The Self-Organisation of Politics, Power and the Nation State

INTAS Project "Human Strategies in Complexity" Research Paper

42 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2003

Date Written: March 1, 2003


Society is self-organising or re-creative in the sense that new emergent structures result from interactions of actors, these structures enable and constrain actions and stimulate further practices. Political self-organisation is a reflexive process where political agents co-ordinate their actions in such a way that political power structures emerge and are differentiated, these structures enable and constrain political activities and stimulate further political practices. Power and the establishment of collective decisions are central aspects of the self-organisation of politics. In the modern State system laws are the most important power structures that stimulate political practices. The modern State consists of two subsystems (the system of rule and the system of civil society), it is organised around the competitive accumulation of power. Central features of the modern state include the regulation of economic autopoiesis, it organises and defends the autopoiesis of society within a bounded territory by making use of the monopoly of the means of coercion, it organises the self-observation, self-containment and self-description of modern society and is a meta-storage mechanism of social information. The Postfordist mode of development of society that is based on economic globalisation and transnationalisation has changed the role of the state. Actors such as transnational corporations (TNCs), non-government organisations (NGOs) and non-profit organisations (NPOs) are gaining increased importance, the structural coupling between the economy and the State is becoming more rigid in the direction where the economy influences the state system, parts of the welfare system are either shifted to the mode of economic autopoiesis or to the system of civil society. Postfordism is shaped by an increase dominance of economic autopoiesis over political, cultural and life-world autopoiesis. This doesn't imply a 'weak state' or the end of the nation state, the latter transforms its functions and answers with measures of re-organisation to the increased globalisation and complexity of the world. Self-observation, self-containment and self-description are altered by the nation state in such a way that the closure of society increases although the openness of the world economy grows.

Keywords: nation state, autopoiesis, society, self-organisation, self-organization, governance, globalisation, globalization Fordism, Postfordism, regulation, Giddens, Marx, Marxism, systems theory

JEL Classification: N4, H7, K0, P1, A14, B14, B51, G38, H50, H70

Suggested Citation

Fuchs, Christian, The Self-Organisation of Politics, Power and the Nation State (March 1, 2003). INTAS Project "Human Strategies in Complexity" Research Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Christian Fuchs (Contact Author)

University of Salzburg ( email )

A-5020 Salzburg

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