The role of the nation-state in globalization is a complex one in part due to the varying definitions and shifting concepts of globalization. While it has been defined in many ways, globalization is generally recognized as the fading or complete disappearance of economic, social and cultural borders between nation-states. Some scholars have theorized that nation-states, which are inherently divided by physical and economic boundaries, will be less relevant in a globalized world.

While increasingly reduced barriers in regard to international commerce and communication are sometimes seen as a potential threat to nation-states, these trends have existed throughout history. Air and sea transportation that made same-day travel to other continents possible and greatly expanded trade among countries did not abolish the sovereignty of individual nations. Instead, globalization is a force that changed the way nation-states deal with one another, particularly in the area of international commerce.

Globalization Favors Westernization

One commonly recognized effect of globalization is that it favors Westernization, meaning that other nation-states are at a disadvantage when dealing with the Americas and Europe. This is particularly true in the agricultural industry, in which second- and third-world nations face competition from Western companies. Another potential effect is that nation-states are forced to examine their economic policies in light of the many challenges and opportunities that multinational corporations and other entities of international commerce present.

Multinational corporations, in particular, challenge nation-states to confront the unique issue of foreign direct investments, forcing nation-states to determine how much international influence they allow in their economies. Globalization also creates a sense of interdependence among nations, which could create an imbalance of power among nations of differing economic strengths.

The role of the nation-state in a global world is largely a regulatory one as the chief factor in global interdependence. While the domestic role of the nation-state remains largely unchanged, states that were previously isolated are now forced to engage with one another to set international commerce policies. Through various economic imbalances, these interactions may lead to diminished roles for some states and exalted roles for others.

(For related reading, see: Globalization: Progress or Profiteering?)