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If we pause to ask ourselves, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, which political institutions constitute the world’s major depositories of power, we would have to reply: states. It is the same answer that any seasoned observer would have given in 1815. In the course of the last two centuries, state structures have only increased in the scale and scope of their dominion—a fact strikingly illustrated by a glance at the political map. With the exception of Antarctica, the entire land-surface of the planet is now divided into the bright, bold blocks of colour that denote states’ territory. If the United States is green, Canada is red: while inside states’ borders, the colours are homogeneous. The cartographical convention testifies to a certain political reality: however mixed the human experience—social, religious, ethnic—within its borders, unitary state power predominates overall. It is states that have armed forces; control police; mint currency; permit or refuse entrance to their lands; states that recognize citizens’ rights and impose their duties. Since states began, there has also been a slow, complex interaction between those who held power and those who were subject to it. In part of the world—fortunately, a growing one—the arbitrary use of government force is now subject to the checks and balances of a wider political community. The state has evolved, under the pressure of citizens, to become not only a tool of dominion but also an instrument of service. Never in the history of the human race has there been such a successful structure, one which has, de facto, become of crucial importance to all the inhabitants of the planet. No single religion—not even all the religions put together—has ever held as much power as the world’s states possess today.
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- Peter Gowan: Neoliberal Cosmopolitanism A reigning doctrine of international relations proclaims that, despite everything, the world is entering a new epoch of hopeful cosmopolitanism—narrow state sovereignty being overcome by the common and, where necessary, armed resolve of a ‘Pacific Union’ of democratic nations. What then of the asymmetric hegemony of the United States?
- Timothy Brennan: Cosmopolitanism and Internationalism Cosmopolitan ideals have a pedigree that needs to be traced by cultural theory as well as political science. Can world government shake off its imperialist heritage, or does international solidarity still require the nation-state?
- Geoffrey Hawthorn: Running the World on Windows Reviewing Daniele Archibugi’s case for a ‘cosmopolitical democracy’ in NLR 4, Geoffrey Hawthorn argues nation-states can neither be wished away, nor shadowed in parallel by a global civil society: they remain the Hobbesian precondition of a realistic politics, which Kantian prospects set aside at their peril.
- Fredric Jameson: Globalization and Political Strategy The all-purpose G-word, as slogan and euphemism, needs taking apart. Fredric Jameson dismantles its different components—technological, political, cultural, economic and social—and reassembles them into a coherent target for collective resistance.
- Demos and Cosmopolis As representative democracy spreads it is steadily thinning: the nation-states that have been its traditional framework are losing much of their power. Popular sovereignty can only be recovered, Daniele Archibugi argues, in a cosmopolitan order antithetical to its simulacrum in the ‘international community’ of today.
- David Chandler: 'International Justice' Every military expedition by the West now dons the mantle of human rights. What happens to international law when justice is the name of power? The charade of NATO’s tribunal in The Hague.