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Democracy Beyond the Nation-State

According to the Harvard economist Dani Rodrik, it is impossible to have full national sovereignty, democracy, and globalization simultaneously. The concept of a “political trilemma of the world economy” is useful, but it becomes less binding when one takes into account levels of government above and especially below the nation-state.

WASHINGTON, DC – According to the Harvard economist Dani Rodrik, it is impossible to have full national sovereignty, democracy, and globalization simultaneously. The concept of a “political trilemma of the world economy,” which Javier Solana also recently explored, is useful, but incomplete.

Rodrik’s argument, elaborated in his new book, is that too much globalization erodes the sovereignty of democratic nation-states, by increasingly subjecting them to economic and financial forces that may not correspond with the wishes of the domestic majority. By this logic, an authoritarian state may function better in a globalized world, because it is unconstrained by, say, electoral concerns.

With less globalization, democratic decision-making within the nation-state would be less constrained by external forces – particularly financial markets – meaning that its scope would be wider. Globalization and democracy, without the nation-state, is also possible, though Rodrik is skeptical about whether democratic institutions could function on a global scale.

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