Tag Archives: civil society


What’s the impact of globalization on politics? Many commentators pronounce on this complex and multi-faceted topic with great confidence, but an overview of the literature suggests that we are still struggling to understand it. An obvious characteristic of globalization is that money, goods and manufacturing have become far more mobile than they once were, with the result that corporations are freer than ever to move, and finance to invest, wherever they choose.
Therefore, national governments are less able to control the activities of mobile businesses than in the past, while corporations and finance are in a better position to dictate to national governments. They do this by relocating their activities to – and buying the currencies of – states whose policies they approve and abandoning, or threatening to abandon, the rest.
So what are the political implications of this fundamental shift in the balance of power between international business and governments? Susan Strange argues that the state is in retreat. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri invoke a very different conceptual framework to conclude, somewhat similarly, that sovereignty is migrating away from the state. Noreena Hertz and George Monbiot warn of the commanding power of corporations over the state, but Paul Doremus and his colleagues emphasize the continuing importance of the state and political culture. (See citations below.)

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Ulrich Beck’s Power in the global age provides a carefully constructed set of concepts and a language that should prove invaluable in advancing our understanding of politics in the age of community. Pointing to economic and technological changes I discussed in a previous blog entry, he argues that the age of the nation-state has been superseded by a cosmopolitan age, which he also calls the second modernity.
His point is that, as freer trade and modern communication technologies are making it easier and easier for money, corporations, goods, people and ideas to cross national boundaries, the ability of national states to control what goes on within their borders is diminishing. In this cosmopolitan age, the only means open to both states and civil society for defending their interests is to escape national confines through international political action.

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