Beyond sovereignty: territory and political economy in the twenty-first century
Beyond Sovereignty reveals a vision of the future, now unfolding, where technological developments, especially in areas of electronics and telecommunication, have shifted the balance away from purely territorial political forms to a greater role for non-territorial organizations and identities. The result of this shift that David Elkins foresees is 'government a la carte,' in which there will be greater diversity of governmental forms and a wider range of choice for groups and individuals.
Elkins begins with a brief history of ways in which technological changes contributed to the creation of nation-states as we have known them since the seventeenth century. He also considers some of the ways in which political organization in the past has been non-territorial (for example, the Roman Catholic Church). Though nationalism has been part of non-territorial organization throughout most of human history, it has been embodied in territorial states only for three hundred years at most, and is now finding expression in political units which cannot be territorial in the way most existing states are, as may be inferred from observing most aboriginal nations and the diaspora of many ethnic groups.
Elkins then examines trends which weaken the exclusive and all-purpose nature of the territorial nation-state, such as the globalization of trade, finance, research and development, and marketing, which has created transnational corporations. He then switches his focus to political institutions and instruments of governance, many of which have already been decoupled from their territorial roots. In exploring a non-territorial political future, however, the line between political and social or economic realms has blurred, and thus an inquiry into the state system necessarily leads to a consideration of democracy, community, identity, and postmodern conceptions of individuality, among many other topics.
Beyond Sovereignty endeavours to make visible the forces and actors now in the background, partly by calling attention to them, partly by putting them in a novel and imaginative framework, and partly be redefining some of the concepts which have become commonplace but which no longer reflect as accurately as they once did what occurs in our daily lives. Part of Elkins aim, therefore, involves a challenge to redefine concepts, to question assumptions, and to try to force discourse to catch up with reality.
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