A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy, Second Edition
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A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy, Second Edition

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


Lively debates over the nation-state resurfaced in the 1980s as scholars and politicians suggested that it had become too small to solve the world’s big problems and too big to solve its little ones. These debates have continued into this century and, indeed, the recent global financial crisis and worries about global climate change (juxtaposed to issues of micro-finance and local emergencies) reinforce these points. Problems noted include: (1) the rise of global capitalism, growing global economic imbalances and the failures of global economic governance; (2) the emergence of a global risk society, especially regarding anthropogenic changes in 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 it is unclear what these problems imply for the future of the state. More radical predictions include: the hollowing out of the nation-state through the re-scaling of the nation-state’s powers upwards, downwards, or sideways, 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 rise of medium-sized ‘region-states’ that organize dynamic regional economies across national frontiers; and a world or global state or, at least, a Western hemispheric state under American hegemony.

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