DECLINE OF THE STATE, RISE OF THE NETWORK?
I am in the process of reading Martin van Creveld's The Rise and Decline of the State
. It is, on it's merits, an interesting book and unusual for the enormous scope of history in whch the author dares to make his argument. Historians, by and large, are a cautious breed who like to make their boldest claims only for minute stretches of time and space. The most intriguing historical writers though, go against that grain. Whether it is Thucydides
or a historian of the modern era like Frederick Jackson Turner
, Charles Beard
, Richard Hofstadter
or Eugene Genovese
, those who tackle the larger canvas seem to produce the most provocative and enduring contributions.
Along with William Lind
and the late Colonel John Boyd
, Martin van Creveld's ideas underpin the theory of Fourth Generation Warfare
, which is not merely a school of thought about the history of military strategy, or a mere model of warfare but is implicitly a theory about the direction of history itself. Among historians and philosophers, it simply does not get any bolder than that and there is no harder argument for a scholar to prove. Just ask Karl Marx
I am pleased to report that van Creveld has been, on the whole, far more nuanced than many of his 4GW followers who run around asserting that the Treaty of Westphalia
gave the state a monopoly on the legal use of violence; a claim that causes a great deal of bewilderment among other historians and political scientists who are not familiar with van Creveld's book ( it certainly puzzled me at first brush). Without commenting on the global validity of van Creveld's thesis, I'll save that for another day and a different venue, his ideas have a lot of resonance for policy makers and military officers dealing with regions of failing and failed states brimming with insurgencies, terrorists, tribal warriors, sectarian zealots and narco-criminal syndicates.
I will say that while van Creveld is right that the traditional nation-state
is in relative decline in many places, I think that network theory is going to provide increasing evidence that Philip Bobbitt's
assertion in The Shield of Achilles
that the state is simply evolving into a new form that Bobbitt terms a market-state,
and is not disappearing or declining. Markets, except perhaps under theoretical conditions of perfect competition, seem to have a strong bias toward creating enduring networks as a stabilizing function, as the many industries that are effectively oligopolies would tend to prove. How much of that is due to the random effects of competition sorting out " winners" who later lock in their comparative advantages and how much derives from the behavior of humans, rooted in evolutionary psychology
, to cluster socially, I can't say.
What I can discern is that globalization and the removal of artificial barriers to connectivity on a grand scale is giving a wide field for networks to rise.