Glenn Greenwald’s most excellent series on Security and Liberty in The Guardian addresses most recently the definition of terrorism, and in particular the case of a gangland shooting where a man called Morales shot and killed an innocent 10-year-old girl by mistake. The State of New York convicted him of being a terrorist, defined by state laws as acting with ‘intent to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.’ The interpretation of the court was that Morales actions were designed to coerce the entire Mexican-American community, and were therefore terrorist. On appeal, the court not only rejected the terrorism conviction, but also sent the entire case for retrial, as the standards by which terrorist trials were conducted were different to those of non-terrorist offences.
In many ways, the question of whether State Legitimacy is being eroded is a question about the future of the Nation State. This is not a new question, and many writers have had various points of view (like Bobbitt and his Market State, for example). Many writers go back, instead of going forward – I’ve recently been reading Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel; Acemoglu and Robinson’s Why Nations Fail; and Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order in some way all address the history of civilisation, and the state and its attendant social order. There’s usually an epilogue or final chapter on future vision, or what this means, but generally speaking these books and their writers offer a historical framework for thinking through how States, and civilisations, evolve. Continue reading “The Competitors for State Legitimacy”
Wednesday’s Op-Ed by Jules Boykoff in the New York Times criticises the IOC for its elitism and arrogance. Sidestepping the conventional criticism of corruption, Boykoff attacks governance, the preponderance of royalty on the committee, and, essentially, its condescension. It is in effect a commercial construct that denies accountability (such as the ethics committee who report to the IOC executive, populated no doubt by – as Sir Humphrey would refer to them – sound men) and retains, as he concludes, “the arrogance and aloofness” that make it very ordinary indeed.
I linked yesterday to Ann-Marie Slaughter‘s excellent presentation to PopTech on International Relations and the non-state actors that influence and even dictate so much development in the world. Watching it again this morning (and it’s worth watching twice) a number of questions crossed my mind. First, she talks about social actors and ad hoc networks, but never quite gets to social networks. Just as ad-hoc supra-national organisations are bringing together strange bedfellows, and getting ahead of the State actors in driving change, people are developing connections and social networks beyond traditional family and even cultural groups; one could argue that technological change is facilitating the re-structuring of the DNA of culture. Kin, geography, language, religion and race remain important, but they are no longer the exclusive determinants of social alignment. People connect now through trade, sports, entertainment, hobbies, and other interests, forming close relationships. People’s identity – closely tied to these relationships – is changing. National identity is less relevant.
The role of the non-state actor can tell us much about the nature and power of the state. While in the first instance the role of the MNC is seen as relevant in development and labour standards, for example, there are deeper more fundamental aspects of the MNC that help us to understand legitimacy. Some countries that struggle for legitimacy – fledgling regimes, less democratic regimes, oppressive regimes – manage to sustain themselves in spite of a lack of popular support by enriching those who control the levers of power, such as the army generals, and the judiciary. The wealth that flows to those regimes comes from multiple sources, including the sale of natural resources, and sovereign debt markets, both of which are essentially controlled by MNCs.