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Nation State System

It is a pattern of political life in which people are separately organized into sovereign states, that
interact with one another.
Nation-state System
A nation denotes a common ethnic and cultural identity shared by a single people, while a state is a
political unit with a governance system controlling a territory and its inhabitants. The nation promotes
emotional relationship amongst its members, while states provide political and legal foundation for the
identity of its citizens. The term nation-state has been used by social scientists to denote the gradual
fusion of cultural and political boundaries after a long control of political authority by a central
government. The nation-state plays a dominant role in international relations.
While governments come and go, a state has more permanence. Students and scholars of international
relations can depend upon the continued existence of a state as a viable political entity.
Group of people those occupying a definite territory and politically organized under one government.
2. History
The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 created the modern nation-state. The treaty established the principle
of internal sovereignty (preeminence of rulers from other claimants to power) and external sovereignty
(independence from outside powers).
England, Spain and France obtained independence from dominance by the Holy Roman Empire. It is
often said that the Peace of Westphalia initiated the modern fashion of diplomacy as it marked the
beginning of the modern system of nation states. Subsequent wars were not about issues of religion,
but rather revolved around issues of state. This allowed Catholic and Protestant Powers to ally, leading
to a number of major realignments.
Another important result of the treaty was it laid rest to the idea of the Holy Roman Empire having
secular dominion over the entire Christian world. The nation-state would be the highest level of
government, subservient to no others.
Scholars like Machiavelli, Bodin and Grotius defended the authority of the state and provided
justification for the secular state independent from the authority of the Pope. There are three
approaches to studying the social-cultural, political and economic forces at work within different nationstates.
i. Objective (Attributive) Approach: identifies nationalism and the nation-state in terms of observable
and quantifiable attributes, including linguistic, racial and religious factors.
ii. Subjective (Emotional) Approach: views nationalism and the nation-state as a set of emotional,
ideological and patriotic feelings binding people regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.
iii. Eclectic (Synthetic) Approach: A more subjective than objective approach, seeking to supplement
notions of nationalism and patriotism with interethnic interaction and education processes to explain
creation of a common identity.
3. Features
1. Sovereignty: Sovereignty can be understood to be the legal theory that gives the state unique and
virtually unlimited authority in all domestic matters and in its relations with other states
2. Nationalism: Nationalism is taken to refer to that psychological or spiritual quality which, unites the
people of a state and gives them the will to champion what they regard as their national interests.
3. National Power: National power on the other hand is the might of a state, providing the capabilities
for getting done what the state wants accomplished
4. Further Evolution of State System
1. Rise of representative government

2. The industrial revolution

3. Population explosion
4. Independence of developing countries
5. Economic growth
6. Multilateral Organizations.

The Role of Non-state Actors in International Relations

By Aw Joey
International relations (IR) is like a stage where actors are needed to put on a show. Actors are any
person or entity which plays a role that is attributable in international relations. There are two kind of
actors in the world of International Relations which are states and non-state actors.
Statesare territories run by a government and have a permanent population. Although states are the
most important actors in IR, they are strongly influence by non-state actors. Non-state actors will be
discuss in more detail in the following section.
Definition & Characteristics
Non-state actors are individuals or organizations that have powerful economic, political or social power
and are able to influence at a national and sometimes international level but do not belong to or allied
themselves to any particular country or state.
According to Pearlman and Cunningham, non-state actors are define as an organized political actor
not directly connected to the state but pursing aims that affect vital state interests (Pearlman &
Cunningham, 2011).
Other than having characteristics such as having power and the ability to influence, non-state actors
have a base or headquarter in a certain state but their activities will not only be operating in the state itself
but will also be operating beyond the borders of the state.
Types of Non-state Actors and Their Roles
Sub-state Actors
Sub-state actors are groups of people or individuals with similar interests not beyond the states that are
able to effect the states foreign policy. They are also known as domestic actors.An example of sub-state
actors is the automobile industry and the tobacco industry in America. These industries have
unmistakable interests in the American foreign economic policy so that these industries are able to sell
cars or cigarettes abroad and reduce imports of competing products made abroad. They are politically
assembled to influence policies through interest groups, lobbying, donating to political candidates or
parties, swaying public opinion on certain issues, and other means.
Some examples of sub-state actors are the trade union (British English) /labour union (Canadian
English) labor union (American English). Trade union is an organization of workers who have banded
together to achieve common goals such as protecting the integrity of its trade, achieving higher pay,
increasing the number of employees an employer hires, and better working conditions. They are able to
influence the decisions made regarding their states laws in order to protect the rights of employees.
Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs)

Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) areone of the International Organizations (IOs). IGOs are
organizations whose members consist of three or more nations-states. IGOs are created and joined by
states to solve shared problems which give them authority to make collective decisions to manage
problems on the global agenda. In these organizations, the states representatives gather to discuss issues
that are of mutual interests to the member states.
There are two main types of IGOs, the global IGOs and the regional IGOs. Global IGOs are
organizations having universal or nearly universal membership which means every state is a member like
the United Nations (UN), World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and
many more. Regional IGOs are a subset of states as members based on a particular interest or region,
such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), European Union (EU) and many others.
Why do states form IGOs and work through them? According to liberal institutionalism, states form
IGOs because it is in their interest to do so. With IGOs, certain problems can be solved easily and cheaper
than without them. Liberal institutionalism particularly focuses on collective problems, such as the
security dilemma, the appeal to execute competitive tariffs, and the difficulty in agreeing to protect the
States need to correspond with each other and oversee other states to ensure that they are honouring
their commitments to acknowledge many of the problems. As an example, in the case of free trade, the
World Trade Organization (WTO) was formed to coordinate the negotiation of tariffs and to provide a
mechanism for resolving disputes. Some of these tasks might be more complicated and expensive to
execute without the IGOs.
There are times where IGOs are not only created to solve problems but to provide a platform for
discussion. The UN General Assembly has no predetermined agenda but provides a forum for states to
discuss and debate issues that surfaced. Similarly, one of WTOs goal is to organize meetings at which
states will negotiate to solve problems.
Some examples of IGOs and their purposes:
United Nations (UN)

World Trade Organization

The Association of
Southeast Asian Nations
North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO)

Maintain international peace and security.
Develop friendly relations among nations.
Achieve international cooperation in solving international problems.
Function as a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.
Manage disputes arising from trading partners.
Monitoring trade in agriculture and manufacture commodities.
Promote regional economic, social and culture cooperation among the
state in Southeast Asia.
Military alliance.
A system of collective defence where its member states agree to mutual
defence in response to an attack by any external party.

Transnational Actors
Transnational actors are actors that function below the state level but functioning across the state borders.
There are two types of transnational actors which are the transnational corporations (TNCs) or
multinational corporations (MNCs) and the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
Transnational Corporations (TNCs) / Multinational Corporations (MNCs)
Multinational corporations (MNCs) are companies that have headquarter in one state but invest and
operate extensively in other states. MNCs are based in one state but have branches or subsidiaries

operating in other states. In other words, MNC is a large corporation operating on a worldwide basis in
many countries at the same time, with fixed facilities and employees in each.
The types of MNCs are:

Industrial corporations makes goods in factories in many countries and sell them to business and
consumers in various countries. The largest MNCs are automobile, oil, and electronic industries.
Almost all of the MNCS are based in the G7 states. Examples of this MNCs are Sony, Honda,
Toyota, Petronas and more.

Financial corporations such as banks. They operate multinationally with more restrictions than
industrial corporations. Examples are Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Limited (OCBC
Bank) and others.

Services such as McDonalds fast-food chain, international airlines like MAS, Asiana Airlines
and more, Hilton Hotels & Resorts and many others.

MNCs are increasingly powerful as independent actors. Many of the industrial MNCs have annual
sales of tens of billions of dollars each (hundreds of billions of dollars for top corporations such as WalMart). MNCs are able to match to most international organizations (IOs) in size and financial resources.
The largest IGO (UN) has about 2 billion dollars a year in revenue, compare to more than 250 billion
dollars for the largest MNC. The largest state (United States) has government revenues of 2 trillion
dollars. Therefore this shows that the power of MNCs does not rival the largest states but exceeds many
poorer states and many IOs.
MNCs are view as citizens of the world beholden to no government. Head of Dow Chemical once
dreamed to buy an island to build Dows headquarters. In such view, MNCs act globally in the interests
of their (international) stockholders and owe no loyalty to no state. MNCs are motivated by the need to
maximize profits.
MNCs operations support a global business infrastructure connecting a transnational community of
businesspeople. An exampleis that a U.S. manager arriving in Seoul, South Korea, does not find a
bewildering scene of unfamiliar languages, locations, and customs. Rather, he/she will be able to move
through a familiar sequence of airport lounges, telephone calls and faxes, international hotels, business
conference rooms, and CNN broadcasts most likely hearing English spoken in all.

MNCs also contribute to their host countrys development. As MNCs operate in other states, it will
provide job opportunities for the locals in that state and thus, helped to stabilize the economy in that

Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs)

In todays world, many people found that by joining nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), they
could participate in the global system and lobby to influence international organizations. Most have
joined as members of one or more NGOs, which have about almost thirty thousand now in the
NGOs are private international actors whose members are not states, but are volunteers from
populations of 2 or more states who have formed organizations to promote their shared interests and
ideals in order to influence the policies of state governments and intergovernmental organizations
(IGOs). NGOs tackle many global problemsand seek changes in the world for causes such as
disarmament, environmental protection, human rights and many more.Most pursue objectives that are
highly respected and constructive, and therefore do not provoke any controversy or arouse much
NGOs interact with states, sub-state actors, MNCs, and other NGOs. NGOs are increasingly being
recognized in the UN and other forums, as legitimate actors along with states but is not equal to them.

Some of the groups have a political purpose, some a humanitarian one, some an economic or a technical
one. There are times where NGOs combine efforts through transnational advocacy networks. By joining
NGOs, many people found that they could participate in the global system and lobby to influence
international organizations.
Some examples of NGOs:
One of the NGOs that fight for human rights is Amnesty International. Amnesty International is a
worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. They
conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights and to demand
justice for those whose rights have been violated.
Some of the issues that has been campaign are armed conflict issues and protection of civilians, basic
welfare of children, LGBT rights, rights of people with AIDS, women's rights, disability rights, human
impact of pollution and environmental degradation, freedom of the press and many more.
Another kind of NGO is the religious movement. Religious movement is a set of beliefs and ideas
administered politically by a religious group to promote the principles of conduct. They are a politically
active organizations based on strong religious convictions.
Although religious movement have a strong influence in politics in the older days such as able to
cause a war between people with different religions, nowadays, religious movement act as a peacemaker
between states. For example, the late Pope John Paul II of Catholic Church had addresses bishops from
North and South America at the Vatican in 1997 to help end the Cold War.
Other kinds of NGOs are AIESEC (which links students worldwide), World Wide Fund for Nature
(WWF which works on issues regarding the conservation, researchand restoration of the environment)
and hundreds and thousands more of NGOs to go.
Political Groups that Advocate Violence (Terrorists)
Terrorists or rather political groups that advocate violence might not call themselves NGOs, but they
operate in the same manner which are by interacting both with states and with relevant populations and
institutions through violence and planning attacks.
These groups held great power and are able to influence the international relations between states. A
group that is currently active now is the Al-Qaeda.
The incidence of the spectacularly destructive attack of September 11, 2001 by members of AlQaeda, has demonstrated the increasing power that technology gives terrorists as non-state actors. Other
than that, the Al Qaeda also placed suicide bombers in U.S. cities, coordinate their operations and
finances through Internet and global banking system, and reach a global audience with the videotaped
exhortations of Osama bin Laden.
International Criminal Groups
These actors are considered as transnational actors but they act in an illegitimate manner. Most of these
groups have a great capacity of financial resources and thus, are able to influence the states policies.
Some of them are even capable to threaten the states security. Most operated secretly which makes it
hard for the authorities to track them down. Most of these groups are involved in drugs, prostitution,
human trafficking, firearms and many other crimes.
Some examples of international criminal groups would be the Yakuza in Japan, the Sicilian Mafia in
Italy and also Triads in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and also in countries with significant Chinese


Although states remains as the most important actors in the global system, the non-state actors in todays
world have an increasing influence and power in IR. One of the largest MNCs has revenues that even
surpasses some of the poorer states shows their increasing influences. As the world continues to globalize, it
will be difficult for us to distinguish corporations, countries and other actors in an era of collapsing states
and re-emerging nations.

Role of Non-State Actors in International Relations

1. Changes in the Concept of Sovereignty and Nationalism:
The emergence of non-state actors and the transnational relations has attacked the
state-centric international system. It has changed the nature of international relations.
Non-state actors have forced a change in the concepts of sovereignty and nationalism.
These have affected the role of the nation-states as the actors in international relations.
The policies, decisions and actions of the nation-states now bear the increasing
influence of the presence and activities of the non-state actors. The latter have
emerged as powerful non-political, commercial, economic, cultural, or trading actors in
the international environment. Analyzing the role of non-state actors, Intergovernmental
organisations (IGOs), international non-governmental organisations (i.e., INGOs or
NGOs) and multinational corporations (MNCs).
Have Non-state Actors eclipsed the Nation-State System?
Though the non-state actors of international relations have emerged as important and
active actors, these have not ended, or can end in the foreseeable future, the role of
the nation-state. These have been playing an important role in promoting international
cooperation and collaborations yet these have also been sources of conflict and

2. Non-state Actors and the Nation-States System:

The non-state actors have produced several big changes in the nation-states system as
well as in the role of the nation-state in international relations. These have been
instrumental in increasing international interdependence and relations, as well as in
ordering and expanding relations in this age of interdependence.
These have, overshadowed and are still overshadowing the role of the nation-state in
some areas. The low politics (Economic relations) has assumed more importance in
international relations because of the growth of several economic and functional nonstate actors, particularly the multinational corporations.

3. Non-state Actors as the products of the new International

However, in themselves non-state actors are the products of the nuclear age, space
age, age of communication revolution, transportation revolution, welfarism,
internationalism, and globalisation, which have in turn been the products of the nationstate system. Most of these non-state actors have emerged and are working because
of the acceptance of their utility by the nation-states.
The inter-governmental organisations, and the international organisations like the
United Nations and a host of other international agencies, have their existence in
accordance with the wishes of the nation-states. The nation state still holds (near)
monopoly on the use of coercive power in the international system. It still moulds the
activities of non- state actors more than its behaviour is moulded by them.

4. A New Complexity in International Relations:

Non-state Actors have made international relations more complex and problematic.
These have been in the main responsible for a reduced importance of political relations
in the international system. Some of these have been acting as harbingers of
international peace and security while some others have been acting as agents of neocolonialism and dependency for the under-developed countries.

These have contributed towards the growth of internationalism, and dilution of

nationalism in favour of internationalism. These have also been instrumental in the
emergence of several strong peaceful, developmental and ecological movements. In
the study of international relations, these have given rise to the trans- national
The students of international politics cannot study the real nature and scope of their
subject without studying the working and role of non-state actors in transnational
relations. The institutionalization of trans-national relations through several non-state
and inter-government organisations which act as important actors in international
relations, is a continuing phenomenon of contemporary international relations. Nonstate actors are bound to remain or even become stronger actors in the future course of
relations among nations.