Imperial city states, national states, and post-national spatialities

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This contribution argues, first, that pre-national forms of state were not displaced or supplanted by a new, national form. More specficially, what we call the nation-state was not the successor to imperial or city states but was itself a form of the European imperial city states that had driven the expansion of capitalism in previous centuries. It argues, second, that national states emerged only after 1945 and only in a handful of states where, through welfare reforms and market and industry regulation, investment and production were made to serve the expansion and integration of national markets. Third, with the dismantling of Keynesian policies in these states, pre-national (pre-Keynesian) structures are resurfacing. What scholars describe as the emergence of ‘post-national spatialities’, and of ‘global cities’ and city regions represents the resurgence of a durable and historically dominant form of state: the imperial city state form. The first section revisits the supposed differences between city states and national states. The following two sections offer a re-interpretation of the form of state that developed in Europe after the sixteenth century and remained dominant there until World War II. The final section argues that the emergence of national states appears to have constituted a brief post-World War II
interregnum in some parts of the world, which may be coming to an end with the reassertion of pre-national policies and spatialities. The ‘re-scaling’ of nation states and growing prominence of ‘global cities’ and ‘city regions’ are heralding the end of the brief history of actually existing nation states and the re-deployment of the imperial city state model.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLegacies of Empire: Imperial Roots of the Contemporary Global Order
EditorsSandra Halperin, Ronen Palan
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)978-1-107-52161-2
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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