The terms “nation,” “state,” and “nation-state” should be distinguished from each other. The terms nation and state are often used interchangeably, but in a strict sense, the two terms mean different things. Nation pertains to a group of people that is culturally homogenous. Some of the attributes of a nation are: (1) a common postulated interrelationship or a blood bond, which is either actual or mythical, between members; (2) a shared cultural heritage; (3) a linguistic coherence; and (4) a sense of identification by each member with the nation (Rasmussen). An example of a nation is the Bengali people, which is a major ethnic group in Bangladesh.
State, on the other hand, is an institutional structure that is charged with the exercise of authority within a jurisdictional purview, usually territorial in nature. The attributes of a state are therefore: (1) the monopoly of exercise of force; (2) legitimacy; (3) the institutional structures that handle governmental tasks; and (4) absolute or partial control over a territory (Rasmussen). Other authors include as an essential attribute the external recognition or recognition by the international community. There are about 195 states or independent countries. The Philippines, for example, is a state as it has the aforesaid attributes.
The concept of nation-state is more difficult to understand than the other terms. The nation-state is an embodiment of the idea that there should be a correspondence between the nation and the state (Rasmussen). The attributes of a nation-state are: (1) a fixed territory; (2) sovereignty; and (3) common unifying culture among the people. Egypt is an example of a nation-state. The Egyptian identity is essentially linked to Egypt’s geography and long history.
The United States, even if multi-cultural, is also referred to as a nation-state because of the unifying “American culture” (Rosenberg). The United States fits the definition of a modern nation state because it has territory, sovereignty, and unifying culture. The territory of the US comprises the land and water that is within its exclusive jurisdiction. Sovereignty, on the other hand, pertains to the source of the state’s (or nation-state’s) authority.
Many argue that globalization is impinging on the sovereignty of the United States. Globalization is seen as a sort of deterritorialization, which makes the world a borderless society. The advancement of technology and migration of foreigners contribute to the assimilation of foreign cultures to the American culture. There are also those who argue that the existence of international organizations and international treaties are impinging on the state sovereignty. On the contrary, the existence of these is not a threat to US sovereignty. In fact, international treaties would not be considered as higher legal authorities than the US Constitution. The Constitution would still be the supreme law of the land, and sovereignty would still be protected.
Culture is very important in the development of a modern nation-state. Today’s world allows for an unobstructed exchange of culture. This has led to the co-existence of varied cultures. In the United States, cultural diversity is maintained through the integration of diversity itself into a pluralistic multicultural society that is founded on constitutional guarantees of freedoms and human rights (Francioni, 2004). Thus, the existence of foreign cultures in the US does not destroy the American culture. There is also the observance of patriotic holidays such as the Independence Day on July 4, Washington’s Day in the third Monday of February, and the Veteran’s Day on November 11, which preserve the American culture. The American culture is likewise preserved through integrating the same to the foreign policy goals of the US.
US adopts foreign policies in pursuing its relation with other states. The goals of a state’s foreign policies vary, but they have a common denominator and that is the obligation to maintain and protect the state as an unimpaired entity (Rodee, 1983). Among the foreign policy goals of the US are the protection of jobs of American workers, and keeping up the value of dollar. The country is also concerned with protecting the American businesses abroad. Being a superpower that it is, the United States has also been engaged in pursuing foreign policy goals such as combating world hunger, promoting human rights in other countries, and helping other states to move to democratic forms of government.
Meanwhile, there are what we call transnational entities, an example of which is the European Union. The European Union was developed out of the aim of putting an end to the bloody wars which culminated in the Second World War. The European countries then saw the need to have an international cooperation in order to have an economic recovery. The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was established to unite countries politically and economically. This paved the way for a wider cooperation. The Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community as well as the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). Later on, these three organizations became the European Communities. The organizations initially had separate executive bodies; but in 1967, these separate executive bodies merged, and together they were called the European Community (EC) (New Standard Encyclopedia, 1995).
In the early 1960s, a common agricultural policy was developed. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) was formed in 1960. The EC became a full customs union in 1968, and all tariffs among members were later on abolished, establishing a single external tariff. In 1979, the European Monetary System (EMS) was created, coordinating monetary policies of EC’s member countries. In 1987, the Single European Act came into effect, amending the Treaty of Rome. The act made possible the free movement of capital, goods, and services among member countries. In 1991, EC and EFTA signed an agreement combing the markets into a single free-trade zone. During the same year, representatives of EC member countries signed The Maastricht Treaty (or the Treaty on European Union, at Maastricht, the Netherlands). One of the provisions of the treaty was the creation of a single European currency. The treaty likewise established the objectives of creating a common foreign policy. When the treaty was ratified, the European Community became the European Union (New Standard Encyclopedia, 1995).
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The Union presently has 27 member countries. Among them are Belgium, France, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Luxembourg, which were members since 1957. Denmark, Ireland, and UK joined in 1973. Greece joined in 1981, while Portugal and Spain joined in 1986. In 1995, three countries joined the European Union; they are: Austria, Finland, and Sweden. Finally in 2004, 10 countries joined. These countries are Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, and Cyprus. Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007 (BBC Newsround).
In international issues from global warming to conflict in the Middle East, the European Union has been a key player. The Union has created its foreign and security policy to enable the same to speak, as well as act, in world affairs. The foundation of EU’s foreign and security policy remains the “soft power” or the use of diplomacy. This is backed, when necessary, by trade, aid, and peacekeepers. EU has sent peacekeeping mission to the trouble spots of the world. In 2008, EU had brokered a ceasefire between Russia and Georgia. The Union provided aid to those people who are displaced by the fighting. EU is also funding assistance projects in seven countries, helping them build stable societies. In addition, EU had deployed justice and police force in Kosovo in December 2008 (Europa, 2010).
In studying international politics, we deal with the clash of foreign policies not only of states but also of transnational entities. It must be noted that in the international arena, it is not only the state that is the key player. In case of both the state or nation-state and transnational entities, there are several factors that condition the foreign policy. One of the factors affecting foreign policy is the geographic-strategic factor. The entity, be it state or transnational entity, has to consider its size (whether it is large enough to provide adequate standard of living for its people), the climate, the topography, and even the shape (whether the entity can be easily defended in conventional warfare). Another factor is the population. In drafting a foreign policy, the entity necessarily considers the availability of food and energy supplies in relation to its inhabitants (Rodee, 1983).
The economic condition is also a factor that shapes foreign policy. Foreign investments, as well as access to critical resources, must be protected. Another important factor is the ideology and culture embraced by the entity. Ideology is reflective of the belief system of the people. What the people consider as just and fair is made the basis of foreign policy. For example, if the dominant belief system in a particular nation-state is that the national identity must be given paramount importance, that nation-state might make a foreign policy that is more supportive of its local companies than foreign companies. That nation-state may even consider closing its doors to international investments so that it could give more opportunities to local companies.
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The belief regarding human rights also affects the foreign policies. While some states are in opposition to the idea of human rights which they think as too Westernized, more and more states are being democratized, and their policies are now reflective of valuation of human rights.