Globalization Chucking Out Sovereignty Ideals?

Posted on August 3, 2010 in GlobeScope

By Abhirup Bhunia:

Is the demise of sovereignty at the heart of globalization? It is an old question-mark newly positioned. Political scientists have run over the argument time and again but like all other debates which are characteristically long-drawn-out, this one hasn’t died out either — indeed in light of the recent global confabs, the argument has been revived. Two of the most popular international deliberations on entirely dissimilar issues coming about concurrently (the world economy slump and Af-Pak) have, however, drawn out one similar contention — does the doctrine of globalization embark on where principles of sovereignty have ceased to exist?

It has been in the vital interests of the international community that nations in the past have shown prudent readiness in relinquishing some or most of their much cherished sovereignty to the world bodies. But in wake of recent global events, fears of having made too much of globalization have cropped up. Yet there are incidents which point to the contrary. The American war in Afghanistan that resulted in petering out of the Taliban, to whom the Americans now mull talking to, has thrown light on the necessity of having an internationalized outlook to contend with large-scale troubles. Terrorism, some say, has integrated and brought together the world community since almost every nation sees benefit in the extinction of terrorist outfits. Having said that, in any case, even terrorism has in place, a highly globalized system — the global jihadi network.

With the full-blown concept of globalization having suffused all corners of the world, nations have coped with increasing demands to have their sovereignty curtailed. International law has been in place since ages, but the mere disrespect meted out to it is proof of its powerlessness. Political scholars have argued that such a supervising law, not only came in way of sovereign laws of the land, but has also shown utter ineptitude in stopping, or at least effectively dealing with, wars. But the model of having an ingrained system of laws governing the behavior of states, towards each other and in connection with international proceedings, has been kept alive by way of international institutions, most importantly the United Nations. Today the United Nations can impose sanctions on Iran, enforce similar interdicts on North Korea, urge Pakistan and India to sign the NPT/CTBT, and so on, owing to the increasing willingness of the nations to cede sovereignty to a body that will oversee nations’ performances. At present, the clout exercised by the Group of Twenty, the United Nations Security Council, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the rest is unmatched and the nations have prepared themselves to face up to newness instead of trumpeting sovereignty, which is, by all means, judging by the current temperament, a worn-out theory.

With the stringency of borders fading away and the nations opening up to each other; with tariffs being lowered and trade being facilitated, nations have rightly come to believe that no strategy can be formulated and no effect expected to roll up, in isolation today, not the least policies related to economy. The economic failure of a nation-state automatically endangers others, not only in immediate neighborhood, but elsewhere too in the long run, unless outstandingly wise monetary policies are adopted. With the foundation of capital accounts by means of which finances flows across borders with graceful ease, the dependency of a nation’s growth on foreign investments, and finally, the waning away of borders thanks to the advancement in technology-aided international transportation, the fate of the countries’ economic boom and bust have become interwoven. When the term ‘international price’ (which is decided by global markets) is conveniently used by policymakers as the rationale for skyrocketing prices of foodstuff, petroleum and the likes, in third world countries, there is little scope of disbelief that internationalization of economics, finances and banking have put classical or even contemporary definitions of sovereignty out of place.

The foundation of, by nations and their affiliations to, local or regional bodies meant to work together in the interests of peace and stability of the region are not only answers to the inevitability of the globalization model, but also promoters of the latter. While the SAARC’s and the BRIC’s may be the talking point given the shift of focus on emerging economies, the precedent was set by European Union. The EU and its unified monetary policy, which is overseen by the European Central Bank, maintains a common currency while minimizing a nation’s own way of handling a crisis. Then again, each time a nation-state suffers a sovereign debt, like Greece has in recent times, it jeopardizes its associates under the union that comprises independent nations. With trade barriers lifted and accordingly free trade pacts signed at ostentatious ceremonies, economic impacts have been spreading like adamantly endemic viruses. Not to mention, the phenomena of smuggling and trafficking that come through as part and parcel of globalization.

At the same time military deals like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the erstwhile Warsaw pact and now an abstract called ‘counter-terrorism’ which is signed almost between every two nations when their heads meet, tightens up on the nation’s sovereign decision-making authority with regards to armed forces.

Today, the human rights group can charge an island — a sovereign land — with war crimes and demand action; today the multinational corporations who have an eye on worldwide profits can spell doom for a country in terms of employment and creation of jobs by their own policies which they lay down only with the purpose of facilitating maximum turnovers with the least pecuniary input (no wonder outsourcing does become a national issue and a poll decider); today the world can come together and corner a country for its alleged misbehavior and for sinking neighboring warships; today a nation can be pushed to the wall for supposedly having planned to build up clandestine nuclear armory and so forth. Among other questions that have been raised, the one that’s predominant is whether globalization at all does common good? Or does it add to the good in better times only to fall apart altogether in bad times? Is it a tool to show solidarity against common adversaries or one to corner a country? Is it the means by which cohesive policies are framed to cope with troubles or a device that vows to pull down the entire humankind thanks to its team spirit?

While answers can only be awaited, one is almost sure the time-honored sovereignty theories once designed by classical social scientists seem to be in high need to be rooted out even from history books given the pace of internationalization and the challenges to sovereign principles posed by it coupled with the ones that are posed by MNC’s and TNC’s, which are the treasured epitomes of the ever-expanding trend called globalization.

The author is Special correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz. Contact him at or follow him @abhirup1

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