Economic Globalization Ascendant: Four Perspectives on the Emerging Ideology of the State in the New Global Order

30 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2006 Last revised: 9 Jul 2014

See all articles by Larry Catá Backer

Larry Catá Backer

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law


The contours of the debate about the effect of globalization on the global state system are well known. Perhaps less well understood is the way in which major views of globalization all tend to posit the end of the state system. The result does not change even when considering state friendly conceptions of globalization. More interesting still is that even the great anti-globalization perspectives do little to defend the traditional state system. Whatever the form of opposition, each also essentially posits a global system in which the state plays a subordinate role. For purposes of this paper I broadly describe three views of the nature of globalization. The first proceeds from the logic of the so-called Washington Consensus of private economic transactional neo-liberal globalization. The second looks at economic globalization from a more traditionally state-centered perspective. The third embraces the analytical framework current in certain parts of the developing world and among some major Western religious institutions in which it takes the form of a moral critique of Western led economic globalization. I will show how all three ultimately posit the same consequence for state systems as the foundation of world order - a replacement of the traditional state system as the foundation of law making in the global system of political governance. Each differs only in the nature and form of the system that will replace this system. In the first view all states ultimately suffer the same fate, though perhaps not all at the same time. Political power becomes more diffuse and shared among political, economic, religious, scientific and other communities. The second and third produce a perversion of the state system with a few hyper-states acting as the driving force of international norm making over an amalgamation of other actors, including states, and other political, economic, scientific, religious and related communities. All perspectives also imply that an Aristotelian form of aristocratic governance will result at the global level beyond the nation-state level - in which a few states will effectively govern for the community of nations, subject to a set of norms that transcend national boundaries. But the processes I describe, which in every variation appears to claim the state as a casualty of globalization, is both messier and more complicated than the three models of crisis suggest. I end this essay with a nod to the messiness. Simultaneously developing alongside globalization, or surviving its ascendancy, are other systems incompatible with and likely to engage in conflicts for dominance with both the current system and the ascending system of globalization. These threats arise primarily from three sources. The first include alternative universalizing systems of global organization, based principally in religion. The second include universalizing systems in decline, principally the Marxist-Leninist vision of the past century. The last include anti-universalizing systems and anarchistic systems, from anti-globalization groups, to eco-activists, to old-fashioned conservatives. It seems that the only defense of the traditional state systems is essentially reactionary and increasingly anachronistic. The consequence for the traditional state system appears to be the same, whatever the form of globalization embraced, from the most benign to the most aggressive, and whatever the character of opposition to globalization endorsed. The attachment to a particular nation-state bounded by a finite territory no longer appears to be the critical factor in the debate about globalization.

Keywords: globalization, state system, Washington Consensus, global governance

JEL Classification: A14, E11, F022, K33, Z10

Suggested Citation

Backer, Larry Catá, Economic Globalization Ascendant: Four Perspectives on the Emerging Ideology of the State in the New Global Order. University of California, Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2006, Available at SSRN:

Larry Catá Backer (Contact Author)

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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