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Avoiding traps, rescaling states, governing Europe.

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/ProceedingsChapter


Publication date2009
Host publicationLeviathan undone? towards a political economy of scale
EditorsRoger Keil, Rianne Mahon
Place of PublicationVancouver/Toronto
PublisherUniversity of British Columbia Press (UBC Press)
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9780774816304
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Lively debates over the future of the state resurfaced in the 1980s as scholars, critics, and politicians began to suggest that the scale of national states had become too small to solve the world's big problems and too big to solve its little ones. The most frequently cited problems included: (1) the rise of an uncontrolled, possibly uncontrollable, process of capital accumulation that is increasingly and allegedly irreversibly integrated on a world scale; (2) the emergence of a global risk society, (3) the challenge to national politics from identity politics and new social movements based on local and/or transnational issues; (4) the difficulties facing national states in dealing with the particularities of local, metropolitan, or regional economic crises and challenges and overcoming uneven social development and new forms of social exclusion through customized solutions, local participation, and capacity-building; and, more recently, (5) the threat, real or imagined, of new forms of protest, terrorism, and decentralized network warfare. Disputes continue about the impact of such �problems� on the future of the state. Prognoses range from the rise of a new global empire; the rise of a Western hemispheric state; the rise of regional states; the re-scaling of its powers upwards, downwards, or sideways with an important residual role for the national state; a shift from state-based government to network-based governance; a shift from the welfare state to the competition state that entails accelerating rather than moderating economic and social inequalities between persons and places due to uneven development; or a series of incremental changes in secondary aspects of the nation-state that leave its core intact. All of these prognoses refer to various spatial dimensions of the state � political territoriality, place-making and spatial planning, parallel power networks cross-cutting administrative boundaries and territorial borders, and rescaling and changes in their overall articulation. This should provide a warning about reducing changes in the state to their scalar features and about the limits of scalar analysis. This does not, however, justify calls to ignore or deny the role of scalar changes as opposed to putting scale �in its place� within a broader spatio-temporal perspective on the state and its embedding within the political order and its wider social context. Accordingly this chapter undertakes three successive tasks that reflect important concerns in the political economy of scale raised in the introduction to this volume. It first addresses the nature and limits of the scalar turn, identifies different forms of scalar trap, and proposes some ways to reinvigorate scalar analysis within a broader concern with spatiality. It then presents a set of concepts for dealing with the scalar nature of the state in this broader context. In particular, it highlights the importance of focusing on the changing articulation of different dimensions of spatiality, including spatial imaginaries and horizons of action as well as emergent structural properties, as one way to grasp, albeit incompletely, the historical specificity of different state forms. Next it illustrates these arguments through a model of multi-scalar meta-governance as an alternative interpretation of the changing forms of European statehood within the broader context of the world market, the global inter-state system, and world society. Here I respond to the call in the introduction to explore the interconnection between scale and network rather than to treat them in isolation and, in this context, I propose that scale and network have replaced place and territory as the primary axes around which state spatial strategies are developing (Mahon and Keil, this volume). Whereas the meta-theoretical arguments about scale and spatiality have wide-ranging implications, the substantive focus of my analysis is more limited. Specifically, I focus on the implications for the national state of the rescaling of economic and political relations associated with (but not exclusively caused by) the increasing integration of the world market. Different conclusions might follow from focusing on other �problems� � although, on my reading, neo-liberal globalization is currently the most powerful influence on global dynamics (Jessop 2001, 2002b).