In the Twilight of the Nation-State: Subnational Constitutions in the New World Order

36 Pages Posted: 5 May 2010


Globalizing forces have undermined many of the traditional attributes of sovereignty. The firm national boundaries of the Westphalian nation-state have been breached by enhanced global communication and commerce, as well as by the growth of transnational entities of many varieties, including businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and governmental associations. While this transformation offers many benefits, the globalized world order challenges important principles of coordination and of political legitimacy. The existence of multiple overlapping legal regimes may impose costly burdens of complexity on individuals and firms that operate across jurisdictional boundaries. Globalization threatens, as well, the democratic accountability that afforded political legitimacy in the modern nation-state.

This article, delivered initially as the twentieth Annual Lecture on State Constitutional Law, argues that states and state constitutions have a significant role in ameliorating the governance deficits accompanying globalization. States can provide a mediating structure to allow subnational bodies to participate in governance with less danger of conflict and confusion. As compared with the national political system, the state governmental process provides a means to incorporate international legal principles that is more accountable to the electorate and more likely to ensure the appropriate adaptation of global norms within the domestic system.

In sum, globalization creates a potential crisis of coordination and legitimacy, and the state political system is well designed to address these concerns. Domestic legal doctrine will have to accommodate these important functions of states in the new world order.

Keywords: State constitutional law, federalism, international law, globalization, sovereignty

Suggested Citation

Schapiro, Robert A., In the Twilight of the Nation-State: Subnational Constitutions in the New World Order. Rutgers Law Journal, Vol. 39, No. 801, Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 10-99, Available at SSRN:

Robert A. Schapiro (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

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Atlanta, GA 30322
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(404) 727-6820 (Fax)

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