Expanding the principles of democracy as the foundational concepts of the nation-state could be seen as a viable approach toward creating international institutions, yet the process of building the latter might be more intricate. The formation of the nation-state can be described as the introduction of the principles that enhance the homogeneity of a particular community, whereas international institutions strive to maintain the environment in which the threat of global conflicts is reduced to its barest minimum.
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On the one hand, one might assume that the integration of nation-state principles into the global society could cause a gradual increase in the security levels, thus proving the connection between the foundational factors of both phenomena. On the other hand, while often tending to intersect, the premises of the nation-state and the international institutions seem to address different aspects of global security. Therefore, while having certain common aspects such as the connection to global governance, the specified principles may differ significantly in the values and intentions based on which they were developed.
The factors that defined the formation of the international institutions at present are significantly different from the ones that determined the development of the nation-state. However, the general propensity toward the principle of exogenous cultural construction and, therefore, multiculturalism can be seen as the factor that makes the formation of the nation-state and the international institutions share similar characteristics.
Particularly, the focus on the exogenous influences that enhance the development of international institutions and the nation-state should be seen as the driving factor behind the international institutions of the 20th and 21st centuries, yet it has become more pronounced in the 21st century due to the promotion of multiculturalism ideas and values (Mitrany 361). Thus, the temporal aspect of the phenomena under analysis also needs to be taken into consideration.
While the link between the nation-state and international institutions may have been rather loose in the past, at present the focus on reducing conflicts and defending the rights of minorities appear to be loosely interrelated.
The phenomenon of the nation-state used to be restricted to the promotion of nationalist ideology and the enhancement of nationalist viewpoints that could be defined as rather toxic to ethnic minorities. For example, Geary explains that the phenomenon of the nation-state can become a rather shallow notion when represented from the perspective of the dominant culture (16).
However, when pursuing the needs of ethnic and national minorities, it elevates itself to the status of a movement for protecting the rights of oppressed minorities and preserving their culture by shielding it from the destructive impact of powerful states that may be dismissive of their plight (Geary 17). Particularly, Geary explains that the concept of the nation-state as it was perceived at the Age of Revolution has undergone drastic alterations to advocate for the political autonomy of ethnic minorities to produce “independence movements” (Geary 17).
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However, nowadays, the phenomenon has evolved to a more multicultural one, encompassing the ideas that allow building a platform for the peaceful coexistence of people with different philosophies within the setting of a specific state. As Roeder explains, “nation-states are among the most important institutions of political life; they establish fundamental parameters of both global and domestic politics” (4). Therefore, it is critical for nation-states to uphold the current standards of multicultural communication and shift toward a more advanced method of intercultural communication.
Therefore, the modern nation-state phenomenon has evolved to address some of the current issues associated with intercultural communication and the issues that national and ethnic minorities may face in a foreign setting, including assimilation. The specified changes reflect the principles based on which modern international institutions are built, including the need to implement the principles of democracy on a global scale and recognizing the agency of every citizen.
Exploring the world-societal development, one should focus on the extraneous factors that have shaped it, including the tendency to follow the concept of the isomorphic change (Meyer et al. 152). Specifically, the evolution from empire-oriented tendencies in the global political environment to the ones that are driven by nation-state principles needs to be exampled (Wimmer and Min 868). According to the existing evidence, the ideas based on which both past and modern international institutions were based aligned at least partially with the transfer from imperial ideas to the nation-state principles as a more sensible approach toward building international relationships.
Particularly, Wimmer and Min posit that the factors such as political instability, the threat of a war that may reach a global scale, and economic imbalances have been the driving force behind the design of international institutions both in the past and at present (869). The specified argument aligns with the idea behind the nation-state as of its latest definition. Moreover, it shows that the factors by which the creation of a state-nation as a notion was defined have also affected the design of international institutions.
International institutions, in turn, are also based on rather profound concepts of security and safety of every member of the global society. The specified tendencies became particularly explicit and impactful after the end of the Cold War when the significance of promoting world peace increased exponentially compared to less strenuous international relationships before the global conflict (Mearsheimer 5). While the concept of peacemaking is rather close to the idea of maintaining the intercultural dialogue, claiming that the premises based on which international institutions are built are quite similar to those of the nation-state philosophy.
The idea of promoting key democratic principles and encouraging a peaceful resolution of the conflicts emerging between representatives of different nations can be seen as the platform for the creation of international institutions.
The heterogeneity by which the early nation-state could be characterized may have also sparked the creation of international institutions. However, in the specified case, the notion of heterogeneity may be seen as twofold since it encourages unity yet sets rigid boundaries for citizens. Specifically, Przeworski et al. explain that religious heterogeneity implies a rather weak influence on the state population, although it plays a rather important role in the context of a presidential system (133). Therefore, in some instances, the factors that drive the development of nation-states hamper the progress of international institutions’ development.
The rise of the influence that the liberal institutionalism theories have had on the development of international collaboration can be analyzed from different theoretical tents, which will help to define the role of nation-state foundational premises on the development of the 20th– and 21st-century international institutions. Mearsheimer explains that the realist perspective allows seeing international institutions as the entities of a lesser impact on the promotion and control of world peace and, instead, being the product thereof, while institutionalists argue that the opposite can be observed in the global society (7).
Therefore, the stability of the global political environment and the state of world peace does not hinge on international institutions and their efficacy, from Mearsheimer’s perspective. Consequently, the connection between the nation-state and international institutions may be rather tenuous. However, while being evidently well-argued, the specified viewpoint seems to omit several key factors that shape the development of both nation-state and international institutions.
Therefore, claiming that the current concept of international institutions is derived from the same principles as the philosophy of the nation-state would be a rather inaccurate statement. In order to determine the connections between the international institutions of the modern era and the nation-state philosophy, one will need to extrapolate the trends in the development of the nation-state as a notion. While the specified phenomenon may be interpreted as the enhancement of the dominant political and cultural power within the society, it can also be rendered as the platform for promoting the agenda of ethnic and national minorities.
In the latter case, the contemporary international institutions should be deemed as related to the phenomenon of the nation-state. Particularly, both thrive on the same principles of democracy and the principles of equity that have become principal to maintaining global peace and encouraging a multicultural dialogue. Nonetheless, the fact that modern international institutions can be represented as lacking in the actual impact on the attitudes and moods in the society indicates that the link between the specified notions may become unnoticeable with time.
Geary, Patrick. “A Poisoned Landscape: Ethnicity and Nationalism in the Nineteenth Century.” The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe, Princeton University Press, 2001, pp. 15-41.
Mearsheimer, John J. “The False Promise of International Institutions.” International Security, vol. 19, no. 3, 1994, pp. 5-49.
Meyer, John W., et al. “World Society and the Nation-State.” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 103, no. 1, 1997, pp. 144-181.
Mitrany, David. “The Functional Approach to World Organization.” International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), vol. 24, no. 3, 1948, pp. 350-363.
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Przeworski, Adam, et al. “Democracies and Dictatorships.” Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950-1990, Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 13-137.
Roeder, Philip G. “Who Gets a State of Their Own?” Where Nation-States Come from: Institutional Change in the Age of Nationalism, Princeton University Press, 2007, pp. 3-37.
Wimmer, Andreas, and Brian Min. “From empire to nation-state: Explaining wars in the modern world, 1816–2001.” American Sociological Review, vol. 71, no. 6, 2006, pp. 867-897.