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The state of globalization: towards a theory of state transformation

By Martin Shaw


This article argues that it is erroneous to counterpose globalization to the state, as many increasingly sterile debates in the social sciences have done. Globalization does not undermine the state but includes the trans- formation of state forms: it is both predicated on and produces such transformations. The reason for the false counterposition of the state and globalization is that the debates rest on inadequate theorizations of the state, and it is these which the article seeks to address. This article is there- fore in two parts. In the first, I seek to identify the dominant contemporary form of the state not as the nation-state, but as a massive, institutionally complex and messy agglomeration of state power centred on North America, western Europe, Japan and Australasia, which I call the western state. I argue that since 1989, the global role of this western state has undergone further important transformations and it is becoming possible to see the western state as a global form of state power. In the second part, I ask how the globally dominant western state can be understood in terms of state theory, and argue that we should under- stand this state form as an emergent global state. I discuss Michael Mann's definition of the state, and take the four elements of this in turn, arguing that the emergent global state can be considered a state in these terms. I argue, however, that an additional fifth criterion needs to be added if we are to make sense of the situation of overlapping levels of state power, i.e. that a state must be to a significant degree inclusive and constitutive of other forms or levels of state power (of state power in general in a particular time and space). Recognizing that the inclusiveness and constitutiveness of the various transnational forms of state are not easy to determine, I conclude that the global state is evidently a problematic level of state power, whose western core remains in many ways stronger than the global form itself. I conclude by explicating the nature of contemporary nation-states and the great variation in their relations with global state power

Publisher: International Political Economy
Year: 1997
DOI identifier: 10.1080/096922997347724
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