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globe logo     Caravan: Newsletter of the Alliance for a Responsible and United World
Number 6 August 2000

bulletFrom Readers
bulletMohawk people
bulletASSEMBLY 2000-2001
bulletAlliance in Motion
bulletViews on the Alliance
 · What kind?
 · Discussion Paper (Revised)
 · Brainstorming
 · Extra-nationality
 · Security
 · Crime Industry
 · Water management
 · No longer source of life
 · Water famine in India
 · African framework
 · Future of Nation-State
 · Social movements
 · World Social Forum
 · Political renewal
 · Partners
bulletThe Artist
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What future for the Nation-State?
The world will be reconfigured from the bottom upwards
Marcos Arruda* (Brazil)

The Nation-State is a historical creation. In History its existence is related - directly or indirectly - to the prevailing mode of production. It is a supra-structure that lies upon the socio-economic structure. It changes along with the changes that occur in that structure. With the current stage of globalization, it is again changing, and it is the hegemonic class which already controls the State, that is also controlling the change. In my opinion, the State does not tend to disappear as neo-liberal globalization advances. What is disappearing is the welfare State, the social-democratic State and, perhaps, not for long, if the neo-keynesian proposals emerging from the World Bank are to prevail. But other paths for the Nation-State do exist for those who believe that capitalism is not the only viable model to organize the socio-economy, and that the neo-liberal, TNC-led globalization is not the only viable type of globalization that we can aspire.

Nation-State in crisis with neo-liberal globalization

The Nation-State will continue to be shaken as long as the neo-liberal globalization persists. The logic of neo-liberal reforms is not to do away with the State, but to adapt it to a role that "free market" capitalists want and need it to play:

  • as mitigator and, when necessary, repressor of social unrest;

  • as guarantor of market freedom (which in reality means freedom for capital and bonds for labor and for less developed nations);

  • as subsidizer of the private sector with public funds and facilitated contracts;

  • as legitimating factor of the subordinate globalization of less industrialized economies.

The evidence that neo-liberal policies and reforms have been a factor of impoverishment in both the South and the North is forcing changes of discourse, and probably policy changes as well.

Capitalism is keen to present its contradictions and misdeeds as 'accidents', temporary ordeals that should be attributed to any factor other than its own chrematistic (=concerned with material wealth only), rather than socio-economic (=concerned with the management of the home and its inhabitants) nature and structure. In interventionist cycles, when a crisis arises capitalists attribute it to lack of enough market freedom, and then push for liberatization. In liberal cycles, they claim that the cause is lack of State regulation and more effective public policies. Thus, they save capitalism from being targeted as the real root cause of the ills of the socio-economy. We are now witnessing the end of a liberal cycle. The question is when and how the peoples will finally act towards breaking up with capitalism and the capitalist State.

Breaking up with capitalism and the capitalist State

In my view, the Nation-State will be a reality as long as the Nation is a reality. And the Nation is related to at least three elements that are, and for a long time will continue to be, part of the contemporary human existence and aspiration: territoriality, identity, people's sovereignty.

As long as the capital x labor split continues, the Nation-State will continue to be needed as we know it. History shows that the State-centered forms of 'socialism' did not contribute to overcoming that split as promised. So the struggle continues, to find new, truly effective ways of overcoming that split.

Wealth is produced neither by owners of capital nor by technology alone, but essentially by the workers - the collective knowledge and labor of all those who participate in its creation, whom Marx calls the social individual. The conditions for the gains of productivity to be justly distributed and democratised, thus benefiting the whole of society, and not only a few, are:

  • that workers empower themselves economically (by cooperatively gaining control over the means to produce wealth and knowledge) in order to become politically empowered;

  • a strong, democratised State, fully accountable to society, and serving its needs.

In many countries, popular, democratic parties have occupied local and provincial/state governments and are developing creative experiences of democratisation of the State. In Brazil, progressive parties have gained control over hundreds of municipal governments and six state governments. In Uruguay, a strong cooperative movement has developed and local government experiences have created a rich stock of lessons about how to democratise the State. Besides, the Uruguayan progressive forces tend to win the second round of presidential elections. Similar trends are found in other countries of both hemispheres.

The Challenge of Democratization of the Nation-State

The path towards the democratization of the Nation-State is a complex challenge:

  • How to implement a governmental platform that combines a reformist approach (what is possible) with integrity regarding the strategic, transformative goals (what is desirable)?

  • How to make governmental policies and initiatives not an end in themselves but a means to create space and opportunity for the people to empower itself?

  • How to "govern for all" and, at the same time, continue to be loyal and responsive to the needs, interests and aspirations of the broad masses of the people?

  • How to coordinate national social and human development and, at the same time, fulfil its role as educator of society (in the Gramscian sense) for the ultimate goal of empowerment of persons, communities and the Nation for self-managed development?

  • How to strengthen the sense of self-esteem and self-identity in the Nation while creating bridges and developing ties of true cooperation, complementarity and solidarity with other Nations?

  • How to instil the same spirit and goals in multilateral institutions?

In my opinion, the world will be reconfigured from the bottom upwards, through the appreciation of the value of human diversity - I call it noo-diversity: each person, with its subjectivity and singularity, each community, each social group (including ethnic groups, gender groups, indigenous groups), each Nation. This is the path towards a cooperative, fraternal form of globalization. The economic and political empowerment of each and every individual, community and group is the actual content of a true democracy and of a true socialism. In this perspective, the Nations can be reconceived as unanimities (souls together, a shared project towards shared goals) in diversity (not at the cost of diversity). At the same time, they can be seen as collective noo-diversities in search of unanimity to strengthen the development of their potentials always further. The ultimate goal of the State: to be an orchestrator of human and socioeconomic diversity and the catalyst for the establishment of always renewed unities in diversity. The same can be envisaged for multilateral institutions and for an eventual global State, with respect to local and national societies and States.

* Animator of the Socio-Economy in Solidarity workshop of the Alliance

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