-military functions and the development of Western-dominated world economic orders. And so his analysis stops just at the point where it could really become interesting.
The pervasive socio-economism of the political economy tradition, from the earliest theorists of 'interdependence' to the latest proponents of 'hegemony' in a Gramscian sense, has also affected a wider raft of critical international theory, especially through the debate about 'governance'. 'Global governance' is perceived to develop from the contradiction between the national form of state power and the increasingly global economy and society. In the absence of a world government, such a world order can only be governed, it is believed, through a complex system of governance involving international organizations and civil society institutions as well as nation-states.
Thus James Rosenau and Carl-Otto Cziempel invite us to consider ‘governance without government’ within the contemporary world order. For Richard Falk, we are now entering a ‘post-statist world order'. Falk utilizes the concept of ‘governance’ in a critical mode, contrasting his projected ‘humane’, democratic, civil-society based governance with the ‘inhumane’ global governance of the market, corporate power and imperialism. Thus non-statist governance is normative position as well as an emergent political reality: ‘Not necessarily government but governance seems an ingredient of the envisioned promised land. The quest is for the gentlest forms of authority, forms that do not intrude on freedoms, do not create a huge gap between citizens and institutions established for their benefit and yet facilitate security, resource use, and environmental quality.’
Global governance approaches lean heavily on the concept of ‘global civil society’, strongly rooted in the Gramscian tradition. Civil society is seen as a source of principled, democratic input into an otherwise state- or corporate-based institutional array. The problems of converting the concept of civil society, developed by Gramsci like most other thinkers in a national context, to the global level, are however considerable in practice. As Gramsci saw, civil society exists in the context of the state. Indeed historically, civil society has constituted the 'nation' in the nation-state. As Germain and Kenny point out, international Gramscianism is inconsistent with Gramsci's own project, in failing to identify the state corresponding to global civil society.
Critical international theory of global phenomena thus raises formidable problems. Some globalism is still adjectival, in the sense indicated above. Accounts of transnationalism hardly amount to theories of globality. Moreover these problems are not exclusive to any one intellectual school: radical liberals and neo-Gramscians follow transnational theorists in underemphasizing state transformations and failing to advance a serious theory of the state. Thus the alternative theories of international relations have tended to shift the ground, rather than confronting realism on its own terrain of the state.
The significance of this absence is confirmed by the way in which the literature on global politics focuses on governance at the expense of the state. The revival of the ancient term, governance, is a curiosity of contemporary political discourse. Up to a point, it reflects a valid new understanding: society is now comprehensively governed, by a much wider range of agencies than the coercive, legislative, administrative and judicial arms of the state. Governance in this sense has a meaning close to the multi-centred surveillance that Giddens sees as a characteristic of modern society. But the highlighting of broad-based governance is dangerous, if it serves to obscure the state core of contemporary globality.
Transformations of internationality
The most fundamental problem with the governance approach is, therefore, that it does not offer a sharp enough conception of politics, and especially of the hardest forms of political authority, of state power and its military dimension. It is simply not true that we have moved into a post-statist world order, or that multi-centred governance has replaced or is likely to replace the state. The failure of global theory has been, above all, a failure to understand the continuing and changing roles of state power in global change. Truly, it has been a case of Hamlet without the Prince. But although the simple remedy to this is to ‘bring the state back in’ to the discussion of global change, the question is not so straightforward. This project too easily collapses into the global-sceptic attack on 'myth-making' and the substitution of internationalization for globalization.
Of course, it is difficult to conceive of any state globalization that does not depend on internationalization. World government could never be unmediated by local forms, and although in principle these could be world-regional or local rather than national, in practice it is inevitable that any global state forms will have a strongly international as well as transnational character. Not surprisingly, therefore, in international relations, the literature analyzes various forms of 'internationalization' of politics, but only hesitatingly reaches towards 'globalization'. Following the literature discussed above, economistic definitions are widespread, but there are a number of ways in which theorists have proposed to analyze specifically state forms of internationalization.
The most basic concept, introduced by Keohane and Nye, is that of 'regimes'. The concept still assumes the prevalence of national state units, and identifies internationalization in their cooperation in specific issue-areas. It is framed by the problematic that Hurrell describes as 'how is co-operation feasible between states claiming sovereignty but competing for power and influence in a situation of anarchy?' As he points out, regime theorists have seen both law and power as sources of regimes, especially hegemonic power, which of course returns the analysis to the balance of power between the units. Thus regime theory has downplayed ideas of community and justice: 'the role of power and coercion in the implementation of rules remains fundamental.' However, as Meyer, Rittberger and Zahn point out, regime theory explains 'the possibility, conditions, and consequences of international governance beyond anarchy and short of supranational government in a given issue area.' While all recognize that the need for political regulation 'beyond the nation state' has increased dramatically, the premise of regime theory is that the 'modern' response to an extended range of societal interactions, namely the formation of statehood, does not seem viable on the international level.
'Contemporary International Relations scholars agree upon little else', claim these regime theorists, 'but the nonfeasibility of a world state.' However even they have to admit that 'The image of competitive international politics produced by anarchy among sovereign states is most strongly challenged by the observation of instances of hierarchically ordered supranational policy-making (including implementation).' Certainly, to view cooperative internationality simply under the aspect of serial relations between discrete state entities may reproduce the prevailing political and legal understanding. But it ignores the comprehensively structured nature of international 'regimes' as a whole, which brings into question the assumption that these juridical state entities are in fact the appropriate units of 'state' analysis.
One step on from regime theory is the idea of 'security community'. According to John Ruggie, 'NATO has never been merely a traditional alliance; its indivisible and generalized security commitments owe as much to the idea of collective security as to the conventional alliance form … over time the transatlantic region has evolved into a ''security community.''' For Barry Buzan there is a spectrum, at the extremes of which he sees chaos and security. 'Security regimes' are one step up from 'regional conflict formations'; a 'security community' is a further step away from chaos, in which disputes among members are resolved to such an extent that none fears, or prepares for, war. Beyond the security community lies 'regional integration', 'which cods anarchy and therefore moves the regional security issue from the national and international, to the domestic realm'.
The problem with this categorization, however, is that while recognizing change, it does so only in the old clothing of domestic (national) and international. Certainly, Buzan is correct in so far as, if we can define 'state' at all, there must be must be a point at which integration of separate states leads to a new state form, so that external relations between states are transformed into the internal relations of new state power. However, in identifying existing trends within the West principally with the form of 'security community', he leaves us with the view of these as 'external' relations, and underestimates the extent to which the distinction between 'inside' and 'outside' the state has already been brought into question. Behind the idea of the West as a security community lies, however, confusion over the ideas of community and state. The question, when is a state not a state?, requires a more comprehensive answer (I try to provide this in Chapter 6).
Beyond this idea lies the concept of 'multilateralism'. According to Ruggie, 'What distinguishes the multilateral form from other forms is that it coordinates behavior among three or more states on the basis of generalized principles of conduct.' However, he claims that, 'for analytic purposes it is important not to confuse the very meaning of multilateralism with any one particular institutional expression of it, be it an international order, regime or organization. Each can be, but need not be, multilateral in form.' However, just as with (what Ruggie sees as) the more specific concepts of regime and security community, the idea of multilateralism retains the core idea of the autonomous national state at its core.
Indeed for Ruggie, multilateralism is an extension of 'American nationalism'. This, he claims, is 'a civic nationalism, embodying a set of inclusive core values: intrinsic individual as opposed to group rights, equality of opportunity: for all, anti-statism, the rule of law and a revolutionary legacy which holds that human betterment can be achieved by means of deliberate human actions - especially when they are pursued in accordance with these foundational values.' There is a close 'relationship between inter-ethnic accommodation at home and multilateral organizing principles abroad. Of course, the idea of multilateralism has also been adapted in a more radical direction, for example by Cox.
Close to these perspectives analytically, but more distinctive conceptually is Alexander Wendt's recent discussion of structural change in international politics. In contrast to his more conservative formulations quoted above, he proposes that there is 'an internationalization of political authority', even 'international state formation'. However, it is a process that has not gone very far 'and even if it continues we are only in its early stages.' It is 'issue-specific (though it may ''spill over'' into new issue areas), mostly regional in nature (so there are potentially many international states), and a matter of degree. Moreover, there are strong arguments for thinking it will not continue, since it creates fundamental tensions between the national and transnational functions of state actors.'
This tentative trend, however, has two broad theoretical implications. It points 'toward a gradual, but structural transformation of the Westphalian states system from anarchy to authority', and towards '"disarticulated" sovereignty in which different state functions are performed at different levels of aggregation, and/or a ''neo-Medievalism'' in which political authority is shared by both state and nonstate actors.' Either way, Wendt argues, 'the result is neither anarchy nor hierarchy but the emergence of a new form of state and thus states system which breaks down the spatial coincidence between state-as-actor and state-as-structure. As such the erosion of individual state sovereignty does not imply the erosion of the state. Sovereignty is not an intrinsic feature of state agency but one social identity a state may have. By transferring it to a collective, states may actually strengthen their capacity to solve problems. Internationalization is a way of reorganizing and redeploying state power - not a withering away of the state.'
Wendt's formulation here poses the radical possibility the state system is being fundamentally transformed, albeit that the changes are in their earliest phases. However there are two fundamental problems with his formulations. First, although the general direction is identified, he does not provide any concrete examination of the processes of historical change. The dynamics, exactly how far they have progressed, what might push them further, what might hold them back, are missing. Secondly, this is a discussion of change in the state-system de-anchored from the general debates on social change in the present period. Post-Westphalianism is a form of 'post-' analysis, but its links to the larger context of 'post-' thinking are loose, and its connections to global theory are neglected.
Seeking the global Prince
This chapter has suggested that global theory has tended towards economism, sociologism and loose conceptions of 'governance' rather than the state; while theories of change in interstate relations have failed, for the most part, to illuminate their relations to globality. At the end of the twentieth century, there were increasing signs, however, of interest in the political aspects of global change. This has involved redefining internationalization in global terms, as in the claim of Held and his colleagues that 'international regimes mark out the growing institutionalization of global politics' and 'constitute forms of global governance, distinct from traditional notions of government conceived in terms of the specific sites of sovereignty.'
For Held, however, global politics was little more than a composite of these trends. 'All these developments', they argued, 'illuminate a shift away from a purely state-centric politics to a new more complex form of multilateral global governance. There are multiple, overlapping political processes at work at the present historical conjuncture.' Thus although Held and his colleagues put politics at the heart of globalization, they saw global politics in terms of newly 'multilayered governance' and a 'diffusion of political authority'. Indeed, they emphasized 'the contemporary world order as a complex, contested, interconnected order' and acknowledged 'the ''messy'' appearances" which define global politics at the turn of the new millennium'. From here it was not so far to Ian Clark's argument that the globalization of world politics has been matched throughout the twentieth century by a corresponding 'fragmentation'. Or even to Susan Strange's case: 'we have now, not a system of global governance by any stretch of the imagination, but rather a ramshackle assembly of conflicting sources of authority.'
It is far from my intention to deny the 'complex', 'messy', 'fragmented' and even 'ramshackle' appearances of the world relations of political power that the twentieth century has bequeathed to the twenty-first. Any worldwide political system, coordinating authoritative relations over billions of people living in highly varied social conditions, was bound to be complex. The development of global politics from the historic relations of separated centres of power, through turbulent processes of revolution, counterrevolution and war, was bound to be messy and uneven - we might add, dangerous. No one can deny that emergent globality is deeply contradictory, and possesses all these characteristics in abundance.
This does not this mean, however, that we can identify no (relatively) cohesive political forces at work. We saw above that many consider we live in a 'post-statist' world, in the sense that governance now extends beyond the separated state entities of the national-international era. Likewise, we saw that the 'nonfeasibility of a world state' has been considered axiomatic in international relations. All these arguments demonstrate, however, is the simplicity of their underlying assumption, that a state is an uncomplicated centre of state power, a singular sovereign. Once we recognise the inadequacy of this assumption, we see the emptiness of the claims that are made: both statements are more truisms than truths. If we are looking for the uncomplicated singular world state, if we see only the diffusion of authority in a complex web of jurisdictions, we will miss the more complex global concentrations of state power that have actually come into existence.
The title of this chapter suggests that social scientists have written the 'Prince' out the drama of global change. Such a figure is not to be found, of course, in Shakespeare's sense, or even in Machiavelli's. As Gramsci long ago recognized, the 'modern Prince' is a collective actor. His own answer was that the new Prince was the collective organic intellectual of the proletariat, organized in the revolutionary communist party, which would develop the ‘philosophy of praxis’ and guide the historic bloc of the working class towards power. Of course, Gramsci’s Prince did not develop as he advocated; communist parties hardly lived up to his model of new political leadership. Nevertheless, the question is an interesting one. What kinds of state and political agency were appropriate in his times? What kinds of state and political agency are appropriate in the global transition? Who or what can be the ‘global Prince’?
As Gramsci’s discussion suggests, we should treat these questions broadly. Political agency in modern conditions is collective and institutional. Two possible candidates will be examined here. On the one hand, there is the internationalized state that has been glimpsed but never fully examined, in the intimations of globality that we have considered in this chapter. On the other, there are the very different kinds of revolutionary actor in the transformation of global times, whose agency has been partially recognised in the discussion of civil society and social movements. Of course, no one kind of agent can bear the weight which Gramsci tried to place on revolutionary parties. Transformative global agency is not the exclusive property of state institutions, but neither is it of civil society, social movements or any other singular kind of agent. The failure of Gramsci’s model should lead us to look carefully at the relationships of different types of political actor, in the making of the global world.
The remainder of this book addresses these questions in a number of different ways. First, I develop a historical account of the ways in which twentieth-century historical change have led to the global revolution, asking in what it has consisted, who has made it, what have been the decisive events, and how we should understand transformations of the state and political agency within it. Second, I examine the politics of global change in the revolutionary period of our own times – the beginning of the twenty-first century – and the nature of the global state that is coming to existence. Third, I discuss the future course of the global revolution, the unsolved problems and major sticking points, and try to identify the agents of historic advance. My answer to the question of the global Prince will not be as simple as Gramsci’s concept of its modern forerunner. But if the solutions are more complex, political agency is still central.