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Skip to main content. Copy URL. International Theory : — Abstract Current economic and political developments spotlight the relationship between domestic and global governance and the impact of globalization on both. August 30, In the area of intellectual property rights patents, copyright, trademark law or the standardized principles of accounting, for example, globally-operating companies have demanded globally standardized types of instruments. To ensure the success of these demands they require the support of the state of establishment; states must also cooperate actively in the development and implementation of the legal standards.

Thus, globalization is not interpreted here primarily as supra-nationalization that approaches the state from the outside; here, globalization is denationalization, but in a specific sense: the old components of the national legal system are used, but endowed with a new, global logic. Important driving forces in this process of reprogramming are national legislators, the judiciary and executives, internationally operating companies and markets that are nevertheless settled in the nation state.

By means of social practices, they contribute to the fact that those practices and institutions that are based in the national are furnished with a new, global logic. Neither this logic nor its key components simply come only from outside. Sovereignty-centered thinking assumes that that entity which is furnished with the blessing of sovereignty — in this case the state — appears in a uniform and self-contained manner.

This assumption results in the idea that the central challenge today is the relation of the state to supra-national institutions — in other words, to external powers that question its self-determination. Both the assumption and the challenge postulated should be treated with skepticism. On the one hand, the state has gone through a change in form. What we can observe are embedded and networked practices of governing, with which the state remains a central actor, indeed is part of this supposedly external power — even though it does not act in a uniform or self-contained manner, from a center.

Rather, it has transnationalized in the form of these government networks and administrative cooperation. Today, such a transnationalized state plays a decisive role in designing the livelihood of many people. But how does it do this? This raises a second objection — the question of what the central challenge actually is today. The key terms for this are de- and re-regulation, privatization and the marketization of public functions. The state acts, but the context of meaning of its actions has changed.

The balance between work and capital, redistribution of income and wealth, social peace or the common good was replaced by principles of market conformity, such as competitiveness, locational advantage, flexibility, cost pressure, privileged access to capital, technological control or entry into rich and wealthy markets. According to Streeck, the consolidation state — the new state model of the incipient 21st century — is a product of state-political denationalization, internationalization and economic liberalization, which is primarily obligated to securing market conformity and which de-democratizes politics.

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A structure, incidentally, that plays no role either for Cohen or for Grimm. Drawing this question into the center is the third feature of sovereign-centered political theorizing.

Impact of Globalisation 2015

Since mid-early modern times, this supreme power has been the state; for Cohen, it remains the state; for Grimm, the place of supreme power is vacant, but his thinking remains sovereignty-centered. What marks the essence of the idea of a supreme power is that all other powers — economic or civic — are thought to be enclosed and subordinate. This in turn has consequences, since the actions of these subordinate powers are regarded as less significant and less important than that which the supreme power, the state, does.

To what extent is that view problematic? The economy is therefore at best an object of political action. Private economic actors are not considered at all. What states and global governance institutions do is political, and political is equated with significant, important, primary; economic, in contrast, is equated with secondary, private, profane. Hidden behind this, of course, is also a normative program, namely that of the democratic self-determination of society through the state. But there is a high price to be paid for this program: The political power of private-economic actors remains invisible.

Despite the political influence and participation of global private economic actors in the generation of national and international law, global standards, the filing of international contracts, ordinances and regulations, they cannot be captured conceptually by sovereignty thinking. To the extent to which this separation is upheld and the economic materiality of global relationships of power and rule are not considered in conceptual terms, sovereignty thinking also remains blind to those causes that prevent the realization of their normative postulates in the world.

Wendy Brown, on the other hand, in her considerations on sovereignty, strives to capture this economic materiality of global relationships of power and rule. To conceive of capital as a uniform and self-contained sovereign entity leads to an under-complex analysis that ignores the struggles in the field of political economy and fails to grasp the actual democratic problem.

At the heart of the transition from historic cost to current fair value accounting lie fundamentally different views on the role and function of companies in a society.

The decision to implement fair value accounting proved fatal during the financial crisis of —8, and like many others it was taken within the established channels and institutions to which citizens generally are denied access. There are disputes, even political battles within these private organizations and among the involved actors, producing winners and losers with tremendous political and economic costs, although the public is neither aware of it nor involved. In short: There is no uniform and self-contained sovereign entity, named capital, with a homogenous will overpowering all other interests.

The problem is of different shape. The organization and composition of our economic coexistence is not a matter of public debate and struggle in which political alternatives become visible as competing options on the political stage and with the need to justify and convince. Rather, political decision-making and standard-setting is outsourced to semi-public or even private organizations such as global law firms, consultancies, expert commissions, standard-setting agencies.

In addition to the weaknesses described in the analysis of globalization processes, sovereignty-centered theorizing also conspires against the emancipatory potential of denationalization. At the same time, however, this claim misjudges the fact that in many cases the selloff of natural resources, the granting of mining rights, the establishment of so-called special economic zones, especially within so-called less developed countries LDC and least developed countries LLDC , or the regulation of patents often occurs on behalf of the state and its sovereign power of disposition.

Without doubt, there are political conflicts in which the state and its political and economic elites act against the economic interests or large corporations. Shalini Randeria has worked out that the political will of the cunning states to use the options that are open to them, has also dwindled. Randeria argues that the Indian state did not use the flexibility granted to it by the Doha Declaration on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights and public health , in this case with regard to pharmaceutical patents.

In line with the work by Rangnekar, 96 she establishes that the provisions of the new Indian patent law were more due to internal pressure than external constrictions. The Indian state could have passed somewhat different laws, even within the WTO framework, and could have exhausted the flexibility of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights TRIPs to the full, in order to better protect the interests of small farmers and consumers of medication.

Globalization and Sovereignty: Why do States Abandon their Sovereign Prerogatives?

Instead, it gave greater priority to the interests of powerful sections of its pharmaceutical industry. For these do not only rely on the production of generic substances for export, but also want to share the advantages of outsourced clinical research and the opportunities of the global marketing of cheap Indian medication with western competitors.

Sovereignty does not necessarily serve as a bulwark against selloffs; in many cases the sovereign state serves the private-economic imperative. The actual problem therefore seems to be the lack of democratic process. Political protest and resistance by indigenous populations against the economic exploitation of their habitat is therefore usually directed against the political and economic elites of the country, who are blessed with this sovereignty, and who consent to this exploitation and profit from it, rather than against the respective TNC itself.

In the process, they receive support from transnational activist networks. And it is precisely against these transnational activist networks that sovereignty-centered thinking is aimed. These days political protest is increasingly transnationalized. For by these means, certain variants of transnational activism still imagine and fight for a political notion of humanity and globality that contests the compromise, fabricated behind closed doors and in line with the logic of global capitalism, between sovereign nation states, government networks, TNCs, IOs and — still in some cases at least — a few highly professional NGOs.

Without such an alternative imaginary — the global res publica, the world, humanity — there is no global politics in the strictest sense. The state receives support in this undertaking from sovereignty-centered political theorizing. Sovereignty thinking is state-centered and furthers, by these means, the history of state power.


Globalization vs. National Sovereignty

For sovereignty-centered political theorizing, therefore, humanity cannot be an independent political concept, but only a derivation of the smallest common denominator of sovereign nation states that are willing to cooperate, enriched by a moral minimum consensus. The concept of sovereignty is not a political concept like any other, but holds a special status: it is a foundational concept, a worldview-conceiving political concept.

Certainly, there have been philosophers, legal and political thinkers time and again who have thought about alternatives to sovereignty thinking, or who have described political events and experiences as standing in an explicit frontline position to sovereignty-centeredness. In political and legal thinking, however, they have not been able to prevail as they have failed to offer an adequate alternative to the bonding capacity of the concept of sovereignty. Sovereignty as a meta level concept is so hard to shake precisely because it integrates a whole series of historical experiences, normative expectations and hopes, functional relations and systemic-structural interdependencies into a systematic theoretical and practical functional and meaningful context, and bundles them up into a relation that is given and can be experienced only through the concept.

And although the content of the concept has changed, the form of sovereign-centered theorizing, its conceptual structure has remained untouched. Its key features are the binary separation of internal and external, the postulation of a uniform and self-contained sovereign entity, and the search for the supreme. It is precisely the continuity of this conceptual structure that has contributed to the fact that not only our political, social and legal thinking and imaginary has been shaped for centuries by the logic of sovereignty thinking, but also and above all our political practices.

Theoretical criticism can only make limited changes to these practices. Nevertheless, my main concern is to point out how deficient a sovereignty-centered analysis of politics in globalized times really is, what it fails to get into view, and what fictions it perpetuates. There seems to be a need for a theory of state that can do justice to the transnational and network-like character of state action — both empirically and normatively. Such a theory must reflect comprehensively the complex tension between the state as a self-contained entity and the state as a network-like governing practice.

Such comprehensive reflection appears to be difficult to reconcile with the insistence on sovereignty and the associated idea of the state as the bastion of the common good and of democratic self-determination. Instead, we have to grasp — also conceptually — the normative ambivalence of the state in the age of globalization. Moreover, the phase of political transformation that has been underway for some time is still by and large opaque from the perspective of state theory; in it, however, a strongly deductive formation of theory and concept would appear to have become exhausted.

One alternative might be to describe anew the practices of the political and to reconstruct and criticize them from its own intrinsic logic. In the process, we should not shy away from taking up or creating new concepts — concepts that are formed in the confrontation with and criticism of the practices and structures of governing on the one hand, and those of political protest and activism on the other.