Fluid Modernity

The relations between globalisation and the changing importance and functionality of the national state are very often non-transparent. The pace of such changes has accelerated particularly after the bipolar world collapsed, but their roots are often deeper and their causality more complex than would correspond to the state vs. globalisation relation.

Bauman sees the root of the changes in the network of political relationships in the changing meaning of human freedom. ‘Although the notion of refinement (or any other modernisation of the status quo) by means of legislative interventions by society as a whole has not yet been abandoned, the emphasis has shifted substantially (along with the burden of responsibility, which is an important point) toward self-realisation of the individual. This fatal diversion has reflected in the transformation of the ethical-political discourse from the context of a “just society” to a context of “human rights”, which has directed the discourse toward the right of individuals to differ and choose their own models of happiness and appropriate lifestyles as they wish.’ At first sight, such a conclusion only applies to societies whose needs are satisfied to a sufficient or more than sufficient degree, that is, industrially developed countries. In fact, however, the awareness of the right as a claim to universal security of the basic material and cultural needs and requirements is asserted increasingly in the attitudes of inhabitants of the less developed and developing countries.

The difficulty in searching for the basic relationships between the state and globalisation consists, first and foremost, in the fact that the width, multi-layeredness and dynamics of the social changes invoked by globalisation leave little room for the creation of a cohesive theoretical concept for them. It is typical that the most respectable anthologies of expert studies on the topic divide the authors into two big groups: the ‘sceptics’ and the ‘globalists’ (Held, McGrew, 2000).

In addition, Bauman’s notion refers to the fact that many of the social changes in the original member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) came as a result of the transition from modernity to post-modernity, therefore as a result of the changing orientations and values of the ‘satisfied’ societies, whose attitudes to politics and political systems were affected by indifference. This development, however, differed substantially from the situation in most under-developed or developing countries affected by the globalisation processes.

The processes of change will probably not slow down and the fundamental relationships within state organisation and political systems will not stabilise. It is quite to the contrary: prognoses mainly by US research institutes predict that both positive and negative economic, social and environmental changes are possible. These will, in turn, determine changes in and forms of political systems, political regimes, and functions of the state. In this respect, therefore, globalisation is not the only and, in fact, not even the strongest determinant of future development (Hammond, 1998, Rischard, 2002).

The potential consequences of political events such as the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which may interfere with the current development dramatically, are in fact impossible to predict. Threats by Iranian President Ahmadinejad addressed to Israel, and Iran’s insistence on the domestic fortification of nuclear fuel, which can then be used in production of nuclear weapons, are among the more transparent demonstrations of such complications. It follows from these uncertainties that any general appraisals of the existing relationship between the state and globalisation may only be approximate at all times.