History Essays – Cold War

To what extent has the power of the state province declined in the station Cold War epoch?

The State acquires power… and because of its insatiate lecherousness for power it is incapable of giving up any of it. The State ne’er abdicates.”

Frank Chodorow

In recent old ages at that place has been considerable treatment amongst faculty members sing a possible diminution in the power of state provinces. The essay rubric infers that there has been some touchable diminution in the power of the state province, nevertheless is this truly the instance, or has much of this anti-state rhetoric merely confused an on-going transmutation in the manner of province activity with a decrease in its significance?

What precisely is meant by the footings ‘power’ and ‘nation state’ ? In its simplest sense, power is ‘the ability of a political histrion to accomplish its goals’ , and although sometimes deemed a restraint, it is really what makes human action possible. Power is non an entity that can be discretely measured but furthermore a relationship between different histrions which is described in footings of the ‘relative strengths, equal or unequal, that exist’ . The state province can be described as ‘political community in which the province claims legitimacy on the evidences that it represents the nation’ and for who it hence exists to supply a autonomous district. In the context of this essay the state province will be referred to as ‘the state’ and described utilizing illustrations in Western Europe within a timeframe station 1989.

The focal point will be the ability of the province to supply order, security, wealth and public assistance for its citizens from whom ( in their eyes ) , it derives its legitimacy. The essay will reason that far from there being an straight-out diminution in the power of the province, what we are witnessing is a figure of challenges to which provinces are accommodating as they re-establish themselves in the epoch of globalisation.


The period described as the Cold War ran from 1945 to the prostration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The period was dominated by a ‘Realist theory’ of international dealingss that characterised ‘hard power’ in footings of economic and military capableness. This created a sense of ‘false stability’ as provinces focused on making an equilibrium between the two super-powers ; world nevertheless, observed the outgrowth of legion ‘failed-states’ created in the wake of decolonization and an of all time increasing slide towards planetary instability.

States focused their attempts on inter-state dealingss instead than on the domestic docket. Increasingly the outlook of their citizens as to what a province should present was being contradicted by a decreasing overall capacity of the province to be able to make so. It was at this clip that some leaders began to level the very establishments that underpinned the economic and societal coherence of the province. Both Thatcher in the UK and Reagan in the US were ‘roll [ ing ] back the power of the state’ as they made a ‘concerted attempt to speed up and intensify fiscal deregulating, trade, liberalism and privatisation.’ Indeed, it could be argued that it was the extended power of the province, with its monopoly on the control of force, that allowed such a extremist plan of deregulating and denationalization to be undertaken ; the deployment of big Numberss of constabulary against the dramatic mineworkers in 1984 and the licking of brotherhood resistance being a point in instance.

It is ironical hence, that the terminal of the Cold War was brought approximately in many ways non by ‘hard power’ , but by the usage of capitalist ‘soft power’ , and ‘it was the Soviet Union’s marginalization [ from the unfolding economic globalisation ] that revealed and identified its true weaknesses.’


If the Cold War epoch was characterised by a grade of ‘stability ‘ , the old ages that followed witnessed provinces being confronted by instability, uncertainness and capriciousness. The challenge for provinces was to cut down their exposure whilst retaining their liberty and their ability to order personal businesss in the face of an of all time increasing diffusion of power to other histrions such as planetary markets and the ‘International System’ , with ‘globalization’ supplying the biggest trial.

Globalization is non a new phenomena but a procedure that has been traveling on for centuries. It can be argued that one of the first merchandises of globalisation was the export of the state province itself, facilitated by the spread of economic liberalism and patriotism. Despite the unprecedented economic advantages of a globalized economic system, provinces are happening themselves undermined by other histrions who are speedy to work the new environment to their advantage.

As an illustration, there are now more than 64,000 major Trans-national Companies ( TNCs ) . The detonation in the figure of TNCs, facilitated by the deregulating of barriers to merchandise, has freed many concerns from the traditional restraints imposed by provinces with the consequence that TNCs find themselves progressively less trussed to states and national involvements. These companies have become peculiarly expert at hedging traditional province controls, such as revenue enhancement and employment jurisprudence, by traveling their resources outside of province boundary lines and by being able to act upon its citizens. On the face of it, they would look to hold significantly eroded the power of the province in pull offing economic personal businesss. With the rapid flows of capital around the universe, exposure to planetary markets highlights the hazards that provinces must run in chase of economic prosperity ; a fact that the recent downswing in universe markets has clearly demonstrated.

The world nevertheless is non every bit simple, and on the face of it, the de-nationalization of industry handed control of cardinal province duties such as substructure, telecommunications, energy and banking to the private sector. In world, what the province managed to accomplish was to unburden itself of a figure of assets that were run on electoral rules instead than those of good concern. Many of these concerns had ‘turned into millstones that were grossly overstaffed, incurred tremendous losingss, demanded huge subsidies and hung like ironss around the state’s neck.’ In add-on, the province retained its influence by making ‘an extended web of regulative bureaus which added an of import constituent to province capacity.’

‘Clearly there are facets of globalisation that are beyond the control of states.’ The markets themselves are non a of course happening phenomenon, but the merchandise of statute law and ordinance. Therefore alterations in statute law and ordinance that can be enacted by provinces later change the balance of advantage in these markets, and it is this structuring function by provinces that underpins globalisation. The power of the province has been reinforced by the construct that concern will ever be capable to some grade of national control, whatever the beginning of that ordinance. Governments created General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade ( GATT ) and they besides created the World Trade Organisation ( WTO ) which have allowed for freer trade and motion of capital. Because the WTO and other regional administrations chiefly focus on trade they do non represent supra-national authorities, and as such, have non replicated an tantamount authorization at that degree.

In add-on, there is good grounds to propose that many companies still have a particular relationship with their ‘home country’ , experiencing that they are able to number on province aid to protect their bing markets and to foster their involvements overseas. The recent intercession of the UK authorities in forestalling the prostration of Northern Rock is an illustration of the extent that states may be prepared to help. Therefore, ‘although globalisation has been seen as destructing the capacity of the province, it is provinces through their ability to construction economic action that have created the globalized universe economy’ , chiefly for their ain benefit.

Another effect of the computing machine and telecommunications revolution is that the state’s ‘monopoly on the aggregation and direction of big sums of information’ has been broken. The cyberspace can link people across national boundary lines therefore ‘amplifying political and societal atomization whilst enabling more and more individualities and involvements to be scattered around the globe’ ; something that the province has found impossible to command. Amongst the chief donees of this information detonation have been Non-Governmental Organisations ( NGOs ) who are able to ‘move beyond the restrictions of the province in order to prosecute their ain dockets in the progressively globalized political terrain of the post-Cold War era.’ Their resources and expertness, in some instances, have approximated those of some smaller provinces and in many countries they have assumed duties one time deemed to be the concern of the province. ‘Today NGOs deliver more official development aid than the full UN system’ and in many states they are presenting the most basic demands of the population. Their ability to exceed national boundary lines offers citizens unprecedented channels of influence and ‘forces authoritiess to see both domestic sentiment and public sentiment in states with which they are dealing.’ At the international degree NGOs have managed to exercise important influence in the country of clime alteration ‘something that has yet to be matched in any other arena.’

That said, for all their strengths, NGOs are particular involvement groups, frequently enduring from tunnel vision and without the capacity to set about more wide-ranging enterprise. Although no longer able monopolise the media, provinces have realised the importance of utilizing the media to their advantage ; the outgrowth of ‘special authorities advisors’ being testimony to this. Furthermore, there are functions that merely the province can execute such as enforcing order and raising revenue enhancements and for that ground NGOs despite their influence, will go on to necessitate the province and its setup in order to map. Indeed, by ‘helping solve jobs authoritiess can non manage, both NGOs and TNCs may really be beef uping the province system.’

State power is besides being challenged from above by supra-national establishments. The United Nations ( UN ) , European Union ( EU ) , and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ( NATO ) are all illustrations of establishments created by the province and for the province. Since the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the EU, ‘through economic policy recommendations, standardization processs and tribunal decisions’ has demonstrated an unprecedented ability to interfere in the domestic personal businesss of member provinces. ‘In this sense the EU penetrates and to some extent weakens the internal bonds of its member states.’ The UN has evolved to play a function ‘akin to that of the medieval Catholic Popes in empowering or forbiding provinces from engaging war’ and even NATO, through the Conventional Forces Europe Treaty has superseded province sovereignty, leting arms reviews by foreign subjects.

In response to this eroding of sovereignty, provinces have attempted to recover power, for illustration, by fastening boundary line controls ( frequently in the pretense of anti-terrorism ) , presenting individuality cards and moving to reenforce national individualities ( citizenship test ) . Domestically, some provinces have recentralised, taking power back from regional governments ( frequently by restraining their fundss ) , with one of the most of import factors in forestalling a diminution of the province being the digesting popularity of the public assistance province and its ability to supply for citizens. Although the EU has been seen to dispute national individuality there is grounds to back up strong correlativities between both European and national designation and, as such, the two run together, instead than being a direct challenge to each other. The illustration of the US farther high spots that a multiethnic, widely distributed society doesn’t needfully lead to a decrease in national individuality.

It is good argued that establishments such as the EU and UN are non representative and hence they undermine the democratic rules that provinces are built upon. This may good be true to a certain grade, nevertheless it would be idealistic to bury that provinces enrol in these establishments in order to foster their ain national involvements. In exchange for some loss of liberty comes a larger market, higher criterions, better protection for citizens and greater economic stableness. The recent rejection of the EU fundamental law in France and Holland high spots that there is besides a threshold beyond which, both citizens and provinces, will confirm their sovereignty if national involvements dictate. The fact remains that many of these establishments are merely every bit strong as the political will of their members ( provinces ) or the grade to which they are funded by them. The consequence is now, that provinces are forced more and more to blend domestic and foreign policy as they adapt to these challenges.


It would be naive to reason against a comparative diminution of province power in certain countries such as information control and the transportation of certain powers to supra-national establishments, particularly the EU. However, this must be balanced in the overall equation by the impression that such diminutions are countered by provinces presuming powers elsewhere, for illustration by beef uping economic statute law and recentralising power domestically. The net consequence is that the overall power of the province remains good supra critical mass. In an epoch where power is diffused more widely, provinces have realised that ‘soft power’ can be a more economical and effectual than ‘hard power’ entirely. Therefore, what we are witnessing is a ephemeral flux in the power of the province as it transforms into a globalized province and because we are still in the thick of this transmutation it is hard to acquire a sense of historical position. As provinces will go on to be the premier middleman at all degrees in an progressively complex universe, ‘they are non traveling to vanish ; non least because they still have considerable public-service corporation and capacity to pull allegiance.’ They will go on to accommodate to and although their signifier may alter, sovereignty will stay grounded in the province.



  • Baylis, John, and Smith, Steve,The globalisation of universe political relations: an debut to international dealingss( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005 )
  • Buzan, Barry,Peoples States and Fear: An docket for International Security Studies aftertheCold War epoch( Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991 )
  • Buzan, Barry, Waever, O, and Wilde, J,Security: a new model for analysis( London: Lynne Reinner, 1998 )
  • Cooper, Robert,The breakage of states: order and pandemonium in the Twenty-first Century( London: Atlantic Books, 2004 )
  • Davis, Jane,Security Issues in the post-Cold War universe( Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 1996 )
  • Ferguson, R. Brian,The province, individuality and force: political decomposition in the post-Cold War universe( London: Routledge, 2002 )
  • Jackson, Robert, and Sorensen, Georg,Introduction to international dealingss( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999 )
  • Saint lukes, Steven,Power: A extremist Position, 2neodymiumedn, ( Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004 )
  • Mansbach, Richard, and Rhodes, Edward,Global political relations in a changing universe: a reader( Boston, MA: Houghton Miffin, 2003 )
  • Berger, Mark T, ‘The nation-state and the challenge of planetary capitalism’ ,Third World Quarterly, Vol 22, No 6, 2001, pp.889-907.
  • Buzan, Barry, ‘Rethinking Security after the Cold War’ ,Cooperation and Conflict, Vol 32, No 1, 1997, pp.5-28.
  • Kerr, Peter, ‘Saved from extinction: evolutionary theorising, political relations and the state’ ,British Journal of Politics and International Relations’ , Vol 4, No 2, June 2002, pp.330-358.
  • Mathews, Jessica T, ‘Power Shift’ ,Foreign Affairs, Vol 76, No 1, January / February 1997, pp.50-66.
  • Opp, Karl-Dieter, ‘Decline of the Nation State? How the European Union Creates National and Sub-National Identifications’ ,Social Forces, Vol 84, No 2, December 1997, pp.653-680.
  • Schmidt, Viven A, ‘The New World Order, Incorporated: The Rise of Business and Decline of the Nation State’ ,Daedalus, Vol 124, No 2, Spring 1995.
  • Van Creveld, Martin, ‘The Fate of the State’ ,Parameters: US Army War College Quarterly, Vol XXVI, No 1, Spring 1996, pp.4-18.
  • Wilson, Graham, ‘In a State? ’ ,Administration: An International Journal of Policy and Administration’ , Vol 13, No 2, April 2000, pp.235-253.
  • Wikipedia encyclopedia, Power ( Sociology ) , hypertext transfer protocol: //en.wikipedia.org/wik/Power_ % 28sociology % 29, accessed 09 February 2008.