The Resilience of the State
Democracy and the Challenges of Globalisation
In this politically incorrect essay Samy Cohen, one of France’s leading specialists in international relations, attacks a new sacred cow: the theory of the decline of the state. According to this received wisdom, under the impact of globalisation states are in decline and frontiers being gradually abolished. The outcome could be at worst an unregulated and anarchic world, at best the emergence of international civil society, stronger than local institutions and political authority. Cohen demonstrates that the situation is not like this at all: that what he ironically calls the ‘transnational-state-decline’ theory is a fashionable fable at university seminars, but in no way a reality. A good illustration of this, he says, is what happens to NGOs. Those valorous moral organisations seem at the outset to herald a world without borders, but few of them are independent of states or even of armies, and even fewer are capable of autonomous and freely informed expression. Cohen contends, first, that the state ‘is fighting back’, for good or ill; that it retains its freedom of manoeuvre and is resisting pressure to make it more virtuous, more transparent, or more willing to share responsibility. Second, he emphasises that the state which ‘fights back’ is the best or the worst thing possible: there is no shortage of state authority, but there is a strong risk of a shortage of concerted policy, not only at the continental level but at the level of the old Europe or the Third World.
The author of six books and many articles, Samy Cohen is research director at CERI, Paris.
‘The Resilience of the State is … a simple but brilliant work, so subtle that even the adversaries of the thesis it defends cannot reject Samy Cohen’s conclusions.’ — Jean-Jacques Roche, University of Paris, II
‘coherently argued, well-structured, provocative and makes a real contribution to current debates in International Relations.’ — Claire Heristchi, University of Aberdeen