A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy
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A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy

Edited by Patricia Kennett

The current context of social policy is one in which many of the old certainties of the past have been eroded. The predominantly inward-looking, domestic preoccupation of social policy has made way for a more integrated, international and outward approach to analysis which looks beyond the boundaries of the state. It is in this context that this Handbook brings together the work of key commentators in the field of comparative analysis in order to provide comprehensive coverage of contemporary debates and issues in cross-national social policy research.
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Chapter 1: Hollowing Out the ‘Nation-State’ and Multi-Level Governance

Bob Jessop


Bob Jessop Lively debates over the future of the nation-state resurfaced in the 1980s as scholars and politicians began to suggest that it had become too small to solve the world’s big problems and too big to solve its little ones. These problems include: (1) the rise of global capitalism, (2) the emergence of a global risk society, especially regarding the environment, (3) the growth of identity politics and new social movements based on local and/or transnational issues; and (4) the threat of new forms of terrorism and dispersed network warfare. But what exactly these problems imply for the future of the state remains unclear. Prognoses include the development of an entirely new kind of state; the re-scaling of the nation-state’s powers upwards, downwards or sideways; a shift from state-based government to network-based governance; or incremental changes in secondary aspects of the nation-state that leave its core intact. More radical predictions of the future of the state include: the hollowing out of the nation-state, the rise of the hollow state, the internationalization of the state, the fragmentation of the modern system of nation-states into a convoluted and tangled ‘neo-medieval’ system; the decline of large nationstates in favour of medium-sized ‘region-states’ that organize dynamic regional economies across national frontiers; and the rise of a global state or, at least, a western hemispheric state under American hegemony. More modest predictions include references to ‘holed power containers’, ‘perforated sovereignties’, the ‘unbundling’ of national state powers, an uneven process of ‘denationalization–renationalization’ of the...

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