There is an ongoing debate among political scientists about the current and future trends in international relations. The key question is whether the world of nation states becomes more centralized and interdependent or it grows more fragmented and nation states tend to be more separated from one another.
This paper will defend the argument that international politics is more inclined toward unity rather than fragmentation and that despite numerous conflicts and disagreements, nation states try to find some common denominators in their relations with one another.
To some extent this argument supports the theory of political liberalism which postulates that the policies of a state are inevitably affected by the interests of other players (Griffiths, O’Callaghan & Roach, 2008). This trend can be explained by different economic, social, and technological factors. Finally, we need to say that international players have already understood that partnership is more conducive to the solution of common problems, faced by different countries.
It is possible to draw several examples supporting this point of view. One of them is the large number of political alliances that emerged in the course of the twentieth century. One should speak primarily about the United Nations Organizations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organizations, the European Union, the Union of South American Nations and so forth. These alliances include practically every country of the world.
Nowadays, they are taken for granted, while in the nineteenth century they were non-existent. This contrast indicates that contemporary international politics is more oriented toward centralization and unity. The key issue is that a country which wants to be a member of these alliances, has to comply with certain rules and regulations. Thus, the rights of nation states are no longer unlimited.
Furthermore, one should not focus only on historical comparison. It is also possible to refer to the current events which also demonstrate that modern world is becoming more centralized. One of the most eloquent examples is the recent nuclear disarmament agreement commonly known as New START (Strategic Arms Reduction) treaty reached by the United States and Russia.
According to it both sides will have to reduce the number of nuclear warheads. Political and economic interests of these countries may contradict one another but mutual willingness to promote global security forced them into this agreement. In this case, the centralization or unification of states appears to be a natural process since it will allow both countries to promote security and reduce expenses on the maintenance of nuclear weapon.
We need to mention that the very concept of nation state is being transformed. Before the World War II, the state was regarded as a primary and unitary actor within the territory of a country; in other words, the state could do virtually everything with the citizens without having to ask for the permission of other international players.
The most horrible examples of such power of a nation state are Holocaust, Rwanda Genocide, Darfur, and so forth. In each of these cases, the legitimate government of the country attempted to exterminate a certain ethnic group of people, and there was no international law that allowed other countries to intervene. The World War II changed the status quo, and one of the outcomes was the adoption of UDHR (Universal of Declaration of Human Rights) in 1948. Yet, we should also discuss the recent developments in this area.
In 2005 the members of UNO signed an agreement according to which UNO has right and obligation to intervene into a nation state if there is a threat of genocide (UNO, 2005, p 1). Of course, this is just a preliminary step but it shows that a nation state is not the only decision-maker as it was before.
Overall, this evidence supports the argument, advanced by the supporters of liberalism theory: international politics is gradually becoming more integrated and centralized. The key point that we can make is that modern nation states are trying to establish certain common values, inherent to any society, for instance, the right for privacy, free speech, freedom of expression. On the basis of these values, they develop their foreign policies.
Furthermore, one should unity of nation states is economic relations between nations. We can mention the World Trade Organization, North American Free Trade Agreement, Mercosur or Southern Common Market. Again, none of these unions existed before 1957. This is why one can argue that nation states are more inclined to cooperate rather than act separately.
To some degree, these trade agreements show how national borders can be erased. Free movement of labor, capital, and technology is no longer hindered by the intervention of local governments. Certainly, no one can deny the fact that there are some limitations like quotas on imported goods, but they are no longer insurmountable.
It should be pointed out that the policies of protections aimed at shielding domestic manufacturers, are being abolished by the governments of many countries. Currently, it is much easier for international companies to enter the markets of foreign countries. By looking at such countries as India, China, or Russia, one can see that separate nation states are no longer separated from one another. It seems that economic considerations are the underlying cause for the centralization trends in international politics.
Another example of such integration is the attempts of different countries to cope with environmental problems. We can mention the Kyoto Protocol which was ratified by the governments of many countries. It forces the countries to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Again, it is quite possible to argue that nation states have to take the opinion of other international players into account, and this tendency can be viewed as movement toward unity.
Thus, if we look at this problem from historical or modern day perspective, one can see that the world of nation states is growing more integrated and centralized. This trend manifests itself in different aspects: trade relations, human rights protection, movement of labor force and capital, environment protection and so forth.
There are several rational behind this tendency. One of them is that it is much easier to struggle with common problems like economic crises, local military conflicts, security threats, environment pollution, etc. Apart from that, the examples that we have discussed, indicate that separate nation states have consider the interests of their players in order to maximize benefits.
Contemporary international politics strongly resembles a cooperative game in which players join their efforts rather than compete with each other. Certainly, we cannot say that the interests of different countries are in complete harmony, but the governments of different countries have already realized that cooperation in international politics can be much more fruitful than competition.
Griffiths M. O’Callaghan T. & Roach Steven. 2008. International relations: the key concepts. NY: Taylor & Francis.
US. Department of State. (2011). New Start. Accessed March 14, 2011, http://www.state.gov/t/avc/newstart/index.htm
United Nations Organization. (2005). World Summit Outcome. Accessed March 14, 2011, http://www.un.org/summit2005/presskit/fact_sheet.pdf