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Institutional Imperialism: Differences Between Government - Machineries in the Core and in the Periphery States

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Is my goal in this essay to show that globalisation has indeed changed the role of the state. However, this change has different expressions depending on the status of the countries, whether they are part of the periphery or the core.

I will start by defining globalisation, with focus on the expansion of multinational organisations. Then, I will describe Wallerstein's world-theory and adapt it by adding the role of such organisations of different nature (economic, diplomatic and political). All these assumptions will be supported by case studies involving the IMF, the WB, the United Nations and the European Union. I will use a wide group of sources, from scientific papers to newspapers' articles.

The Westphalian Order of statehood is decaying in the last decades (Zacher 1992). The main principles that constituted this arrangement in world politics were based on the centrality of the state that had the "legal (and most effective) monopoly over the means of armed violence in the area of its jurisdiction" (Scholte 1997, 20).

Obviously there were relations between states before. The seventeenth century was an era of discoveries overseas and intense trade between colonial empires. However, these relations were established on an atomist basis. Each state was seen as an individual and closed unit.

As the Peace of Westphalia has marked an important change in world order (religion was no more the support of state's legitimacy, as it was in the Medieval Ages with the Respublica Christiana), so its end points the rise of supraterritoriality and interdependence among world states (Scholte 1997, 15).

Driven mostly by the technological advances of the twentieth century, globalisation can be described as a variety of processes, of different range, that increase interconnectedness (Smith and Baylis 1997, 7) worldwide.

Technologically, the examples of globalisation are vast. From the Internet, that allows almost infinite flows of information wherever you are, to worldwide brands, which became not only huge providers of goods and services, but symbols as recognisable as national flags.

In another perspective, globalisation processes changed the political landscape. The most decisive feature is the entrance on stage of the transnational and international organizations as politically relevant actors.

No more these actors can be put aside when discussing world politics. With 38,500 transnational companies (TNCs), 10,000 single-country non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 300 intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and 4,700 international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) (Willets 1997, 288), these entities have intense interaction with states, and often influence their policies. In this environment, the role of the state suffered some constraints.

In first of all, one cannot separate globalisation from capitalist economy. I am not arguing that one created the other. Capitalism has its roots, according to Marx, in the break of the production relations of the feudal system. And by 1848 several areas in the world were still "marked in white even in the best maps in Europe" (Hobsbawm 2000, 53), quite far away from today's intensified process of worldwide connections. Globalisation's later effect on this economic model is, however, undeniable.

By supporting the famous marxist aphorism that the capital pursues the profit, one can say that globalisation - by erasing the physical boundaries between countries and by allowing information to flow worldwide almost instantaneously - has contributed for the great development and spread of capitalism. With so intensified worldwide connections, free-market could be expanded virtually everywhere. The world has a "single place" (Scholte 1997, 14), is an obvious reference to a worldwide market, where the traditional borders are merely geographical. On an industrial level, global factories (Scholte 1997, 15) evolve to the stage of global division of labour.

It is in this state of things that TNCs grew. From the 1960's, after the first decolonization movements, big European and North-American enterprises split up in branches on those new countries with a big territorial expansion (Willetts 1997, 292). Companies like Microsoft, McDonalds, Coca-Cola or Apple, had for a long time exceeded in overwhelming ways the traditional national boundaries, what was accompanied by a great raise in revenues.

States felt in the same sense the necessity to join efforts in an economic perspective. On a regional base, countries with different economic backgrounds formed intergovernmental organisations, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or the European Union, which has the most advanced level of economic integration.

On the other hand, there was a need for supraterritorial bodies to regulate all these activities that were no more confined to states acting alone. The role of such organisations like the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), or the International Monetary Fund (IMF), proves to be decisive even on domestic affairs in some states.

Given the presence of new actors in world politics, there will be changes on the role of the states. Some authors are radical and see no future for the state at all, and predict its decay (Ohmae 2000). Realists, on a completely different perspective, only focus on the state as single actor in international relations (Dunne 1997, 115). The neo-liberalists conceive a subordination of non-state actors to the state (Dunne 1997, 159).

None of these approaches seems reasonable, as empirical evidences will show. A world without state, completely delivered to the free-market rules, would not be stable and eventually ruin. The recent financial crisis showed how precious can be state intervention to correct market failures and how citizens in general claim actions to be done by their governments.

Neither the realist view can be accepted in today's world. Even situations that are contrary to mainstream trends on global relations, like the commercial embargo between US and Cuba, are often transgressed, in this case by indirect trade (Willetts 1997, 294).

Finally, who is subordinated to, is the key question concerning the relations between states and supranational entities. And here there must be a distinction, as it will depend on the position and influence of each country inside these organisations.

I support this division, partially, on the Wallerstein's model of the world-system, which has its roots on Lenin's theory of imperialism. This theory postulates that the world is divided in two major areas based on a geographical division of labour (Hobden and Jones 1997, 131).




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