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The Nation-State Today: Arguments by Mann and Meadwell Essay

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Updated: Jun 21st, 2020

The Nation-State Today

Mann (2002) thinks that contemporary changes are weakening the nation-state. The author considers the social significance of national and international networks against the increase in global networks and their influence on local matters. Mann (2002) explains that the rise the nation-state happened alongside the increase in transnational power relations that would challenge the existence of the nation-state. The author provides an example of nations in Western Europe that were caging due to increased powers of national and international institutions. At the same time, trade was booming across the countries.

Trade, in this case, was a transnational activity that was advanced by the nation-state. However, Mann (2002) adds that the nation-state expansionism of Western Europe ended in the 1960s after handing over freedom to colonies and creating self-identifying nation-states. From these facts, Mann (2002) argues that the growth of the nation-state is related to the growth of the transnational capitalism and cultural identities. The two grow and dependent on each other. Moreover, they enjoy relative autonomy. However, the continued increase of transnational capitalism and cultural identities will keep on overshadowing the nation-state because the nation-state is no longer expanding.

Mann (2002) informs readers that although contemporary nations qualify as nation-states, a significant number of them only have control over boundaries and territories. Even that control is diminishing; nation-states can only claim to be true nation-states as a goal, rather than a reality. The tight control of boundaries and territories occurred during the colonization period when nation states defended and demarcated their colonies and countries. However, decolonization and the collapse of the Soviet Union have been critical events that challenge the nation-state. These events support the growth of capitalism. Moreover, capitalism and its commodity exchange feature is becoming global and causing even the most rigid nation states to embrace loss in their power over domestic, economic affairs.

Meadwell (2002) observes that the nation-state is based on its independence and legitimacy. The author explores the existence and transformation of stateless nations, saying that the nation state survives when it can offer sufficient security to maintain peace and defend its constituents. If these two factors miss, then a nation-state risks losing part of itself. The author explores factors that cause and affect secession. One of them is an increase in warfare within a state, which then undermines the central rule. However, for such warfare or tendencies of conflict to arise, the central state must be unwilling or unable to control dissident voices within its system.

With this argument, Meadwell (2002) brings in the idea of national institutions that help to maintain order and peace. The author describes the historical formation of states in peaceful ways and the formation of states in violent ways. The author provides sufficient background to demonstrate that nation-states are going to survive using Bangladesh and Quebec as examples.

However, even as they survive, nation-states will increasingly experience secession forces within them as people embrace identities and realize that the opportunity cost of seeking their nation is no longer as high as they feared. Changes in globalization that guarantee small states’ ability to survive and thrive in the global arena make it feasible for fragments within nation-states to seek secession. In addition, Meadwell (2002) explains that in many cases, nation-states lack a history that is independent of their current formation or current regimes. Thus, they remain fragile. Moreover, Meadwell (2002) discounts ethnicity as a cause of secession calls and shows that ethnic groups only seek to manage the existing state for prosperity and survival; they are not interested in geographic boundaries most of the times.

How to their arguments complicate our assumptions about ethnic war, as well as about the Westphalia system?

The Westphalia system provides a reliable security and sovereignty of nations and causes its members to cease considering conflict among themselves. On the other hand, the ethnic war is assumed to be due to the need for cessation of particular groups. However, as Meadwell (2002) argues, ethnic war is mostly about survival and dominance at a social level, without inclinations to form separate states. This statement does not support the argument by Mann (2002) that the world is conflict-ridden. Mann (2002) refers to the conflicts between nation-states, which go contrary to the Westphalia system. On the contrary, Meadwell (2002) considers conflicts within nation-states, which serve to weaken the states. At the same time, Meadwell (2002) refers to the conflict that leads to war and conflict of ideologies that persists in times of peace.

Thus, the task of determining the conflict that threatens the nation-states and the one that supports the strengthening of the nation-states is hard. Nation-states grow their power through conquest, yet they have to suppress forces of secession continuously as they enjoy this power. As Mann (2002) explains, the traditional suppression will only work for matters that the nation-state controls.

Both Mann (2002) and Meadwell (2002) opine that transnational forces are increasingly challenging the sovereignty of nation-states. The forces are placing a voice on nationalist ideologies among the groups that intend to form their states and those that are no longer interested in being accommodated by other states. At the same time, transnational forces are also causing increased dependence on global features like trade and social identities that are causing people to rely less on state-controlled ways of living. Even though it seems that the increase in globalization will kill the nation-states, examples from other parts of the world outside the Northern Europe area show that nation states are strengthening. This complicates the thesis held earlier that globalization will eventually dethrone nation states from their relevance. The augments by Mann (2002) on global interaction networks disapprove the assumption of a dominant authority governing global geopolitical affairs under the Westphalia system as sufficient to present a single outcome for human interactions across the globe.

Therefore, what is needed is to shed some light on what do these two authors think about the nation-state and argue about their arguments as it says above?

An empirical approach that tests all the theses presented by the two authors is needed for shedding more light. Additionally, there is a need for understanding the complexities of human interactions, independent of national, local, and transnational factors of governance. In the case of Meadwell’s argument on nation-state stabilities, there is a need to explore the point of secession as an independent feature from nation-state internal relations.

That way, it will be possible to determine whether the secession movements that lead to the increase in the number of nation-states are actually a threat or a contribution to relevance of nation-states in the current world setting. A unified thesis statement on the works of the two authors in the context of international relations can also assist to bring out the essential message of their respective works. Given that Meadwell (2002) promotes accommodation as a solution for dealing with secession and sustaining the power of nation-state, it would be appropriate to consider additional ways that accommodation is playing in containing other threats to the nation-state. Thus, the four threats provided by Mann (2002) should be incorporated into the accommodation theory to constrain political nationalists. Surprisingly, Meadwell (2002) explains that nationalists are threats to the nation-state, while it appears that Mann (2002) argues on the contrary.

The approach taken by Mann (2002) is that transnational forces are the main impediments of nation-states. Therefore, when nationalists are not part of a transnational force, they are less inclined to cause a significant threat. To some extent, both authors have a valid point. However, for clarification sake, a unified theory or thesis would suffice to explain how nationalists can avoid being transnational in their approach and how the accommodation of political nationalists may persist, even as nation-states succumb to loss of control of society’s ideology as people interact independently in a globalized world.

In the end, the outcome of a nation-state remains unknown, and the arguments by the two authors are only potential explanations. Moreover, the authors are limited by the approaches, with each of them having to defend their chosen procedure for looking at the fate of the nation-state. Their conclusions are valid because they touch on every aspect of their argument on the way nation-states are coping with internal and external challenges to their existence. However, relying on one line of explanation seems insufficient when analyzing the two authors. It is appropriate to introduce a unified theory that would incorporate all the parameters explored by the two authors to shed more light on their arguments.


Mann, M. (2002). Has globalization ended the rise of the nation-state? In J. A. Hall, & T. Paul, International order and the future of world politics (pp. 237-261). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. Web.

Meadwell, H. (2002). Stateless nations and the emerging international order. In International order and the future of world politics (pp. 262-282). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. Web.

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