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Globalization, War, and the
Withering Away of the State
While preparing this essay, I chanced upon an article in a news magazine, which
provided a brief history of European states since 1500, when there were approximately
500 political, state-like units. By 1800 there were “a few dozen,” and during the second
half of that century the unification of Germany and Italy further reduced the census
of officially defined European states. After World War I, the census of states was 23,
having been reduced significantly by the absorption of many states into the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and others by the new Yugoslavia. By 1994 there
were 50 states, arising out of the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. There
is now a movement to reduce that number by 27, in a new megastate called the European Union (EU), that “has a flag that no one salutes, an anthem no one sings …
27 different national memories and more than that number of durable ethnicities.”1
And, as measured by UN membership in 2006, there were 192 states in the world.
Things do change, even nation-states. Some decline. Some disappear. Others
become super-powers. But all states are vulnerable. And as a state’s power increases,
so does its vulnerability. For example, on 11 September 2001 three jumbo jets were
hijacked in the air over Boston and were flown into two buildings in New York City
and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. A mere 3,000 people were killed without
impairing a strategic target. And the USA, a superpower, was brought to its knees.
The United States was not at war with any Islamic state. However, our interests
in trade were extensive in the era of globalization, and globalization is war by other
Theodore J. Lowi is the John L. Senior Professor of American Institutions at Cornell University. Lowi has been
the President of the American Political Science Association, the recipient of its prestigious James Madison
Award, and has served as the Vice-President, President, and President Emeritus of the International Political Science Association. Among his influential books are Arenas of Power (2009), The End of Liberalism (1969), and The
Pursuit of Justice (1964), as well as the popular textbooks We The People: An Introduction to American Politics and
American Government: Power and Purpose.
Brown Journal of World Affairs, Copyright © 2011
Spring / Summer 2011
volume xvii, issue ii
Theodore J. Lowi
means. This is highlighted by two distinguished political economists, one, Karl Polanyi, focused on the “great transformation” through the 19th century to World War
I, and the other, Jonathan Krishner, a much younger political economist, focused
on the 60-70 years since the end of World War II:
Every war, almost, was organized by financiers; but peace also was organized by
Bankers dread war. More precisely, financial communities … are acutely averse
to war [but] to policies that risk war …3
The contradiction is explained away by the factor of penetration: the principal
threat to the state. The autonomy in which sovereignty resides is compromised by
penetration. With or without war, Adam Smith and David Hume were and still are
correct that international commerce is the sine qua non of “the wealth of nations;”
but “free trade” is not free. Penetration, once in play, does not limit itself to commerce in goods and services. It also means commerce in ideas, morals, rules, and,
in particular, ideologies and religions. The mixture of these interests and passions
has been the recipe for war as well as wealth, peace as well as poverty.
In fact, this contradiction is inherent—today as well as in the past. But every active
state seems to have a theory or rationale, to explain away the cost of vulnerability. The
United States has staked its defense of sovereignty on democratization, democratic
imperialism, with the popular argument that “by promoting democracy we promote
peace because democracies do not go to war against each other.”4
But note the cost in diminished capacity—never mind the money. The United
States made democratization its rationale but it cannot cover—and no longer tries
to hide—the complete agenda: the fear of blackmail through withholding strategic
resources, and the prospect of colonial-type trade advantages.
This is not a US phenomenon. It is a universal state phenomenon. In this era of
globalization, many states are under-performing, illegitimate, and threatened by real
decline. To demonstrate the universality of diminished sovereignty, I scanned the
front page of recent major newspapers: Georgian forces invade a breakaway region,
which brings Russia into the fray, as though a “state of war” between Georgia and
Russia. The United States can only plead for restraint. Syria uses Turkey as a mediator
to deal with Israel over the Golan Heights; and the United States “has played no role
whatsoever in the talks.”5 In another example: An eleventh hour deal brokered by
Qatar, again without any US role.6 Still another: United States “handed over a trove
of its own intelligence” to the International Atomic Energy Agency to deal with Iran
after five years of being left out.7 However, the best case study for our purposes will
be the willingness of 27 states (as of September 2007) to surrender some of their
the brown journal of world affairs
Globalization, War, and the Withering Away of the State
sovereignty to a new sovereign, the EU.
State Theory, As It Should Be
The task from here is to identify and evaluate state responses to diminished sovereignty. It is an exercise in state theory, but not in the stream of traditional political
theory. Since this effort comes very late in my career—as a valedictory address—I
can be bold and probably careless to “hit and run” before my errors, or those of my
own country, are exposed.
According to my survey, most theories of the state are highly abstract, concerned
with the requirements of a good, or ideal, state (Plato) and the virtues and faults
of different types of states (Aristotle). Exploring the most important and reliable A
History of Political Theory in English, by George Sabine, I found so few references
to the state that I added government, for which there were references only to seven
authors, and the index reference itself was headed “government, forms of.”8 There
are, of course, treatments of other phenomena that bear upon states (e.g., by Machiavelli and Marx) but no other direct confrontations with the state were worthy
of a spot in Sabine’s index.
I went behind Sabine by actually re-reading a few political philosophers well
known and widely cited, and my findings confirmed the impression of the survey:
State and government were strikingly significant in their absence. There was close to
nothing about what states and their governments actually do. Even the great practical
statist, Machiavelli, says little about government. In his Preface to The Discourses, he
writes, as though for a dedication:
… what history has to say about the highly virtuous actions performed by ancient
kingdoms and republics, by their kings, their generals … their legislators … [is]
so shunned [that] it cannot but fill me at once with astonishment and grief. The
more so when I see that in … civic disputes … they always have decisions laid
down by the ancients … For the civil law is nothing but a collection of decisions
… tabulated … for our instruction.9
The strong impression in this account of what governments do is dispute resolution, one-on-one, as with monarch, judge or doctor, to make a Solomonic choice
and presumably to see that it is observed. In modern language, governments regulate
the conduct of individuals, deriving and applying the decision, presumably backed
by sanctions of a state official
But where there is one government task there are, logically, likely to be others.
And they should be conceptualized as functions of the state.
The advantage of this formulation is that function implies, first, ongoing, regular
Spring / Summer 2011
volume xvii, issue ii
Theodore J. Lowi
Table 1. Functions & Their Politics in a Stable State
I. Patronage: Distribution of state resources to individual claimants
A. Objectives
1. provision of public goods (i.e., infrastructure)
2. expand opportunities, incentives
3. purchase of loyalty to regime
B. Politics – latent functions, unintended consequences
1. participation highly particularized; patron/client, neo-feudal
2. coalitional relations, personalized support, logrolling
3. closest to market competition for political power
II. Regulation: réglementation: rules imposed upon individual conduct, backed by sanctions
A. Objectives
1. to reduce risk of injury
2. to improve predictability of conduct
3. to guarantee observance of contracts
4. to standardize measures, methods, commodities, risks
B. Politics: latent functions, unintended consequences
1. highly pluralistic – dominated by private interest groups
2. pluralistic – multiple centers of power; Madisonian
3. vigorous competition among elites, public & private
4. adversarial relation between public & private sectors
III. Redistribution: manipulation of “environment of conduct”; rules imposed on categories or classes of individuals; “megapolicies”
A. Objectives
1. access to relief from disability & dependency
2. modification of income disparities between classes
3. stabilization & underwriting of monetary system
B. Politics: latent functions, unintended consequences
1. “power elite” structure confirming neo-Marxist theory
2. ideological, class politics
3. executive centered policy making
IV. Constitution: the state interest toward itself; procedural rules; rules about rules; rules
about jurisdictions; rules about powers
A. Objectives
1. regulation of the state & its components
2. policy of procedural rights
3. defining citizenship
B. Politics: latent functions, unintended consequences
1. “power elite,” but internal, dominated by top officialdom
2. power based on control of information & procedure
3. technocracy
the brown journal of world affairs
Globalization, War, and the Withering Away of the State
Table 2. Functions & Their Politics in a Declining State
I. Patronage: distribution of state resources to individual claimants
A. Objectives
1. inclusion through contracting, outsourcing
2. “social partnership”
3. cooptation
B. Politics: latent functions, unintended consequences
1. contracts in return for party support
2. parochialism
3. consociationalism
4. prominence of logrolling
5. prominence of NGOs
II. Regulation: réglementation: rules imposed upon individual conduct, backed by sanctions
A. Objectives
1. cooptation
2. devolution, with broad discretion
3. privatization – to private ownership or domination
B. Politics: latent functions, unintended consequences
1. from pluralism to sponsored pluralism
2. formal participation in policy making
3. consociationalism, corporatism
III. Redistribution: manipulation of “environment of conduct;” rules imposed on categories or classes of individuals; “megapolicies”
A. Objectives
1. tighten rules of eligibility
2. devolve to localities, regions, etc.
3. “de-indexation” of wages & benefits
B. Politics: latent functions, unintended consequences
1. tripartite efforts – government, labor, business
2. interest groups as “social partners”
3. decline of party cohesion & state “autonomy”
IV. Constitution: the state interest toward itself; procedural rules; rules about rules; rules
about jurisdictions; rules about powers
A. Objectives
1. balance of majoritarian & consensus models of democracy
2. rights as the definition of citizenship
3. balancing executive & parliamentary systems
B. Politics: latent functions, unintended consequences
1. the state penetrated, no longer autonomous
2. presidential centricity
3. rise of “personal presidents,” unmediated relation to mass
Spring / Summer 2011
volume xvii, issue ii
Theodore J. Lowi
activities and, second, relation to a larger system.10 What we can see about the state
are what we call laws, rules, or policies. The term policy is preferable because it is
more suggestive of an ongoing process of implementation of state decisions.
Returning to The Discourses, and having identified the first “function” of government, which was translated into regulation, we can now confront what appears to
be a second function, which Machiavelli labels “Agrarian Law.” But that turns out to
be two laws, or functions of the state. Quoting Machiavelli through the translator, they
are: first, “that no citizen should be allowed to possess above so many acres of land”;
and second, “that all lands that were taken from the enemy should be divided among
the Roman people.”11 Now these concrete policies can and should be translated
into two “types,” i.e., functions. According to the logic of this typology of functions,
Machiavelli’s first “Agrarian law” is redistribution. And his second “Agrarian law”
is distribution, (to stress the relation of the two as antonyms). But I prefer to call it
patronage (to stress more substance and history—i.e., jurisprudence). Now we have
identified three types or functions buried in Machiavelli’s formulation: regulation,
redistribution, and patronage. This is the beginning of a Machiavelli typology that
strongly resembles a typology that I have been working with for 40 years.
But Machiavelli was careless. The typology needs closure, and for the sake of logic
(and without time to elaborate) I must add a fourth type, which I found in his Preface,
100 pages earlier than the other three. It appears in the title, “The Development of
Rome’s Constitution.”12 Constitution implies words on parchment, as in covenant
or contract. But the Oxford English Dictionary also defines it quite appropriately as
a verb: to constitute the action of making or constructing something; and a noun:
the makeup of a thing, as in architecture. In my writings I call it “constituent” policy
or function, inspired by the French usage of “constituent assembly.” Constitution
(or constituent) policy (or function) is absolutely indispensable as the fourth, closing category, because the rules and logic of its construction are the sine qua non of
“state theory.”
Now, at last, to focus on what state theory can say about state decline. I take state
decline as my premise, and my concern is for the consequences of its decline.
When sovereignty weakens, politicians are first to know, because their lives and
legacies depend upon it. In addition, it is also certain that they will make strenuous
efforts to reverse or compensate. We in capitalist countries have been conditioned,
thanks to globalization, to accept the quantitative indicators of monetary surge and
decline as the true measure of national vitality. But since indicators are a poor compromise for a true measure, the data can be “cherry picked” and freely interpreted
to create a sense of growth or a threat of decline. Threat can be met by normal,
mainstream policies. However, strategic threat against sovereignty is quite another
the brown journal of world affairs
Globalization, War, and the Withering Away of the State
matter—a matter of “national security.”
Machiavelli and I will try to provide a fruitful response. And since “the states”
and “state functions” are so abstract, I have done my best to provide concrete and
practical renderings of state responses and to simplify them further by tabularizing
them in a logical order.13
The primary function is patronage. Although vulgarized as a synonym for political
corruption, patronage is an equal function of the state. And it is often indispensable
because it is a state technique of control that entails the least amount of conflict. It
was the dominant technique in the feudal system—purchasing loyalty, support, and
consensus. Additionally, it was the dominant technique of the US national government from 1800 to the 1930s.
This is an example of the practical as well as the theoretical aspect of analyzing
the abstract state through policy types that can be compared as to their appropriateness for the state’s objectives and their political consequences. (See Table 1 and 2.)
My favorite example is Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign promise to make his major
objective the “de-regulation” of the American economy. Once elected, he saw the
difficulty of directly confronting each regulatory agency to terminate or seriously to
shrink its authority. There were too many interest groups to fight. (See the politics
of regulatory policy, Table 1, II, “pluralism.”) So he chose an alternative approach
for the same objective, “Constitution“ policy (Table 1, IV) whose politics gave the
president a very large advantage due to the higher elitist power structure inside the
executive branch, with its apex in the White House. He did not have to confront
each regulatory agency. He simply set up a new agency, with no regulatory power
over any sector of the economy but with bureaucratic power to require “regulatory
review,” an elaborate process of “cost-benefit analysis” which was to demonstrate
that the benefit of the proposed rule out-weighed the cost. Consequently, the total
number of rules emanating from regulatory agencies dropped quite significantly.
As we move from Stable State to Declining State, there are significant changes.
The objectives dedicated to cooptation tend to spread, from patronage policy to
regulatory. There is a significant use of devolution toward local and regional implementation, in order to encourage a sense that individuals and private organizations
are taking part in government decisions. Cooptation also increases in redistributive
policies, but there is a difference. The politics of cooptation in regulatory policies is
bargaining between government and high status organized private interests, while in
contrast, the politics arising out of redistributive policies is class politics, with such
issues as tightening or loosening eligibility for welfare benefits, judgments between
deserving and undeserving poor and so on.
Another prominent feature of declining states is the growing prominence of
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Theodore J. Lowi
mass consent overshadowing electoral accountability, i.e., toward the plebiscitary
democracy of public opinion and approval ratings. It is no accident the Italians hit
upon the idea of “the personal president” on my side of the Atlantic and “the personal party” on their side.
The Special Case of Corporatism
I have saved for last the most important general tendency of the political consequences of declining states: corporatism. I am not alone in my impression that
when the sovereignty and autonomy of the state are threatened and in decline, the
regime will attempt to rebuild itself by loaning or sharing some of its governing
powers with private power holders, each side trying to use their new partnership to
improve their longer range advantage—the former to restore sovereignty, the latter
to both expand the range of free movement and to establish stronger support, more
privilege, and protection from national and regional governments. I was fortunate
to recall an observation in 1985 by Peter Katzenstein:
… the large [European industrial] states are shrinking … and no new formal
empires are likely to emerge … Second, the diminution of the large states is
reflected in the growing openness of their economies and their weakening control
over the international system. For … the large states, ‘rule taking’ rather than
rule making is becoming increasingly important … They too must learn how to
tap-dance rather than trample.14
The recent (and continuing) intervention by the US government is very much in
point because it is ideologically the strongest supporter of global free-market nonintervention. Yet during the financial crisis, it stepped in to save major corporate
culprits with gigantic subsidies, as well as guarantees that banks and other financial
institutions—all at fault—will not be allowed to fail. In 1979 I coined a phrase to
characterize the direction weakened states are going: “the state of permanent receivership,”—which I define as the tacit guarantee that no large corporation will be
permitted to die.15 The current meltdown earned its own neologism: TBTD—too
big to die. It should be amended to TBTLD: to big to let die.
Out of all this comes the single concept that best captures the central political
tendency of the declining sovereignty of states: corporatism. Americans and Americanists do not visit this concept very often, but there are hosts of Europeans and
Europeanists who use it quite prominently, and most of them give off a fairly strong
positive attitude toward it. Philippe Schmitter, Professor Emeritus of the Department
of Political and Social Sciences at the Europena Univeristy Institute, in his usual
exuberant style, proclaimed, “Corporatism is dead. Long live corporatism!” And
the brown journal of world affairs
Globalization, War, and the Withering Away of the State
Table 3. Halo words for corporatism
Democratic corporatism
Liberal corporatism
Private-interest government
Social contracts
Social partnership
Tripartite social pacts
Tripartite policy making
rhetorically, “Still the Century of Corporatism?” Among the various definitions, I
embrace Peter Katzenstein’s, who has modernized the concept without abandoning
earlier experience:
… corporatism refers to the economic and political organization of modern
capitalism [e.g., Japan Inc. and Wall Street] emphasiz[ing] the dominance of the
giant corporation in economic life and the integration of business into the decision
making of governments and state bureaucracies. (Italics added.)16
We can embellish the concept with positive or negative adjectives, e.g., “fascist
corporatism,” for condemnation, and “democratic corporatism,” for embrace; but
the essential feature of the concept is incorporation by the state. Try as they may to
sanitize corporatism by tying it to “an interest group system” or a “pluralist interest
group system,”17 their efforts fall flat, because in less corporatized political systems,
interest groups remain outside the state, enhancing their political power by coalition,
which the OED defines very appropriately as “an alliance … without permanent
incorporation into one body.” In contrast, corporatism is distinguished precisely by
its incorporation into the regime, by “permanent receivership” and by direct and
regular participation in governance.
Arend Lijphart, probably the leading figure in the discourse on corporatism,
concludes his defense of corporatism with a quote from Schmitter as “eminently
sensible” by his acceptance of “interest group corporatism” as a kind of “dynastic
continuity punctuated by periodic demise and subsequent resurrection.”18 But the
truth of the matter is that corporatism has never declined but comes forward as
states take losses in their autonomy. And its prominence in recent years has been
misrepresented by benevolent adjectives that soften the reputation of corporatism
for association with some very bad regimes. Table 3 is a non-exhaustive inventory
of concepts that have been most frequently used to put corporatism in a favorable
light—halo words designed to sanitize, rationalize or downright validate corporatism.
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Theodore J. Lowi
Corporatism has a very long history. It is an ideological (note the -ism) rendering
of the root concept corporation. The state is itself a corporation, as is the church,
in particular the Catholic Church. Mauro Calise provides a magnificent rendering
of its nature and longevity: “the corporate millennium.” We are now in our second
corporate millennium, and neither church nor state, nor capitalism would have
persisted without the contribution of the corporation. My favorite rendering of its
importance is from Werner Sombart through Herbert Muller,
… the great working order of the Benedictines laid the foundations of capitalist
enterprise … [T]he Church was by far the greatest financial enterprise of the
[medieval] age. Few have heard of Fra Luca Pacioli, the inventor of double-entry
bookkeeping; but he has probably had much more influence on human life than
has Dante or Michelangelo.19
Numbers are not necessary. Just contemplate the extent to which the livelihood
of all adult members of developed and developing nations is employment—i.e.,
work for wages, salaries, commissions, etc. provided by and under obligation to an
establishment not owned by the employees and large enough to be favored by the
state with the privileges of incorporation, the principal privilege being immunity
from liability for personal debt or injury. Writing his masterpiece toward the end of
the 19th century, John P. Davis lays out the operative definition of the corporation,
The corporate form [including ecclesiastical] … is created by the state [by charter]
… After the corporate form has been assumed by a group, it is compulsory …
upon all its members until forfeited … in the manner provided by [the charter].20
This is why corporations are created, to act as a unit or legally a person for all
its members:
Blackstone very aptly called them ‘little republics,’ though he would have been
more faithful to history if he had called republics ‘big corporations.’21
The tone may seem too formal and orthodox after more than a century, and Davis
was writing as a lawyer and Ph.D., not an economist. But the principles have not
changed in any fundamental way. The corporate element in government and civil
society is too prominent to be softened and made more palatable with the camouflage
of halo words. But even if the -ism of corporatism can be softened, the advanced
individual nations are confronted with corporatocracy—or, -cracy, form of rule.
This is not a diatribe against corporations as such or the particular interest groups
that are corporations. It is an appeal to turn away from pseudo-objective, scientific
the brown journal of world affairs
Globalization, War, and the Withering Away of the State
study of how groups, associations and parties do their work. Comparing this to the
field of medicine, let us move from the study of wellness to the diagnosis and treatment of pathology. The wellness model would be to focus on the signs of health, how
the body works and how to keep it that way. The alternative model is to work with
the same data but as symptoms, clues to disease. As good doctors, we should expect
the worst, having in front of us a list of all the possible pathogens.
Look again at Table 3. The items are examples of the good and the healthy of the
body politic and now they contribute to participation, accountability, and consensus. While this may be true, if we are to speak truth to power, we should not stop
with appreciation. Any ambitious journalist can do that, and better. We should be
looking “for something more profound couched beneath,” to quote Jonathan Swift.
We cannot find the pathology unless we are prepared to find the worst. If you diagnose those items with the attitude of a pathologist, you cannot be as positive and
optimistic as those otherwise excellent political scientists who in effect would invite
every corporate super-citizen to direct access to the inner circle of the making of
important policies.
I will conclude with a move toward a more general level. Now that so many policyoriented interest groups are corporations, advanced states are already corporatocracies. Who represents whom in Strasbourg? Who speaks for whom in Brussels? I am
no expert but I do intercept occasional symptoms of corporate efforts to leap over
local or national venues and going straight to Brussels. That could be a healthy sign
that EU is becoming the new megastate. Or it could mean the corporate interest
could spend the night in Brussels and gain satisfaction for its members by moving
out to an oceanic pied-à-terre and form a new cartel. Corporations have no national
identity, no patriotism or loyalty. Corporations may be eternal, but the coalitions
and cartels they make do not provide a venue for providing public goods. We can
hear the economists and the rational choice guys on their knees crying out as though
in prayer: Let us, in unison, assume a public good.
The moral to the story is that corporatism, accompanied by whatever adjective,
is in itself a pathology. It possesses most of the vices and virtually none of the virtues of a healthy state with lots of interest groups working for the civil society. The
corporate principle cannot alone restore a declining state or build a new megastate.
And the consensus model of democracy will not work either. Lijphart and others
who embrace the consensus model with the inclusion of social corporatism (labor
unions), liberal corporatism (business association), and a multiparty system with
proportional representation will never provide consensus. It reminds me of the most
effective rejection by a critic of another Panglossian panacea, pluralism, “The flaw
in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with a strong upper class
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Theodore J. Lowi
If the conservatism were merely upper class bias, corporatism would offer no great
threat. But corporatism is innately conservative, in a pathological way. Corporations
are highly, tightly solidary. Even small corporations—business or non-profit—have
a bureaucracy, not only to keep accounts, but to develop, program, and manage the
members, whether they are salaried employees or dues-paying members. Corporations grow through bureaucratization, with a middle management, which serves
the corporation’s interests better than the market (if commercial) or public opinion
(if non-profit).23 With its charter giving it unity and immortality, the corporation
can develop a bureaucracy—a “managerial hierarchy”—that can program the organization’s objectives and subordinate each employee and each task to the output or
product. If this begins to look like the computer, it is no accident. The first major
success was the “business machine” (which became IBM); and there would almost
certainly not have been even a concept of a computer, a programmed computer,
without the lived experience of modern bureaucratic life.
Socio-politically, the bureaucratized corporation is also conservative because it
subordinates every member to its role, as defined by its relation to every other member and to the objective. And the operation will continue, repetitively, until externally
re-programmed. The units are human individuals but are not “alienated”—as Marxists
or Charlie Chaplin (in Modern Times) would have it—because their corporate role
lasts only a few hours a day. Nevertheless, corporate life seeks to be all encompassing, an extended family. Henry Ford paid all of his workers $5 per day—far above
average wages—on the theory that one cannot mass-produce cars if the employees
cannot buy them. But his vision went far beyond that. The voluntary overpayment
was a weapon to keep the unions out of the Ford plants. And for a while unions in
large corporations were dubious and often opposed to government provisions for
unemployment, disability, and retirement because they preferred that union and
management be the source. This was a temporary tendency but it is indication of the
attractiveness of membership within corporations. It was paternalistic, much like the
old tenant farms in the United States and later-day industrial serfdom in general, in
which security and rights were, to whatever degree, dependent on the proprietors.24
The era of globalization (whether our measurement is 130 years or 30 years) has
actually produced two economies, followed by the emergence of two polities. The
first and earlier one is a national one, in which, according to labor historian Nelson
… Keynesian programs have worked best when the market coincided with a
powerful, self-contained polity. (Italics added.)
the brown journal of world affairs
Globalization, War, and the Withering Away of the State
Lichtenstein goes on with the second,
Moreover, the new international laissez-faire has challenged many socialdemocratic arrangements and regulations that were constructed during the
mid-twentieth years as a safeguard, in Europe and the United States, against the
recurrence of depression era Hobbesianism. The kind of social regulation once
commonplace in the advanced industrial countries found no point of leverage in
the increasingly globalized economy.25
Unfortunately, we are confronting two political economies. We are thoroughly
familiar with the pathologies as well as the strengths of the stable state-centered
economy. Additionally, there is ample evidence that many states are trying to reverse
the decline of sovereignty. But their efforts often border on return to authoritarianism, whose methods are outside the box of Table 1 or Table 2: the United States’
persistent struggle in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as our multibillion-dollar Mexican
Great Wall; Russia’s reaction to threats on their borders; China against tiny Tibet;
Myanmar’s vain effort to block out offers of humanitarian assistance; and Venezuela’s
efforts to nationalize their oil.
The two political economies cannot be treated as options. The best we can do is
to be objective in our diagnosis of the symptoms and honest with which pathologies
are most in need of attention. Since there is nothing much we can do about the use
of war to strengthen the state, we would be better off concentrating on corporatism,
because it is present at both the national and global levels. Within the first, the state,
the corporation in a corporate state is an approximation of a state-within-the-state.
They participate in the determination of state functions, the members and employees
of each corporate entity or federation becomes the provider of a measurable and
increasing share of individual security. In the second, the porous global political
economy, the model for the classic corporation during the first millennium was the
guild.26 According to Lewis Mumford,
… during the Middle Ages … one had to belong to an association—a household,
manor, monastery, or guild … One lived and died in the identifiable style of one’s
class and one’s corporation.27
Elliot Krause ties it all together: In the guilds in the feudal system “under which
power was given or lent by the feudal lord,” membership was compulsory.28
We have no choice but to take full advantage of the immense surplus produced
by world markets. But we would be rejecting invaluable knowledge of past experience if we accepted the corporation and especially corporatism as an unadulterated
virtue in the politics of the state. Think pathology—and be wise! W
Spring / Summer 2011
volume xvii, issue ii
Theodore J. Lowi
1. George Will, “Homogeniers in Retreat,” Newsweek, 11 August 2008, 64.
2. Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (New York: Reinhart & Co., 1944 and Beacon,
1957), 18.
3. Jonathan Kirshner, Appeasing Bankers – Financial Caution on the Road to War (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 2007), 1.
4. Bruce Jentleson, American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century, 3rd
ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2007), 16.
5. Karoun Demirjian, “Dealing with the Middle East, Wild Card,” Congressional Quarterly, 9
June 2008, 1528-1529.
6. Robin Wright, “On the Outside: Two Surprise Initiatives are Brokered with No US
Participation,” Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 25 May 2008-1 June 2008, 17.
7. William J. Broad, “Look Who’s Tough on Iran Now,” New York Times, 1 June 2008, IV, 1
and 8.
8. George Sabine, A History of Political Theory (New York: Henry Hall, 1937, 1950). The
seven authors were: Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle, Bodin, Hobbes, Harrington, and
9. Niccolò Machiavelli, The Discourse, Book One [The Preface] (London: Penguin, 1970), 98.
Emphasis added.
10. Cf. Robert Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1949
& 1957), 12-13. War is excluded from the analysis because it is concerned with actions
outside the state.
11. Ibid., 201.
12. Machiavelli, 97-99.
13. A more thorough ordering is provided in Mauro Calise and Theodore J. Lowi,
Hyperpolitics: An Interactive Dictionary of Political Science Concepts (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 2010).
14. Peter Katzenstein, Small States in World Markets (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press,
1985), 21-22.
15. Theodore Lowi, The End of Liberalism (New York: W.W. Norton, 2nd ed., 1979), 279-294.
16. Ibid., 31.
17. Arend Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 173.
18. Ibid., 175.
19. Herbert Muller, The Uses of the Past (New York: Oxford University Press, 1953), 256-257.
20. John P. Davis, Corporations (Washington, DC: Beard Books, 1905), 1:16, 19-20.
21. Ibid., 1:24-25.
22. E.E. Schattschneider, The Semisovereign People – A Realist’s View of Democracy in America
(New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960), 35.
23. Alfred D. Chandler, The Visible Hand – The Managerial Revolution in American Business
(Cambridge, MA: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1977), 6-9.
24. While living in Paris in 1968, during les événements, I was shocked to see the radical
students denounce as reactionary the CGT and the Communist party for their
collaboration with the Citroën plant and other companies, and the government.
25. Both quotes from Nelson Lichtenstein, States of the Union – A Century of American Labor
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002), 220-221.
26. Henri Pirenne, Medieval Cities (Princeton: Cambridge University Press, 1925, 1952), 120.
27. Lewis Mumford, The City in History (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1961), 269.
28. Elliott Krause, Death of the Guilds – Profession, States, and the Advance of Capitalism, 1930
to the Present (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996), 3.
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