Future Of Nation States

Last updated: December 26, 2016

Does the traditional nation state have a future?

Future Of Nation States
Yes because...

Seeing the world as a collection of separate nation states is still a meaningful way of understandin...

Seeing the world as a collection of separate nation states is still a meaningful way of understanding global affairs. Nation states remain powerful and will be able to resist the tide of globalisation for centuries. Human nature makes people want to stay separate and equal, keeping an identity and marking and defending a certain territory. No amount of internationalism can destroy the system that has worked successfully for almost 400 years.
No because...
In the near future the present framework of nation states will be replaced with loose groupings of countries, regional organisations, enormous transnational corporations, and international organisations. The European Union shows the way here, with groupings like NAFTA, ASEAN, and Mercosur increasingly important in the lives of many millions of people. Politics based on national identity died when technology, mass migration and economic changes created a new sense of global society. Globalisation is too strong to resist, and any nation that tries to do so will be pushed to the margins of the world order.

Future Of Nation States
Yes because...

Despite more international cooperation, people everywhere prize their distinct identities. The bigg...

Despite more international cooperation, people everywhere prize their distinct identities. The biggest threat to many modern states is not losing power to world bodies like the United Nations. Instead it is the desire of minorities within many trans-national countries to break away and set up small nation states of their own. From Kosovo to Scotland, and from the Basque country to Kurdistan, such nationalist movements seek self-determination for their people. So change is likely to mean more nation states, not less.
No because...
Growing federalism and regionalism in areas like Europe have proved that people can overcome their narrow concerns. This combination of federalism and regional government is likely to be replaced by global government in the future. After all, the major issues of the twenty-first century can only be tackled at a global level, for example economic change, terrorism and climate change.

Future Of Nation States
Yes because...

Globalisation has some benefits, but people do not wish to lose their own cultures. Literature, poe...

Globalisation has some benefits, but people do not wish to lose their own cultures. Literature, poetry, drama, music, food and other arts are closely linked to language and history. If these are washed away by the flood of globalisation, we will all be poorer for it. The nation state is best placed to protect this heritage because it is founded on a shared identity. And citizens will continue to identify most with their nation state because they also see it as essential protector of their unique way of life.
No because...
Globalisation is getting stronger and creating a common world culture. Trade means people all over the world now depend on each other for prosperity. Like-minded people now club together online. Everyone, everywhere buys the same brands, listens to the same music, and watches the same films. English is more and more spoken to aid communication, and many of the brightest young people choose to study abroad. This means nationalism is becoming less and less relevant. When your interests are so bound together, it makes sense to give more power to international bodies such as the United Nations which can take a truly global view.

Future Of Nation States
Yes because...

Nation states are not more warlike than any others. Pride in a national identity doesn’t lead to vi...

Nation states are not more warlike than any others. Pride in a national identity doesn’t lead to violence against other states. Most wars in the past were personal – launched by kings and dictators for their own glory rather than for nationalist reasons. Today most nation states are democratic, and democracies are usually peaceful by nature as citizens seldom vote to send their sons to die abroad.
No because...
The system of nation states is outdated. It leads to conflict and cannot guarantee global order. The whole idea of the nation state is that one group of people is different from another, and that they cannot live together. Fear of the “other” leads to conflict for territory, resources, national glory, etc. It also leads to wars as nation states seek to expand in order to include all those who share their language, even if they are living happily as minority groups within a neighbouring state. In these ways it justifies violence in the name of the nation and so undermines humanity’s goals of global peace and security.

Future Of Nation States
Yes because...

The nation state is the best way to promote democracy and good government. The idea that people wit...

The nation state is the best way to promote democracy and good government. The idea that people with a shared identity should be able to have their own state links logically to the idea that the people should have a say in how that state is run. Small regions or micro-states are too little to have strong economies and effective governments. They are unable to protect their people from outside threats and economic change. Huge international federations or unions are too distant from their citizens and cannot easily be held to account. The nation state is the best way to combine effective government with democratic accountability.
No because...
The idea of the nation state is bad for democracy and human rights. By linking the state to a particular culture, it gives greater importance to those who share that identity. Those who do not are often not allowed to play an equal part in politics and may be given fewer rights. They may even be seen as a threat and ill-treated. In extreme cases “ethnic cleansing” and genocide take place. And even those who share the national identity may suffer, because “protecting the fatherland” is seen as more important than the rights of any individual citizen.

Future Of Nation States
Yes because...

Nation states are the most natural kind of political institution. They have developed over many cen...

Nation states are the most natural kind of political institution. They have developed over many centuries as like-minded groups of people have banded together for protection and common support. From families, clans, and tribes, nations have come together to build political systems. This natural development adds great strength to nation states, as their people have great loyalty for their country, and its institutions have grown over time to reflect their unique character.
No because...
6. There is nothing natural about nation states, which are a fairly recent historical development. When you look closely, all so-called nations are less united than they first appear. Most are split by differences in religion, variations in language and culture, economic interests, etc. Often a national identity has been imposed from above on a range of different groups by a ruler keen to strengthen their own power. For example a British identity was created in the eighteenth century after the union of England and Scotland. If national identity can be created in these ways, it can change again in the future – there is nothing special about it which deserves protection.


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