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Beyond Caliphates and Cosmopolitanism: An analysis of the sovereign state’s competitive advantage

After the Cold War, the massive means that had been deployed to stabilize existing states decreased. A break up of sovereign states into New Wars accelerated debates about the norms of the Westphalian system of sovereign states. With Yugoslavia as first trajectory, debates finally culminated in the Resolution 1674 and the commitment to the Responsibility to Protect. It seemed that human security was to dominate its state-centric counterparts. But can an individual-centric paradigm become dominant within an international society which is constituted by state sovereignty?

The doubtful compatibility led to a transition of the international society’s civil law system, enshrined in the UN Charter, to something that resembles common law. It became increasingly based on precedents like the 1999 NATO operation in Kosovo (pp. 1, 2), the 2003 Iraq War or the 2011 Crimea Crisis (pp. 17, 24, 30) with UN resolutions as court decisions towards future actions. A Westphalian effort to rescue itself?

Even if differently construed, the competing powers of the Cold War had the Westphalian system in common. It proved appropriate to settle their disputes. But was it appropriate for all societies within? The 1979 Revolution in Iran including its’ rejection of Westphalia gave the first explicit answer.

In Iraq, Ba’ath government’s social contract was constituted by its’ means. The army’s dissolving in 2003 became a trajectory for disorder. The new conditions of Iraq’s Sunnis had similarities with those of the Tutsi in Rwanda. During the colonial era, the “divide and rule” strategy became one trajectory of the 1994 genocide (pp. 74). Enforcing a state that was perceived by some of a – since 2003 – minor group as unreasonable Western system resulted in its’ rejection. Appearances that the conflict with ISIL focuses only on religion can be deceiving. Cultures generally tend to overlay new and less understood conflicts with traditional, cultural conflicts.

Western populism manages blurred borders and globalization with cultural conflicts, too. Charles Kupchan (DGAP lecture, Bonn, Feb 2018) mentioned that isolationism and protectionism were points already made by George Washington. George Lawson (LSE lecture, London, Aug 2017) mentioned that many people in UK still seem to perceive it to be an empire. Can a civil law-based European Union be superordinated to an empire of individualism? The German perception tends to link right-wing policy to national socialism. Populism debates focused around the de-legitimized gap in the far-right that to fill used to be informally proscribed (pp. 440). To illustrate, another cultural conflict overlay of the US and UK was identified by Johanna Polle in the drone warfare debate.

In the West, conflicts led to cultural alignment. Wars changed borders and forced migration. Conflicts within given borders had the same outcome as people settled down where they assumed the best quality of life, or supported the government which seemed to be the most advantageous. These inter-societal (pp. 307, 308) interactions aligned borders to contain only culturally related people, able to engage in common social contracts. Alignment with and between governments led to reciprocal legitimacy finally fixed in 1946. But reveal conflicts like the Catalonian independence referendum in 2017 that cultural alignment is ongoing?

Technology aligns cultures beyond geography. Globalized societies emerged in the internet and became manifested in systems like 4Chan. While 4Chan originated within the internet, it later left its virtual world: Anonymous emerged (pp. 15, 16) as one of the first phenomenons in which the real world imitated its virtual counterpart and not vice versa.

Compared to populism, no local conflict overlays appear in respective Anonymous manifestations. When people “become Anonymous”, they have common ideals (pp. 45) while sovereign states can be perceived as disadvantage: Its’ borders can separate such cultures. Furthermore, 4Chan proved to be powerful in the internet (ibid, p. 30). Sovereign states still have problems to manage law enforcement and legal certainty within.

But globalized societies can also rise from within Westphalia. Transnational networks are centered in and connected through the Silicon Valley: A common interface where reciprocal comparative advantage of different nations can be put in place to compete with each other.  Protectionism approaches in the US shall protect the traditional nation. But they are likely to divide societies and networks like those in the Silicon Valley. But are “Silicon societies” defenseless?

Mark Zuckerberg could impose his preferred format on the European Parliament’s testimony([1] [2] [3]). Further, the parliament could not impose any obligation. But judiciary power was still shifted onto social networks because no one else seems to be able to manage “Fake News”.

Powers rising from within Westphalia should be analyzed also from a revolutionary perspective. Further, the possibility that Cosmopolitanism becomes manifested not within but next to the contemporary system deserves to be further examined. If these global societies can be seen as revolutions, populism is maybe the related counter revolution.

It cannot be ruled out that new actors can become at least on par with the state. Even if a counter revolution dominates: The Westphalian system – still not established throughout the world – will have changed. Now it is to be questioned whether the state – in comparison – accelerates or hinders the one power that makes dominance: Trade.

By Christopher Klooz

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