Are we witnessing the end of the Nation state?

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Are we witnessing the end of the Nation state?

Unread postby PopTart » 2 April 2022, 16:37

At the turn of the millenium, the world was in an unusual place. China was just about to join the WTO, Russia it seemed had embraced democracy and was finally joining the west, war between major nations seemed a thing of the past. Western liberal democracy had seemingly won out and a new age was dawning, one of globalism, equality and prosperity.

Fast forward to today and things couldn't be more different. Gone is the fleeting optimism of the turn of the century and in it's place, all around the world there is upheaval and change. Nowhere is unaffected it seems. In the west old divisions are being fed fuel for the fire of conflagration. Concepts such as liberty and identity are flash points for arguments in both the public and political spheres. Political extremism is growing faster than it has done, in decades.

In the less developed world, former colonies are shrugging off, or trying to, the last vestiges of imperial power, while contending with corruption, climate change and factionalism across ethnic, religious and cultural lines, sometimes literal ones drawn on a map.

In the East, China is a powerful example of an alternative to western democracy, an authoritarian form of political capitalism, that generates stability and prosperity, with none of the irritations of divergent political ideologies or narratives getting in the way of progress and in the west, elements of both the left and right have sat up to take notice.

In all of this, it would be easy to look at the nation states, particular the noteworthy ones in the news right now, American, China, Russia, the EU, India and think that, nationalism is once more resurgent and governments are larger and more swollen with power than ever before.

But what real power do governments really have in modernity? For the most part, they still hold all the executive and legislative powers, that can be turned against their own peoples or those of their neighbours around the world.

There can be no doubt that the likes of Xi Xinping, as one of the most powerful men in the world, he commands the loyalty or atleast, the obedience of over 1.2 billion people and the goliath economy they represent, still hold considerable power. But Putin has, I think demonstrated, just how vulnerable, even a first rate, political and military power can be, to what might best be described, as the corporate estate.

Big business.

We now live in an age, where big tech and big business, often have budgets that are fast catching up with national governments. Perhaps not the US or China, but certainly smaller nations. Worse still, these entities are creating self contained eco-systems, that act as wealth and influence generators, removed from the wider marketplace and political landscape, yet exact massive impacts upon them.

Western politicians are increasingly making policy based on the 24hr news cycle. Mainstream media across the globe, through consolidation, is now owned by an ever smaller number of multinational corporate interest groups. They are the ones setting the tone and direction of political discourse and through platforms like Facebook, Twitter and instagram, they shape the attitudes of society and culture aswell, harvest data for research and analysis purposes, aswell as wealth generation through data sales. A person who shops primarily through amazon, isn't just changing marketplace, they have been removed from the traditional marketplaces, that capitalism and traditional democracy, relies upon. More and more, people, institutions and even politicians are beholden to these platforms, and the ever decreasing number of super wealthy people who lord over them, for access, for information and for support.

Putin's war in Ukraine has been disastrous due in no small part, to terrible communications and low moral within the Russian military. But the global reaction, while being relatively united, in words at any rate, the largest and perhaps most significant impact, is seemingly going to come from the vast ocean of corporate interests, that have voluntarily chosen to withdraw from Russia, from chip manufacturers, to financial investment firms and digital software providers. Every aspect of Russia's economy is being crippled, not by the sanctions imposed by national governments, but by the denial of services, products and supplies, upon which, even the Russian Federation, can't survive without, for any meaningful length of time.

It is a rare moment, in which we see how truly powerful corporate interests have become, not least because we live in a globalised, interconnected world, so sophisticated, that it can't function without that interconnectivity. But because corporate multinationals, are the only ones best placed to leverage those systems to their maximum extent, where even national governments, can not.

If we are entirely honest, most of our western governments are easily swayed by the directon of peoples mood (or the perception of it) as found on Twitter or face book. A form of techno-popularism, that is controlled, influenced and even directed, by the companies that control said platforms. When we are increasingly reliant on an ever decreasing number of companies for the provision of those things we now feel our lives would be unbearable to live without, people with whom we take out our mortgages, do our shopping, rely upon for our communication, our information, our health care and with whom we entrust all the details of our lives. Can we really be said to be citizens of any one nation state? Or are we not more akin to tenant farmers, leasing the neccesities of life from a quasi fuedal overlord? So this overlord doesn't have a banner or a house sigil, it has a corporate logo and snappy slogan. But the effect is the same.
How long before our governments become little more than vestigial window dressing? Many would argue they already are. Who genuinely feels that it matters which party they vote for? Increasingly, the issues that matter are being decided, not in Senates or Parliaments, but in board rooms or executive offices. Indeed, which issues are even discussed, can be decided by an algorithm, written at the behest of a big tech firm whose goals are rarely magnanimous.

What of China people might say, but is China any different? I'd say the CCP is a multinational business. It is one that masquerades as a traditional government, but it is run by a ruthless CEO, it has shells companies, it acts as an Umbrella company, underwhich a multitude of other companies operate, taking their lead from above. This company has a culture of nationalism, it's an ethno-capitalist enterprise, with all the sinister overtones one might expect.

So are we witnessing the end of an era? Do you agree that we are seeing a paradigm shift in social and political structure or do you think that something else is afoot?

What's your take?
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Re: Are we witnessing the end of the Nation state?

Unread postby pozzie » 2 April 2022, 18:56

I absolutely see where you are coming from. Too bad we can't rely on the Corporate-State to fight corruption; often it's just as corrupt when not well-regulated. If a given corporation doesn't have to keep the pawns happy by selling them burgers or short pants, then how does one mobilize for change? How many powerful corporations actually only face other corporations, share board members, can 'buy' what's left of political power? It's a sad turn and an even worse state of affairs.

In some matters, I'm not a huge fan of the nation/state we've inherited from the last two centuries. Talking less about those states that are the impulse of a single ethnic group, though they too have problems to solve related to equality for minority groups. However, the colonial imposition of national boundaries isn't something I have much love for. And while supernational governments might improve regional cooperation, I don't ultimately see them as an answer. Bigger isn't better in countries: only potentially more powerful if the state can convert that size into economic production and military prowess.

However, I've no idea what comes next other than to say, whatever makes the rich even richer will likely win in the short-term, especially as individuals grow increasing disconnected from a sense of place. Wonder how soon before companies have more workers doing their jobs remotely. They wouldn't necessarily even need to live in the same country, would they? (Just not sure that they've thought much about that possibility yet.) Is someone a citizen if they live their entire life based on electronic communications and besides friends/family, their only contact with 'locals' is when someone swings buy to drop off dinner or a package? Would it even make any sense for, say, for Amazon or Nike to be broken up along national borders to fight this trend? A trend that allows individuals to join whichever corporate-state they like, at least as long as competition still exists.

That said, not sure there's ever been a nation that ever existed for the common person. Sure, the populace may have found ways to make the government more responsive to their needs, wants, and desires, but aren't all governments really created to protect the interests of the already powerful? Has the shift come from large land-owning families who were able to force their feudal tenants to obey and fight to families that have pooled their wealth to form corporations?
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