The Nation-State in the 21st Century

With the rise of globalization and improved transport and communication, the level of interconnection has improved between nations hence the concept of the nation-state as the best form of organizing society is not realistic. The nation state began as an idea whereby a political governing body; the state would establish control over people with a similar cultural and ethnic identity; usually the nation. As a result, governance or control was established over people with similar history. The nation would observe established rules and policies by the state while state promotes a sense of democracy and cultural and political oneness. With the sense of defined territorial boundaries, conflicts such as the Second World War declined. However, in the 21st century, the concept of a single nation with a single cultural and ethnic identity is unrealistic because of increased immigration and globalization. Most nations have multi-ethnic backgrounds and thus creating a nation-state would imply subdividing nations along ethnic backgrounds.

There are varieties of factors against the nation-state organization in the present age. First, the idea of the nation-state in the present generation has created more harm than good. States are no longer the center of cultural identity which has been caused by a shift in the roles performed by government units. As a result, the state is only a center of political governance unlike previously when it would promote national cultural unity. This shift has led to the rise of a national identity crisis whereby citizens feel threatened by foreigners; who are mostly immigrants (Azzi, 2015). In its extreme form, this sense of nationalism has led to the rise of racism and xenophobia specifically in countries within Europe. Xenophobia refers to extreme fear or prejudice expressed towards foreigners within a country, who are often perceived as a threat. In such nations, foreigners experience harassment and could be victims of hate crimes often aimed at driving them out of a particular state.

Secondly, globalization and technological advancement has threatened the idea of the nation state. With globalization, there has been a free flow of goods, services and technology among states perceived to be political and economic trade partners (Azzi, 2015). As a result, firms can freely move into new territories and establish dominance. Further, globalization has led to the creation of soft borders hence the traditional sense of territorial sovereignty and control defined by the nation state has declined significantly. It is nearly impossible for governments to restrict movement or settlements on the basis of preserving nationalism. Hence the nation-state cannot thrive in the current economic set up.

Thirdly, increased interdependency among nations is another factor that has limited the existence of nation-states. Due to differences in trade policies and environments, each country has its own competitive advantage. As a result, countries rely upon each other for a variety of goods and services. Countries rely upon each other for raw materials, educational and technological exchange programs and transport developments. States in their independent form cannot sufficiently meet the demand for goods and services by their citizens; a factor that has encouraged importations and increased interdependency. To thrive, countries have to formulate policies to foster international trade while at the same time encouraging the development of their own industries (Azzi, 2015). Thus if a country decides to shut down its borders, it faces the threat of running out of supplies due to the lack of capacity to develop certain goods and services.

Fourth, the inability to design and achieve development goals singlehandedly is another argument against the formation of nation-states. Singlehandedly, countries lack the capacity to develop and achieve regional or international dominance (Azzi, 2015). As a result, countries have made efforts to form regional economic and political blocs. The economic integration of Asian and European nations with a single currency of operation is such an example. Secondly, the formation of global organizations such as the United Nations has enhanced the need to shift from the nation-state system towards a globalized system. Through such organizations, countries are able to rally for socio-economic cooperation, promote the protection of human rights as well as manage security challenges such as terrorism from a unified front. Therefore, increased economic and regional integration has challenged the perception that nation-states were highly essential for the realization of human welfare.

Lastly, with the rise in globalization, the idea of nationalism as was promoted under the nation-state system was impossible to sustain. Increased inter-country transactions implied that countries had to adjust their policy making criteria to accommodate the interests of their trade partners. With regard to security, nations had to design policies that not only promoted their interests but also those of the international community. In the absence of universalism and globalization, activities such as arms reduction and control would prove difficult (Panitch, 2013). At the moment, nation states have to align their peace and security objectives to those of the international community as necessitated by regulatory bodies such as the United Nations. Consequently, nations had to abandon their arms race objectives in the interest of sanity regardless of their political, economic and social influence over others in the world.

Despite the above factors, the role of the nation-state cannot be downplayed. In its original set up, nation states provided a sense or nationalism and sovereignty. With defined borders for instance, countries were able to protect themselves from external aggression often in the form of political and economic interference. Security within the nation-state set up was easily administered. Economically, the sense of nationalism and sovereignty helped to define individual state interests which was important for national economic development (Panitch, 2013). For instance, governments were able to negotiate and formulate policies aimed at enhancing national growth while at the same time protecting national industries from unfair competition. Further, with a common cultural identity, individuals would easily agree on matters of their interest hence reduce the possibility of conflict as is often the case due to xenophobia (Mcwhinney, 2018).

In conclusion, despite the nation-state providing significant economic, political and social benefits, it is impossible to preserve such a set up in the current digitalized era. There are a lot of benefits arising out of the departure from the nation-state system towards the globalized system. Increased technological advancement, intercountry dependence and regional integration are some of the benefits that emanate from a globalized system. Further, the ability to manage and solve global problems such as terrorism, climate change and violation of human rights is another benefit that arises when countries choose to adopt a globalized system of operation. As a result, the nation-state system of organization is not the best form of organizing society in the current era.


Azzi, S., Globalization (2015). In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Mcwhinney, E., Sovereignty (2018). In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Panitch, Leo. "State". The Canadian Encyclopedia, 16 December 2013, Historica Canada. Accessed 02 November 2018

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