Globalization has become one of the most (hotly) debated issues eliciting both great enthusiasm and deep concern. On the one hand, it is argued that it leads to economic growth and prosperity for nations while on the other side, many argue that it only increases the “disparity between the rich and the poor,”  and diminishes the power of the states. In this essay, I will analyze the question: how globalization challenges the liberal and realist assumptions regarding the state and what new security concerns globalization brings with it?
In other words, I will argue that globalization challenges the liberal and realist assumption of the state as being the main actor because in this era, neo liberal economic policies are being implemented all around the world which has lead to the rise in power and spread of multinational corporations. Globalization also challenges the liberal assumption of ‘absolute sovereignty’ of a state because the spread of communication technology has lead to the blurring of borders. And the economic interdependence amongst states raises questions about the state as being a unitary actor.
When it comes to security concerns, globalization has increased fears of states because due to the Internet, terrorists are better connected than they have been before, movement of people has increased fears of more ethnic violence and the spread of ‘dual use’ technology has further made states unsure about their true intended use. However, because globalization and the state are both central to the question, let us begin by first looking at both in order to get a better understanding?
Over the years, vast amount of literature has been written on the subject but even today there exists no clear definition of globalization primarily because it affects such a wide range of activities. Simply put, globalization is defined as “increasing and intensified flows between countries of goods, services, capital, ideas, information and people, which produce national cross-border integration of a number of economic, social and cultural activities. ” Thus, globalization is not a single process but a combination of different processes.
It is important to note, “unlike realists, liberals have regarded the consequences of [globalization and] trade … in positive terms”  because it (trade) helps to “further integrate the economies of the world into the international marketplace”  which leads to prosperity and growth and also reduces the chance of war. Realists on the other hand, argue that states should only cooperate with other states unless they have something to gain because in this “anarchic system of state structure,”  no one can be trusted and so, each state has to fight for its own self interest and survival. This then brings us to the state.
What exactly is the state? A state refers to a legal and political entity that performs the functions of governance over a territory. More specifically, a state is a legal structure that has absolute powers to govern over the population living within its defined boundary. Thus, the concept of the state is one that is concerned with territories and administration. Without a territory or the power to administer over its population, it seems that the entire notion of the state is brought into question because if for example, a entity does not have a defined territory, will it then still have the (legal) right to govern?
Globalization it is argued (by many) brings into question the role and power of the state due to deterritorialization and economic interdependence, which in turn challenges the liberal assumption of the state as having clearly defined borders. More specifically, Liberals naturally assume that countries have defined national borders within which governments are free to implement their own social and economic policies. However, globalization is largely associated with deterritorialization, according to which a growing variety of social and economic activities take place irrespective of the geographical location.
Meaning that in today’s world, information, commerce and technologies can all transfer/ move from one part of the world to another in mere minutes or days. For instance, people sitting in Africa can now through “global television networks see for themselves events occurring almost anywhere around the world” and technological advancements such as the Internet have made it possible for business people on different continents to also engage in electronic commerce. Thus, making this world truly global.
As a result, there no longer exist any borders in the traditional sense of a geographically defined location because the Internet has no borders, which in turn challenges the liberal assumption of states having clearly defined territories. The blurring of territories also in turn challenges the liberal notion of ‘absolute sovereignty. ’ Absolute sovereignty basically implies that no other state has the right to interfere in the affairs of other states. However, with the uninterrupted movement of communication, commerce, and information, how can it be said that the states still have absolute control in the traditional sense.
Globalization has simply lead to the transformation of the political and social system. This transformation does not imply that the states sovereignty is “on the edge of collapse,” but it in turn forces us to stop thinking of state power as something that “is indivisible and territorially exclusive. ” Due to the changing structure, it now makes more sense to “speak about the transformation of state power rather than the end of the state” because today just like in the past, the states are still in control of domestic policies such as taxation and the military.
What has changed is the nature of control, which as a result, is creating new pressures for states: economic forces being one of them. It is a well known fact that globalization is tied directly to neo liberal economic policies which put emphasis on the reduction of the role of the state, and economic liberalization. Meaning that globalization is identified as the rise in trade and international economic institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and etc.
This in turn it is argued, has lead to interconnectness and interdependence amongst states because today, national economies of every state are connected into one (big) global economy, in which international financial market and transnational companies dominate. As already noted, capital is more mobile today than it was 50 years back and thus, locates wherever economic advantage dictates. As a result, states are no longer considered to be the major players in international relations instead the multinational corporations (MNC’s) are.
This significantly challenges the realist view of the state as being the main actor in international relations. In other words, realists believe that in the international system, the states make their own decisions and are free to do as they wish. The motivating goal behind a states action is self-interest and that the states do whatever they believe “serves their interest. ”  Thus, they are unitary actors. However, globalization has taken economic interdependence to new levels. For example, today multinational corporations “account for at least 20 percent of world production and 70 percent of world trade and everyday $1.
5 trillion is traded on the foreign exchange markets. ” This gives us a clear idea of the growing strength of MNC’s and so, to say that states are unitary actors would be incorrect because MNC’s in some cases earn bigger profits than entire national budgets of countries and money in today’s world equals power. Therefore, in some cases MNC’s dictate polices while states act as instruments for adjusting national economies to their requirement. For example, in many developing countries, governments establish special economic zones for MNC’s within which the large corporations are (usually) free to follow their own rules and policies.
Economic interdependence also creates an environment where the effects in one states economy now has a trickling effect in the economies of other countries since each state relies on the other so heavily. For instance, countries are “increasingly consuming goods from abroad and also depend on components from overseas for their own production processes. ” So, they are forced in many ways to work together to pursue common policies, which can sometimes force many national governments “to adopt major changes in domestic policy.
” The Kyoto Protocol is a good example. Thus, once again undermining the realist view of the state as an autonomous actor. It is important to note that the transnational and interdependence school of thought completely agree with this argument because they too make the point that “the increasing linkages among national economies have made them more than ever sensitive and vulnerable to events in other countries. ” Moreover, they also argue “there are actors other than states which play a central role in international events [such as] multinational corporations.
” Let us now move on and look closely at the security concerns that globalization brings with it. The speed at which information can now travel worldwide is not only astonishing but more importantly, it also raises a number of security concerns for the state. Especially in today’s violent and terror stricken world because the Internet and other communication technology has now given “individuals and groups who would otherwise have little capability to impart their message or argument” to communicate with each other.
Meaning that now not only can people communicate with others all around the world but so can the various terrorist organizations. Terrorism is defined as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub national groups of clandestine agents, usually intended to influence audience. ” Due to the advancements in communication technology, they can now plan attacks in absolute secrecy and coordinate them with complete perfection. Examples of such terror attacks have been seen on the world trade centre, in Spain, and etc.
All these attacks were carefully planned outside the countries with the aid of various technologies one of them being the Internet. Thus, communication technologies have not only blurred territorial borders of nation states but have also increased security concerns for them (states). Moreover, due to globalization, the spread of technology has not only been communication based but also economic. In other words, companies from first world countries are increasingly moving to third world nations in search of lower production coasts, taking along with them advanced western technology.
Many of today’s technology are “dual use. ” Meaning that they can be used for both civilian and military purposes. This is a major security concern because the spread of such technologies to unstable countries means that no state can be 100 percent sure about the actual use of such technologies by other states. The realists would argue that such conditions of unpredictability have always existed. Although, this holds true to much extent, globalization has intensified the problem even more.
Finally, another major security concern for states is that globalization has also lead to the increase in the movement of people from one place to another. The rise in immigration and migration levels in the last few decades clearly supports this. However, what is of concern here is that when people move, “they take their cultures with them” and a number of wars have been fought in history over nationalist and religious beliefs. Due to globalization, the “sheer scale, intensity, speed, and volume of global cultural communications today is unsurpassed.
” Meaning that cultural interactions are increasing on a global scale and although this can be a good thing because it helps us better understand and appreciate the cultures of others, on the other hand, it ca lead to serious security concerns because states can never be certain as to when ethnic violence within its own borders might erupt. For example, after 9/11 many Muslims living in America reported that they were being harassed and some even feared for their lives.
To conclude, although globalization has brought with it economic prosperity and growth, it is also on the other hand brought with it growing wealth disparity between the rich and the poor. Moreover, it has challenged many liberal and realist assumptions regarding the state such as ‘absolute sovereignty,’ the state as being a unitary actor, and territory as being central to defining a state. On the security front, the states are faced with new security issues and it is imperative for them to find new and more effective ways in order to combat these threats because in today’s unstable world, we all know that anything can happen.