The State in a globalizing world: A response from Lammert de Jong to René Cuperus

On 12 March René Cuperus, research fellow at the Wiardi Beckman Foundation, a think-thank for Dutch social democracy, delivered a lecture ‘All politics is domestic politics?!’ in the SID NL Series ‘The state in a globalizing world: problematic, yet indispensable’. 

He discussed what he calls the fundamental incompatibility between hyper-globalisation on the one hand, and nation state democracy on the other. In principle globalization implies that the world becomes more interconnected, however as a result, national societies are becoming  more diverse and more fragmented. In the context of the contemporary globalisation, cosmopolitism threatens to become the neoliberal ideology of international business and expat interests, instead of the philosophy of cultural universalism, the global open mind. Instead of paying homage to cultural openness and curiosity, it tends to become the accompanying song of cultural standardization and global commercialization. According to Cuperus, the alarming warning should be: those who arrange the world for cosmopolitans only, and assume that everyone wants to be and can be a world citizen, run the risk of huge resistance, such as the contemporary revolt of populism. (…) We need a new Bretton Woods System of moderate globalization,  that  enable countries to follow their own  path of development. Cuperus pointed out that big parts of the electorate increasingly consider the nation state as the defender of the national interest against globalising 'threats' such as migration and energy-scarcity. Citizens generally do not identify themselves with the ideology of globalism, multiculturalism and world citizenship. He argued that there is an urgent need for the rehabilitation of the nation state as an anchor in uncertain times, as a source for social cohesion between the less and the better educated, between the migrant and non-migrant population of the globalised nation states. The restoration of trust between politicians and citizens will have to take place first and foremost at the national level – the only tested legitimate arena for democracy. In that sense of the word: all democratic politics is domestic politics.

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Lammert de Jong, former Dutch diplomat, reacted to the SID NL-lecture delivered by René Cuperus. De Jong provides a different point of view in his paper ‘In Praise of Europeanization’ focusing on the case of Europe.

Lammert de Jong responds to René Cuperus's wonder about how European democracy could work giving its internal  diverse constituencies - arguing  that the formation of the European Union  strengthened the European presence in the global theatre, where individual European nation-states would have lost out to established and emerging global powers. He believes that 'Europeanization frees a person’s citizenship from national constraints and make it more effective in the emerging world order'. The nostalgic appeal of the sovereign nation-state surely runs into a deficit of political efficacy, especially of small states’ citizens. What is the significance of national democracy – though rather effective as national rhetoric – when the state remains powerless, at home as well as across its borders in the face of domineering global powers on one hand and legitimate global concerns on the other? Europe’s presence in the global theatre augments (small) state power. Citizenship is generally understood as membership: a citizen is by definition a citizen among citizens of a country among countries. ‘Political engagement’ and ‘identity’ on the other hand, are standards of citizenly qualities expressed in behaviour and sentiment, generally also attached to the nation-state but not necessarily limited to the state’s public sphere. In Dutch, the behavioural and sentimental aspects of citizenship are integrated in the word burgerschap. Rather than polishing the old-time gloss of the idea of a sovereign nation-state, a person’s effective 'burgher-scope' is better served by an updated perspective on the function of the state in a transnational European Union context. The state is not the exclusive vehicle for people’s 'relations of duty and concern' across national borders. A person’s burgher-scope varies (national, green, gender equity, children’s welfare, justice, starvation, climate change, turbo capitalism etcetera) and may outweigh one’s national citizenship in reaching out across borders; it needs not be contingent on citizenship and nationality (Sen, 2009, 142- 143). In other words, one’s burgher-scope does not necessarily need to align with the citizenship format of the state, nor the institutional architecture of international relations. (…) The character of the state is shifting indeed, and the critical question is how this transformation can be applied to serve national and transnational European citizenship, strengthening a person’s burgher-scope and so overcome people’s fear and insecurity in the face of globalisation.

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What is your view? Is the world today more connected, or rather disconnected? How shall the role of nation state be reconsidered? Are we global citizens? Join the discussion and leave your comment...

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