The Myth of the Nation-State: Theorizing Society and Polities in a Global Era

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The analysis of globalization requires attention to the social and political units that are being variously undermined, restructured or facilitated by this process. Sociology has often assumed that the unit of analysis is society, in which economic, political and cultural processes are coterminous, and that this concept maps onto that of nation-state. This article argues that the nation-state is more mythical than real. This is for four reasons: first, there are more nations than states; second, several key examples of presumed nation-states are actually empires; third, there are diverse and significant polities in addition to states, including the European Union and some organized religions; fourth, polities overlap and rarely politically saturate the territory where they are located. An implication of acknowledging the wider range and overlapping nature of polities is to open greater conceptual space for the analysis of gender and ethnicity in analyses of globalization. Finally the article re-conceptualizes `polities' and `society'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-546
Number of pages18
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2003

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