THE main phenomenon of the social mainstream is the institution of the state and its evolution (“shrinking”), associated with the increased activity of civil society and a reevaluation of the role of the market.
Postmodernists have no faith in the future of the state. They presuppose that institutions of social organization will be replaced by a network organization of individuals tied together culturally, informationally, and spiritually, with a higher level of identities.1
Their camp includes liberal thinkers who believe in the inevitable “supplanting [of] the primacy of the nation-state by transnational corporations and organizations, and eroding [of] local cultures and traditions through a global culture.”2
The social nature of humans is deeply rooted in the past, when collective forms of human existence were a sine qua none of survival, while the state was a “product” of social organization. In the pre-state era, it was supported by the “cage of norms” (customs, traditions, etc.).3
According to Thomas Hobbes, a main factor of the emergence of states was the “war of every man against every man,” as well as the implementation of the institution of private property.4 The legal space and the state ensure its inviolability.
The liberal order invariably produced a dichotomy between the interests of society and the institutions represented by the state on the one hand, and the rights and freedoms of the individual on the other. The logic of this social order in its extreme form is Libertarianism, with its slogan of “less government.”
The dichotomy of the interests of the state and of the individual crops up in a dialectical contradiction resolved with the help of effective mechanisms of mutual obligations of individuals and society as a whole (the “ethical state,” according to Paul Collier.)5
To Libertarians, the logic of the consensus between society and the state is full rights for the individual without full obligations in return – i.e., the individual is free from obligations to society and the state. An individual’s freedom is restricted only by the freedom of others. As Ayn Rand put it: “Do you ask what moral obligation I owe to my fellow men? None – except the obligation I owe to myself.”6
Today, a wider circle of agents of world politics are contributing to the evolution of the system of international relations. Its new agents (terrorist organizations, NGOs, transnational corporations, and others) seek to compete with the state, which remains the main moderator of the new agents’ social role.
Communitarians turned to civil consolidation as a means of balancing out the interests of the individual and society and overcoming the tension between individual freedom and social obligations.7
Thus, the existence of the state is based on two dialectically contradictory principles: conscious political unity, and representation reflected through government and effective management. The dominance of one principle over the other leads to social breakdown – anarchy or totalitarianism.
Religious, economic, cultural, trade, and other associations compete with the state for loyalty.8 Loyalty to the state was seen as one – but not the most important – type of loyalty.
Demassification and the increased complexity of societies should destroy the potential of national unity and, consequently, the unity of the state. But this could become a social reality only if the world becomes completely universalized and if all the identities that form the backbone of various peoples are erased. The universalization patterns have been objectivized at a level that did not affect national ethoses, while the fundamental “links” of ethnocultural constructs are on the rise in connection with the counteraction of aggressive Westernization.
The objective basis of the “sameness” of nationalities is leading to a growing and transforming role of the state – first, due to the complication of its representational role through the articulation of a social development strategy of a “multi-component” society; second, because its governing function and, as a result, its positioning in society have undergone radical change.9
Libertarians believe that social evolution must overcome the war of all against all and a single state with “echo chambers” of local network communities.
However, the changing architecture of planetary civilization is replacing the state not with “echo chambers” but with a new type of state that relies on network organizations and the reasonable behavior of the governed, not on a hierarchy of power.
The mechanisms of mutual obligations of citizens created by the state are gaining practical relevance due to the increased demassification of societies. The complex structure of social delimitation affects the process of state-building, which “becomes obvious in the functioning of political institutions in the first place. Their effectiveness depends in large part on the ability of the most influential social groups and political parties to achieve consensus and establish viable coalitions.”10
The new complexity of societies, resulting from the transition of most consolidating communication to the network space, significantly transforms governance mechanisms. Under the new conditions, “the instruments of governing network processes” prove to be much more efficient than traditional institutions (political parties, unions, NGOs, etc.). “These processes affect, to a great extent, the state as the bearer of the attributes of nationality and territoriality.”11
Bob Jessop denies the state the status of “disinterested servant of the common interest.”12 In this social reality, the traditional state can either accept its defeat in competition or adapt itself along the following lines:
• the denationalization of the state
• the destatization of politics
• the internationalization of policy regimes.13
His logic perfectly fits the format of the neoliberal mainstream that serves the global interests of international financial capital.14
At the same time, in the postmodern world, the acquisition by every individual agent in the social process of self-sufficiency and self-worth makes state-generated mechanisms of social consolidation indispensable.
The metaphor that makes it possible to imagine the state “inside” a social organism has two practical emanations:
• First, the consolidation of its interactive connection with society. The state becomes more effective as public support expands, and civil activity increases as the state becomes more effective.15
• Second, the creation of mechanisms that would keep in check the ambitions of the elite who invariably strive to establish “extractive” institutions to acquire exclusive social opportunities.
Thus, a state that is maximally integrated with society builds a strong and robust capacity for its own effectiveness in the network space.
Political unity, a status implemented by the state, is aggregated in the phenomenon of citizenship – i.e., public involvement in state affairs.
The unification of state and society in the common network space makes it possible to reproduce practices of direct democracy (the publication of laws with transparent procedures for their discussion, public opinion polls, etc.)
A state that masters the network space increases its responsiveness – its ability to objectively assess the needs of its population and take them into account in state activities.
The image of the state of the future is described by K. Reinhardt’s concept of an “activizing state”:
• the state as a guarantor (i.e., an institution that ensures the production and supply of certain services)
• the state as an institution that creates certain frameworks of social activity and encourages its citizens to deal with problems independently
• the state as an institution of supervision (implemented based on established rules) of social and especially economic activity
• the state that supplies society with work and services.16
Economic relations constitute a special aspect of relations between state and society. During the era of the “primary accumulation of capital,” mercantilism was the main idea and basic practice (15th-17th centuries); this was when protectionism as a system of state measures designed to
protect national interests appeared. The turn of the 19th century can be described as a time of economic liberalism defined as late modernity.
The socioeconomic phenomenon of the rent society that sums up the negative trends of financial capitalism is a sign that the stage of modernity is drawing to a close.
The maximal scale of markets is approaching the point where “the market model of capitalism is gradually transformed into a rental model in which the motivational factor of profit-seeking is replaced with rent-seeking or the redivision of markets by nonmarket measures. In this context, the role of the key economic agent belongs to the state, which distributes resources by nonmarket measures in the hierarchy of rental groups that form the skeleton of a new political community.”17
In this new social organization, businesses strive to acquire rental income “from natural resources, culture, power institutions, social capital, and the privatization of common knowledge.”18
The center that determines the structure, hierarchy, social roles, and, therefore, the size of the rent of each agent is the state, which regulates access and a guaranteed social status. Capitalism has already exhausted the geographical development factor of the planet, which means that the state and alliances play much greater roles in the competition for global rental flows.19
Today, the importance of the state in the economics of modernity is supplemented by the emerging contours of the state’s involvement in shaping the nonmaterial or “creative” economics (Alexander Buzgalin) of the future: Private capital is generally focused on short-term investments and is not ready to invest in fundamental science and promising research projects.
The social status of the state is, therefore, preserved by its involvement in the movement toward the formation of postmodern economics.
The dominant role of the state in international affairs that has been unquestioningly accepted since the Treaty of Westphalia is another important area of state activity.
The sovereign right of the state to establish forms of government without outside interference, its prerogative to speak and act in the name of the people, and its monopoly on legitimate violence in international relations are the main Westphalian principles that determine the actual and exclusive capacity of states in world politics.
Another argument in favor of the state-centric world order stems from international law, which regulates it.
In addition, states perform the exclusive function of protecting the cultural identities of their populations – a relevant task in the era of the “end of history” (Francis Fukuyama), the “clash of civilizations” (Samuel Huntington), and the export of liberal democracy, restoring pre-Westphalian principles in world politics. Amid the expansion of Western democracy and liberal values, the state remains the sole protector not only of sovereignty (its territorial and national attributes) but of its specific development and its exclusive path of “democratic transit.”
Today, a wider circle of agents of world politics are contributing to the evolution of the system of international relations. Its new agents (terrorist organizations, NGOs, transnational corporations, and others) seek to compete with the state, which remains the main moderator of the new agents’ social role. Some of those agents are opposed, others acquire special powers to fulfill their socially useful roles, while others are kept within certain limits.
We cannot deny that the institution of international cooperation is playing an increasingly greater role when dealing with problems that are beyond the competences of national sovereignties: They have the prerogative to set up supranational political institutions.
When writing of the leading role of the state in its relationships with transnational entities, Vito Tanzi asserts that while “many important decisions on the supply and demand for progressively more complex financial instruments were made abroad, at times in offshore centers or from tax havens, … [the] regulations that existed remained national and were directed toward specific national objectives.”20
Another reason to deny the state its future in the international arena is rising global threats that no state is equipped to handle on its own (safeguarding global security; fighting poverty, epidemics, and epizootics; preserving human habitats).
Obviously, the logic of those who criticize the state based on its inability to resolve global problems is flawed, because unlike in economics, there is no “invisible hand of the market,” and sovereigns must deal with all problems and overcome all obstacles on their own.
The uncontrolled growth of information flows that increase the transparency of national borders are one reason to claim that states are losing their agency in international relations. In the absence of an international system of regulation of information flows, states remain the only institution able to protect public interests and national security from destruction. The state can and must control information flows not by restricting unwelcome content but by acquiring agency in cyberspace and building mechanisms to ensure national security from within.
A threat to sovereignty can be seen in the unification of consumer preferences imposed on the world population by mass culture and the West. Neo-Marxists interpret this as the incorporation of all agents of international relations into a system whose architecture is set up and radiates from the Center to the Periphery; demand in non-Western countries is determined largely by the supply and demand of the Center. This creates a “global village” where the signs of civilization are unified and correlated with the cultural patterns of the “center of the world-system.”
Another aspect of the “decline” of the state in the context of the hierarchy of international relations is that the hegemon remains in power, but only for countries that voluntarily accept this. The current situation, characterized as a civilizational confrontation between the West and non-West, pushes aside the national sovereignty of these states in the interests of the dominance of trans-Atlantic consolidation and of the US. This is why the project of a future world order looks like a new bipolarity.
Obviously, theoretical ideas about the “shrinking state” in the current social realities are not representative or projected but serve the social mainstream, determined by the interests of the elite, which increasingly functions as an agent of retreating financial capital.
1 Best S., Kellner D. The Postmodern Turn. N.Y.: Guilford Press, 1997; Cvetkovich A., Kellner D. Articulating The Global and The Local: Globalization and Cultural Studies. 1st ed. N.Y.: Routledge, 1997; Featherstone M. “Global Culture: An Introduction,” Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalism and Modernity. L.: Sage, 1990, Vol. 7. Iss. 2-3; Featherstone M., Lash S. “Globalization, modernity, and the spatialization of social theory: An Introduction,” Global Modernities. Featherstone M., Lash S., Robertson R. (eds.). L.: UK, 1995; Giddens A. The Consequences of Modernity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990, https://voidnetwork.gr/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/The-Consequences-of-Modernity-by-Anthony-Giddens.pdf; Wilson R., Dissayanake W. “Global/Local: Cultural Production and the Transnational Imaginary,” https://www.jstor.0rg/stable/j.ctvl lcw21n
2 Kellner D. “Theorizing Globalization,” https://pages.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/kellner/papers/theory glob.htm
3 Acemoglu D., Robinson J. The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty. Penguin Press, New York, 2019.
4 Hobbes Th. “Leviathan or the Matter, Form, & Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiastical and Civil. XIII: Of the Natural Condition of Mankind as Concerning their Felicity and Misery,” https://www.civisbook.ru/files/File/Gobbs_Leviafan.pdf
5 Collier P. The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties. Penguin, London, 2018, Part Three, Para 3.
6 Rand A. Atlas Shrugged. Penguin, 2002.
7 Davydov O.B. “Filosofskiy kommunitarizm kak aktualnaya paradigma sotsialnogo bytiya,” Sovremennye issledovaniya sotsialnykh problem (elektronny nauchny zhurnal “Modern Research of Social Problems”), No. 10 (2015).
8 Weber A. Krizis evropeyskogo myshlenia o gosudarstve. St. Petersburg: Universitetskaya kniga, 1999.
9 Schmitt C. Gosudarstvo i politicheskay forma. Moscow: HSE, 2010, p. 88.
10 Pantin V.P., Lapkin V.V. “Gosudarstvennoye stroitelstvo v Respublike Belarus: rol sotsialnykh razmezhevany i politicheskikh razdeleniy,” Yuzhno-rossiyskiy zhurnal sotsialnykh nauk, No. 2 (2022), p. 6.
11 Lapkin V.V. “Razmezhevaniye v territorialnykh soobshchestvakh, konsolidatsiya natsionalnykh gosudarstv i novye vyzovy ekstraterritorialnosti,” Yuzhno-rossiyskiy zhurnal sotsialnykh nauk, Vol. 22, No. 2 (2021), p. 10.
12 Jessop B. The State: Past, Present, Future. Polity Press, 2016, p. 18.
13 Ibid., p. 201, Table 8.1.
14 Ibid., pp. 199-201.
15 Mulgan G. The Art of Public Strategy: Mobilization Power for the Common Good. Oxford University Press, 2009
16 Gaman-Golutvina O.V. “Mirovoy opyt reformirovaniya system gosudarstvennogo upravleniya,” Vestnik MGIMO-Universiteta, No. 4 (2013), p. 189.
17 Fishman L.G., Martyanov V.S., Davydov D.A. Rentnoye obshchestvo v teni truda, kapitala i demokratii. Moscow: HSE, 2019, p. 70.
18 Ibid., p. 71.
19 Ibid., p. 83.
20 Tanzi V. Government versus Markets. The Changing Economic Role of the State. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011, p. 311.