The world’s political landscape in 2030 will look considerably different to the present one. Nation states will remain the central players. There will be no single hegemonic force but instead a handful of countries – the U.S., Russia, China, Germany, India and Japan chief among them – exhibiting semi-imperial tendencies. Power will be more widely distributed across non-state networks, including regressive ones. And vast conurbations of mega-cities and their peripheries will exert ever greater influence. The post-war order that held since the middle of the twentieth century is coming unstuck. Expect uncertainty and instability ahead.Reading between the lines of this story I get the impression that some thought that globalization would bring utopia to the planet and that because of free trade we would see nation states and by extension war 'be no more'.
Nation states are making a comeback. The largest ones are busily expanding their global reach even as they shore-up their territorial and digital borders. As the onslaught of reactionary politics around the world amply shows, there are no guarantees that these vast territorial dominions and their satellites will become more liberal or democratic. Instead, relentless climate change, migration, terrorism, inequality and rapid technological change are going to ratchet up anxiety, insecurity and, as is already painfully apparent, populism and authoritarianism. While showing cracks, the four-century reign of the nation state will endure for some decades more.
It was not supposed to be this way. During the 1990s, scholars forecasted the decline and demise of the nation state. Globalization was expected to hasten their irrelevance. With the apparent triumph of liberal democracy, spread of free-market capitalism, and promise of minimal state interference, Francis Fukayama famously predicted the end of history and, by extension, the fading away of anachronistic nation states. A similar claim was made a century earlier: Friedreich Engels predicted the “withering away of the state” in the wake of socialism.
How wrong they were.