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The End of the Nation-State

2000
Author:

Jean-Marie Guéhenno
Translated by Victoria Elliott

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An incisive look at the information age’s effect on national boundaries.

In this highly readable book, Jean-Marie Guéhenno argues that the current information age renders the geographical underpinnings of our legal and political systems irrelevant. With the global community in instantaneous contact through digital technology, he contends, power no longer operates hierarchically from the top down.

Jean-Marie Guéhenno’s brilliant essay is informative, perceptive, and beautifully written. He knows his subject well and succeeds in explaining it even to readers whose field is not political science. I warmly, even enthusiastically, recommend it.

Elie Wiesel, recipient of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize

In this highly readable book, Jean-Marie Guéhenno argues that the current information age renders the geographical underpinnings of our legal and political systems irrelevant. With the global community in instantaneous contact, he contends, power no longer operates hierarchically from the top down.

This has serious consequences for democracy as we know it. Guehenno explores institutions such as the European Union that attempt a response to this new age, arguing that the failure of such organizations shows that no political system can offer a complete answer. He points to such forces as ethnicity, religion, race, ideology, corruption and tribalism, all of which threaten the viability of the current system, all of which offer a possible basis for community in a world no longer dominated by two rival superpowers.

Guéhenno goes beyond the traditional separation between domestic and international affairs, addressing the social and political consequences of globalization. He describes the way the world’s assorted groups of human beings will have to order their relations in this new era of huge trade, mass travel, instant communication: what he calls the new “empire,” a decentralized Rome of the electronic age.

First published in France in 1993, where it sold more than 10,000 copies, The End of the Nation-State is a trenchant, essential guide to the new world order.

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Jean-Marie Guéhenno is professor at the Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris and directs the Center for Analysis and Forecasting of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Victoria Elliott is a journalist and translator who specializes in foreign affairs. She lives in San Francisco.

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Jean-Marie Guéhenno’s brilliant essay is informative, perceptive, and beautifully written. He knows his subject well and succeeds in explaining it even to readers whose field is not political science. I warmly, even enthusiastically, recommend it.

Elie Wiesel, recipient of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize

His analysis draws intriguing parallels between the current period and that of the Holy Roman Empire but sees the current ‘empire’ as an economic network of independent institutions. Guehenno’s thought-provoking ideas will certainly generate discussions and controversy.

Library Journal

This is a book of remarkable intellectual range. Refreshingly clear-minded.

The Economist

Jean-Marie Guehenno has brought his experience as a French treasury official, diplomat and scholar to bear on an arresting assessment of the revolutionary era into which the world is plunging. This thoughtful book deserves not only a wide reading, but careful study, for it is full of excellent insights and forcefully engages the principal political and economic problems of our times. . . . The End of the Nation-State is more interesting and significant than other recent books that focus almost exclusively on economic processes in relation to national-state power, for it confronts the disturbing moral and spiritual consequences of a world that is making economic efficiency and personal interest the standards of human relations.

Eugene D. Genovese, The Washington Times

This book, widely read in France, is written by a brilliant former French policy planner and current ambassador to the European Union. It argues that the territorial nation-state is giving way: from without, to a welter of overlapping, transnational networks fueled by information technology; from within, to subnational ethnic communities. At stake is the future of democracy, for the transition from the former ‘institutional’ to the coming ‘imperial’ age (dominated by large, supranational organizations and loyalties) involves a massive shift from public to private purposes and the disintegration of the common good into irreconcilable selfish interests.

Francis Fukuyama, Foreign Affairs

Provocative wake-up call for leaders and citizens to address the changing character of the nation-state. Guehenno writes with elegance.

Choice

Guéhenno's work is sober, eloquent and reflective, an eloquent disquisition on the changed global dynamic. Guéhenno detects not just a shift in power from one institutional location to another but, rather, a profound redefinition of power itself. This redefinition will pose an almost formidable challenge to our basic notions of and approaches to governance.

American Journal of International Law