16 Feb

Richard Lachmann on States and Power.

Posted By polity_admin_user

Financial crisis, environmental crisis and terrorism are all taken as signs of the weakness and increasingly irrelevancy of states. Lachmann-States&Power2Capital, ecological disasters and terrorisms seemingly cross borders with impunity. In fact, citizenship remains one of the most important determinants of someone’s life chances. Stand at the U.S.-Mexican border, at the wall dividing Israel and the Palestinian territories, or on the beaches of the European islands in the Mediterranean to see what efforts governments make to secure their borders and the risks non-citizens take to pass through those divides. Jobs, civil rights, social benefits, physical security, and even water are kept on one side of those borders. More than thirty million humans today are refugees, fleeing from one country to another in an effort to survive.
States and their futures matter because, at the outset of the twenty-first century, they remain, by far, the most significant repositories of power and resources in the world. The vast majority of violent deaths are caused by wars between states, by states’ violence against their own subjects, and by armed attempts to seize state power.
Politics is almost entirely about states. People mobilize to influence state policies, and to gain control of states through elections or with violence. Where states are weak, as in much of Africa, citizens’ life chances and life spans are drastically reduced. Every realistic plan for economic growth, for reductions in poverty, hunger, disease, and environmental degradation, and to slow or reverse global warming depends largely on initiatives that are directed by governments alone or in concert.