The Twilight of the Nation-State (I)
Written by Alfonso Elizondo
Created on Friday, August 19, 2016, 10:09
The exponential growth of the global population and population ageing pose serious problems in terms of both the satisfaction of basic needs and the preservation of the environment. Ecological disturbances are affecting the climate, destroying the ozone layer and desertifying the earth causing violent and silent natural disasters in many areas of the planet. In addition to this, the depletion of natural resources, including water, is bringing humanity face to face with the challenge to its own survival.
At the same time, poverty and exclusion are spreading across all continents and the social gap is widening with the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and the marginalization of the middle class. In the meantime the so-called miracles expected from technology have not materialized. On the contrary, technology is contributing to the marginalization of the vast majority of humanity and to the concentration of income and power in a minority of the privileged.
All this represents a huge challenge to governance at the global level, at the precise moment when the State is in decline leaving a large vacuum, both in the basic institution of social life and in the provision of support for individual and collective aspirations. This challenge may be considered under its three main components: governance in issues of global regulation, the right to identity and citizen participation in politics.
None of the current challenges facing humanity has a simple and single solution because we are dealing with systemic problems that go beyond national borders. Although the new digital world deals essentially with multiple disciplines, holistic approaches and systemic analysis, in the real world the vast majority of policy makers apply direct solutions, without taking into account the interactions between the underlying problem and its solution.
Added to this first hurdle is the inability to solve any of the problems that are national in scope, such as AIDS, drug trafficking, environmental pollution, financial speculation, migration, terrorism or any other phenomenon of global significance. However, the international community has been looking for answers over the last decade through major international conferences and the adoption of conventions in the context of the crisis, such as resolutions on the environment, social development, food etc., that have been entrusted to the UN without giving it the resources or authority to transform those good intentions into norms and programs for the whole world.
This is even worse in the area of the economy and finance, since nothing has been done in the area of regulating the movement of financial capital and currency speculation to create rules and regulations to control the use of human capital and implement policies leading to less predatory growth, less waste of natural resources and the recognition of the human being as an active member of any society.
Unfortunately, the efforts of international financial institutions and forums for the coordination of neoliberal policies that emerged in the 1980s have generated a series of privatizations, deregulations and cuts in social spending that have accelerated the dismantling of the State and left a world exposed to the predatory expansion of large transnational corporations. However, the reconstruction of the state on a global scale or the creation of a world government is a major challenge, especially because this government would pose a problem of legitimacy that precedes any legal structure.
As we know, the emergence of the nation-state was the result of a complex process that was legitimized to the point where citizens saw themselves as a part of it, despite the infighting and conflicts that always accompanied its formation. In the context of the current global crisis one can only imagine the creation of a similar legitimacy when facing a danger to humanity or in the face of threats that could lead most people on the planet to think of a new organization of the world that ensures security and justice.
Although there are still nation-states with a strong cultural identity and a high degree of socio-political integration, the trend is towards disintegration of the nation-state. Within these trends lie the aspirations of individuals and peoples to rediscover their cultural roots and rebuild the mechanisms of solidarity they had delegated to the State. That is why chaotic processes are developing, such as the current ethnic and religious conflicts and conflicts of cultural identity.
As the nation-state loses its functionality and legitimacy it leads to global problems being addressed at the global level within a yet to be defined framework, so it is urgent to create new international and cross-border sites of solidarity and identification Such sites were eliminated during the formation of nation-states, leaving many communities stripped of their identity and organizational skills. Although this phenomenon does not affect states with a strong cultural identity, it is already undermining the foundations of multi-ethnic states and artificial nations, as demonstrated by the proliferation of ethnic conflicts in Africa, and those that erupted in the Soviet Union, in the Middle East and in the former Yugoslavia.
Addendum: The conclusion is that it is now necessary to pursue reaffirmation of national identity and recognize the right to individual identity as enshrined in the United Nations Charter which recognizes the right of a people to decide for themselves. I think that a corollary of this recognition ought to be the principle of respect for minority rights, without which the new global constitutional political model would not be possible.
Finally, the current violence in certain states in the process of implosion, for example in many countries taking in immigrants, as well as the rise of racism and intolerance are indications of the great difficulty involved in the creation of a global organization to regulate dying nation-states.