Globalisation: New Challenges for World Politics

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The phenomenon of globalisation has sparked debate in recent years that a ‘new world order’ is upon us; that the world – its nation-states, citizens, economies, cultures, and political systems, among many others – are under pressure to ‘evolve’ or perish (Evans and Mooney, 2007; Keohane, 2002; Waters, 2001). Some fears are likely justified; others are perhaps exaggerated. Further, the character, qualities, and elements of ‘globalisation’ itself continue to be highly contested among scholars from a wide variety of disciplines (Munck, 2006; Prakash and Hart, 1999; Drezner, 2008; Held, 2004; Martens, Gaston and Dreher, 2008).

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Some of those observing the rapid and often dramatic changes in social, economic, and political arenas have concluded that “…both the world arena and the study of world politics have been transformed.” (Little and Smith, 2005:135). If true, the transformative processes we have been witnessing in recent years may suggest that our methods and abilities for observing and characterizing world politics are no longer useful as tools to make sense of this ‘new world order'(Jaguaribe and Vasconcelos, 2003). Such concerns give rise to a question that is fundamental to the study of world politics in the future: “Has globalisation changed the basic character of world politics?” While limitations of time and space here preclude us from considering a comprehensive definition of ‘globalisation’ or from discussing all the elements contributing to its existence and multivariate effects, this paper more modestly seeks to respond to the above question. By concentrating on the transforming challenges to nation-states, economic trade and interdependence, and the environment, the paper expects to conclude that while the basic character of world politics may not have yet been changed by globalisation in the present, the increasing effects of globalisation certainly do pose challenges for this and other disciplines in the near future.


Nation-states, understood as the fundamental units of analysis in world politics for many years, have more recently been challenged by assertions that they ought not to be conceptualized as discrete ‘players’ in world affairs,  but rather more porous and dependant entities which no longer act autonomously. Increasingly, arguments are forwarded that a focus on the nation-state itself is no longer useful or informative as a way of understanding politics on a global scale (Held, 2004; Brennan, T 2002; Patomaki, 2001; Crawford, 2002). Much recent literature has focused on what is perceived to be a decline in sovereignty of nation-states; owing to a significant increase in international interdependence, multinational governing bodies, and human and environmental migrations which, combined with a multitude of other factors, reduce nation-states’ autonomy in domestic affairs. (Lemert and Elliot, 2005; Hoffmann and Ba, 2005; Najam et al., 2007). The sovereignty (i.e. the ability of individual nation-states to act autonomously in domestic affairs and assert themselves unilaterally in international affairs) of nation-states is eroded by globalisation,

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