Doubts on Generalizations on the Scope of State Control–Paul Gee Sung Park

      Krasner denounces the idea that the importance of sovereignty to national states has been in the decline. He argues that the practice of sovereignty has been adapting to emerging challenges. In fact, he argues that those challenges that are threatening sovereignty are not new at all. One of the challenges, globalization, Krasner argues, has actually strengthened state control and has had the effect of changing the scope of sovereignty, not the political structure itself.

     According to Krasner, states have learned through history that there are areas where state control is ineffective and sometimes even backfires. “Rulers have recognizes that their effective control can be enhanced by walking away from issues they cannot resolve,” Krasner argues. From the Peace of Westphalia, rulers learned their lesson that efforts to control religious freedom undermine social stability. In addition, due to recent volatile movements in populations, states have ceased to be adamant that one should pledge one’s loyalty to a single state.

     While this may be true in many Western democratic powers, Krasner fails to recognize that state control works differently in different settings. Every year the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the State Department of the United States releases an International Religious Freedom Report that analyzes the practice of religious freedoms in each country. This year, the report detected massive religious freedom violations in countries such as China and North Korea, which brought widespread criticism from Chinese authorities. Krasner should acknowledge the fact that to some states control over religious freedoms remains a key strategy for stability and state survival.

     In other countries the insistence of absolute loyalty of its citizens is preserved. In South Korea where the country is still technically at war against its northern counterpart, the country seeks to enforce loyalty on whoever wishes to claim citizenship. Facing shrinkage in military personnel due to recent low birth rates, South Korea passed a law that would require American citizens of Korean descent to compulsory military service. Had these men failed to relinquish their South Korean citizenship before they reached the age of 18, under this law, the country is able to enforce on them 2 years of military service against their will.

     Globalization has indeed brought changes in the practice of state sovereignty. It has brought new challenges and has altered what states are focused on. For instance, as Krasner shows, over time state focus has shifted from religious tolerance to minority rights to human rights. However, when considering the change in the scope of state control one should be careful to acknowledge the different state practices in different states.


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