June 6, 1994
The nation-state is the quintessential modern political entity. Since the French Revolution, it has launched wars and policed the peace, written laws and filled jails, settled borders and extracted taxes; its authority has been unchallenged, its survival assured, and its pre-eminence taken for granted.
No longer is this so. When the Berlin wall collapsed, so did the fragile bipolar system that had carved up and cosseted the world since 1945, thereby unleashing four decades’ worth of frozen change. As supra-national agencies – the UN, the EC, the CSCE – stumble to find their footing, they and their constituent member-states are awakening to the social, economic and political movements afoot. Pre-eminent among these is the continued rise and rise of the transnational corporation – 47 of the 100 largest economies in the world today are companies not states. Unlike nation-states, these companies eschew borders, territoriality, centralized mechanisms and geographic foci; they operate beyond the old systems, and often beyond the old laws. Where they lead, it seems, politics must follow.
And what of today’s citizen? To whom should he be loyal? To whom should he pay his dues? In their enthralling analysis of the unraveling of the old and the coming together of the new, Horsman and Marshall address the probable roles of citizen, consumer, employee, employer, financier, politician and corporation in the New World Disorder. What can be the role of the international agencies, so compromised by politicking that they are impotent, in Bosnia, in Timor, in Kurdistan, in Sudan? Who will carve out a new set of principles by which decisions can be made, and who will make those decisions? What if there is no common global imperative? How will global debt, massive migration, the population explosion and environmental degradation be managed? Will any form of state – socialist, fascist, Green, communitarian – emerge to challenge the consumerist-capitalist model? And how will individuals in the borderless world make their voices heard? Where is their forum?
After the Nation-State is a book for capitalists and consumers, for managers and revolutionaries, and for anyone who thinks that voting changes nothing, that Western politics is moribund, that capitalism is triumphant, or that History has ended.
Mathew Horsman worked for six years on the Canadian affiliate of the Financial Times and is now based at the Institute for research on Public Policy in Montréal, where he edits the political journal Policy Options.
Andrew Marshall was West Europe editor on the Independent before assuming his current position as Brussels Bureau Chief for the same newspaper.