For years now it is quite common to listen the word crisis when referring to economics, politics, the domestic situation of various countries, or even the state of the International Relations theory with the arrival of post-modernism. This word, to my opinion, has been widely misused and as a result has earned a negative conception. At the moment we are in the middle of a crisis, but haven’t we been in a crisis for decades now? Yes we have. But the current crisis is much worse than ever. Starting from the fact that states are not what they used to be before. The political system that ruled most states is at crisis as well. Nowadays, democracy is criticized for its unrepresentativeness at the international level and in some countries even at the local level. Additionally, capitalism has had a strong impact in the dynamics of politics at all levels. Then, the international system is constantly changing its configuration, power relations aren’t as stable and as evident as they were last century. International institutions are emerging from the civil society as means to achieve the required representation at the international level and this has led the international governmental organizations to find ways to adapt its interactions to this new agents. Finally, individuals are no longer isolated from the world, technology give the illusion of being a global citizen that has no borders when incomes to share knowledge and information.
The concept of the state came as a result of the Peace of Westphalia; it resulted in the establishment of sovereignty and non-intervention. This was supported by the creation of the United Nations that has self-determination as one of its main principles. The crisis around the state is caused by political power that is now divided. At the local level, power is reduced to a mere administration of resources, a mechanism to respond to the most urgent demands of the people in a particular territory and an attempt to be a system of representation of the people. Whereas global power is focused on making high politics decisions, it is often seen as unrepresentative and it is fundamentally unconnected to the local dynamics of the society. As a result, local power is unable to exercise influence at the global sphere and the global power is unable to implement its policies at the local level. In addition to this, capitalism has also turned out to be a great factor in determining the evolution of the state. Power is now exercised by markets, large corporations, supranational actors that overlook any sort of state institution. However, there is a contradiction here because capitalism needs the state to guarantee public power and some basic norms such as the respect for private property, yet the accumulation of resources tends to weaken the very nature of the state and its ability to exercise public power.
The state system is in crisis because of the crisis in which the state itself is. This system was established based on the existence of like-units that would have the ability to self-determine themselves and were free from outside intervention. Depending on the approach used to analyze the system one could say that the structure determines the relative positions of the units or that there are institutions that facilitate the interactions between them and that these are the ones that determine the patterns of interaction. Regardless of the approach, the state has often been one of the most important actor, if not the only actor, when describing the international system. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that there are far more actors than only the state, international organizations, for instance. Traditionally they are institutions that seek to aggregate states’ interests and direct their actions towards common objectives. Currently, international organizations are not limited to states, their nature has shifted and now can be non-governmental organizations that defend the interests of different groups in the societies. They are often transnational and have influence in the decision making processes at the international level. The current international institutions and the state itself have to readjust their capabilities, their identities and interests to cope with this new wave of international actors. What the crisis of the system has achieved is the need to find local solutions to globally generated problems.
So, do we need an update? My answer is yes. Not only that we need to develop new theoretical frameworks to analyze, describe and explain the constantly changing world but we also need to update the concepts that once were thought to be universal. Starting with the concept crisis, the process that the world is going through should be called a conjuncture. That is a sum of events that will result in a change of situation. The concept of the states as understood by a post-Westphalian system should be adapted to the reality of the world. There are states that are falling apart due to various reason such as nationalism, religion, economic interests, that have an impact on the international system. According to Henry Kissinger, the disintegration of statehood into smaller units leads to states that are not governed entirely and this results in the disintegration of the international or regional order, in this case of the system itself. Another reason why we need an update is because if there is no state there is no capitalism and the actors that are exercising power through this establishment will be unable to rely on states to establish norms required for them to function and the whole system would fall into what we call crisis. I am not saying that we have to save capitalism but given its role in the world, it is important that if we are not going to maintain it as an economic system that we at least change it progressively.
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