Is the state obsolete?– Chiara Gabellieri

War makes states. This is the argument author Charles Tilly contends. Tilly states that in its infancy, the sovereign state and state building seemed to have been a result rather than a goal of war and the pursuit of power. The states that remain today are ones that withstood the test of time and were strong enough develop into unified and self-governing entities. When it was first established, this type of fundamental state building in the 17th century was rather simple—economics during this time was much less complex than it is today. In its developmental stages, the state seemed to be outward looking in attempts for self-improvement and the acquirement of power and resources, while today state building has changed to become much more established with an emphasis on the development of infrastructure and economic relations. Furthermore, today, state building has had to adapt to the new international political system in order to accommodate globalization and the modern, changing world. This evolution and modernization begs the question of whether the world still functions suitably being organized into established autonomous states (Tilly).

In his article, “Sovereignty,” Krasner agrees with the sentiments that sovereign states still have a significant influence in world politics. Rather being on the decline, he believes that the political landscape surrounding the sovereign state system is simply changing. Krasner points out these changes by explaining the areas where the sovereign state has become weak and other areas where it is improving. Krasner claims that globalization is “changing the scope of state control” in regards to monetary policy and national citizenship. He gives the example of countries within the European Union that share a currency. In addition, he states that globalization has weakened the state in terms of its citizens, which have become more mobile and nationally diverse. He states that sovereignty has increased in areas such as taxation and expenditures and social welfare programs (Krasner).

This question of whether the state is on the decline is one that many IR theorists have disputed due to rapid globalization and the introduction of many new non-state actors that play a crucial role in world politics. To answer this question, it is important to understand the current state system is not static. Given much consideration, many agree that the international state system is changing and evolving rather than declining. Many argue that the emergence of non-state actors such as IGO’s, NGO’s, and multinational corporations have challenged the autonomy of states. While these entities can certainly influence policy, they have not completely undermined state sovereignty. States still have much more power and authority to influence world politics due to the lack of any type of enforcement mechanism or practical legitimacy from non-state actors. Although there have been many challenges and changes, the state sovereignty has not wavered– there are simply new factors and changes to consider in international politics today. So, is the state obsolete? It seems that although times have changed, the state still maintains its relevancy on this developing world stage.


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