The imperial city-state and the national state form: Reflections on the history of the contemporary order

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This contribution argues, first, that pre-national forms of state were not displaced or supplanted by a new, national form. 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 ‘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
Pages (from-to)97-112
Number of pages16
JournalThesis 11
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2017


  • capitalism, city-state, empire, imperial city-state, nation-state

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