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Globalization and Sovereignty in Pakistan

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With a relatively constant rise in economic production over the last forty years and continued advances in communication technology, it is clear that individuals, institutions, and states are connecting and interacting with each other through a variety number of ways. Whether it is chatting with someone on the other side of the globe through social media or the flow of capital in the international banking system, our world has become increasingly interdependent; however, the benefits are not universal. From a Marxist perspective on international relations theory, particularly Wallerstein’s capital economy, I will define “globalization” as a phenomenon constructed by the bourgeoisie (elite members of society) in order to take advantage of developing countries that constitute Marxist proletariat. Using this approach on globalization, I will discuss the effects it has on “sovereignty” followed by a case study on Pakistan as a prime example. Ultimately, I will argue why the idea of sovereignty should still play a role in states like Pakistan.
I draw primarily on the work of the German philosopher Karl Marx who, in his Marxist (or ruling-class) theory, claimed that capitalist societies were dominated by the “bourgeoisie” – individuals who control the means of production (therefore power) and take advantage of the proletariat (also known as the working class). Applied to a global scale, the concept of bourgeoisie refers to developed and industrialized countries such as Canada, while proletariat refers to poverty stricken Third World countries. Though Marx and his close associate Friedrich Engels did not write particularly on international matters, they did discuss the vital role played by the bourgeoisie in spreading capitalism around the world through imperialism – “defined as the extension of a[state]’s power [, authority, and/or influence] on to another [state]. An important question that arises from this approach is: how does the ruling class continue to stay in power and promote the “free economy” of a capitalist society? This can be answered through Antonio Gramsci’s idea of hegemony, which states “the importance of ideas, institutions, norms, and beliefs... [in persuading] others to accept the rulership of the dominant power” through coercion, consent, and material conditions.
The concept of globalization “is nothing less than the ‘widening, deepening and speeding up of worldwide interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporary social life’" that is controlled by high-income countries (the “elite” of the world). This ties in closely with Immanuel Wallerstein’s capitalist world economy which suggests “that the prosperity or poverty of any country is the result of a global economic system.” He divides the world economy into three categories: the Core (high-income), the Periphery (low-income), and remaining countries as semiperiphery. The Core benefits from the Periphery by exploiting the raw materials and low-cost labour that Peripheries possess, which ultimately leaves a majority dependent on high-income countries through three major factors. First, low-income societies have export-oriented economies that lead to “multinational corporations [buying] raw materials cheaply... and [transporting] them to core countries, where factories process them for profitable sale.” This hinders the ability of these periphery countries to develop industries of their own, which ties into the second factor, lack of industrial capacity. Due to the fact that they do not have their own industrial bases, low income societies depend on high income countries “to buy their inexpensive raw materials and [then] try to buy back whatever expensive manufactured goods they can afford.” This dependency is largely in favour of high-income countries as they generate substantial profits off cheap inputs producing expensive finished goods. Finally, low-income countries have enormous debt resulting from unequal trade with high-income countries and in turn cause “high unemployment and rampant inflation.” This leads to a vicious cycle in which low-income countries continue to export raw materials and food in order to pay off their foreign debt. Furthermore, the elite of those low-income countries are likely to take advantage of this cycle and make deals behind closed doors that enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary citizens.
This type of corruption, and therefore globalization, undermines a state’s “sovereignty” and its role in a world without global governance; however, it is best to start at the time the concept of sovereignty was introduced to understand how it has changed and weakened in modern times. In 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia was signed by a number of parties to end the Thirty Years War, but its importance lies primarily in the principles that have been the basis of the modern international system of sovereign states. The two principles of a Westphalian state system are territory and autonomy. “Territoriality means that political authority is exercised over a defined geographic space” that “Agnew understands... as the physical extent of sovereignty.” The principle of “autonomy means that no external actor enjoys authority within the borders of the state” and that “[a]ny given state must be recognized as sovereign by other states in order to qualify as such.” Both of these principles, especially the territorial aspect, have been challenged by a world of continued globalization that is said to have “effectively ‘ended the nation-state’s monopoly over internal sovereignty, which was formerly guaranteed by territory.’” This is illustrated through Kenichi Ohmae’s “four ‘I’s – industry, investment, individuals, and information – [which] flow relatively unimpeded across national borders.” Investment is no longer constrained by geographical location because “competition among states to attract investments has become so fierce that governments... are under pressure to relax their rules and laws so as to continue to attract foreign... investments.” Industries have reacted to this change as “multinational corporations are no longer shaped and conditioned by reasons of state” and therefore have the desire to find the most profitable markets wherever they might exist. These first two “I’s” are accelerated by information technology, “which now makes it possible for a company to operate in various parts of the world without having to build up entire business systems” in each country. Finally, individual consumers “want the best and cheapest products, no matter where they come from.” Observing carefully, you can see that the four “I’s” are related mainly to economics and this is due to the fact that it is assumed that “the role and function of states [(along with their sovereignty)] will ultimately diminish to nothing more than serving as ‘a superconductor for global capitalism.’”
However, there are other non-economic factors that contribute to the diminishing role of sovereignty such as powerful groups that challenge the values of the state’s government. By doing so, they demonstrate that states may not actually have control of their territories – which is the case with many activities associated with terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks work “across state boundaries while exploiting the lack of territorial sovereignty exercised by some of its host states” through processes like the creation of “terrorist training camps” in a state’s territory. Pakistan is one such state in this situation and I will now use it as a case study to demonstrate the effects of globalization on sovereignty.
Pakistan is a Third World (or “periphery” in Wallerstein’s terms) country that was formed in 1947 when Great Britain divided the colony on the Indian subcontinent into two separate nations, the largely Hindu India and the predominantly Muslim Pakistan. The British, however, did not divide the area of Kashmir, which quickly became a territorial dispute that exists to this day and has created a rivalry between the two states. In 1971, East Pakistan declared its independence and became known as “Bangladesh” thus causing yet another change in the political boundary under Pakistani control. These events have contributed to the unstable and weak Pakistan of today that is vulnerable to constant threats to its sovereignty in several ways, but none more than the influence of the United States of America (USA) and radical terrorist groups.
Since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, a period of unipolarity has developed that sees one state (the USA) having the most power and influence in the world. Having this superiority, the USA is “tempted to intervene more and... remake the political order in different parts of the world,” which can be seen in its military mission in the Middle East called the “War on Terror.” This war has pushed an estimated “20,000 Taliban and 5,000 members of al-Qaeda... out of Afghanistan in 2001” thus forcing them to find refuge with militant Islam groups mainly near the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a result, Pakistan has become a key ally for the USA in its efforts to oust the Taliban in Afghanistan and in the hunt for members that are a part of terrorist networks. In reality, this alliance is very one sided because of the “uneven distribution of global economic power [,which] means that... [equal sovereignty] is formal, not substantive, and some states are ‘more sovereign’ than others.” This links back to Wallerstein’s capitalist economy because Pakistan “desperately needs US and Western support, since its economy is a basket case [with high unemployment and uncontrolled inflation] and it is outclassed by rival India’s growing might.” This dependency is likely the reason why Pakistan has rarely responded to drone attacks by the USA that have killed citizens as well as militants. Yet at the same time, these drone attacks have been described as “violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty” and even though the Pakistani government criticized US military involvement in Pakistan, the government “collaborated with the US military as early as 2006 over the drone program.” Thus the situation can be looked at through a Marxist lens because “the undemocratic and hierarchical power structures that shape the daily interactions between Pakistanis... produce the elites that monopolise power.”
The sovereignty of Pakistan is further diminished by the presence of the Taliban and terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda, using the border region as a hiding area. As mentioned earlier, these extremists work “across state boundaries while exploiting the lack of territorial sovereignty exercised by [Pakistan].” However, there is too much “focus on violations of territory integrity”; rather, Pakistan should be worried about contingent sovereignty. Specifically, this notion prohibits “harbouring terrorist groups and procuring weapons of mass destruction” – both of which Pakistan is known to doing. By failing to live up to this prohibition, states are thought unable to control what happens within their borders thereby justifying military intervention, “which is an effort to prevent possible regional and global spill-over effects of dangerous government activities or internal instability.” At the end of the day, this disguises the use of hegemony by the USA through justified intervention due to Pakistan’s inability to control what happens in its territorial boundaries. Instead, the USA aims to “foster democracy across Asia” through its usual imperialistic ways in order to spread capitalism to the world.
The effects of globalization on sovereignty are evident in the case of Pakistan. Being a Third World country, Pakistan is a part of the vicious cycle that leaves low-income countries (the Periphery) dependent on high-income countries (the Core) for funds. However, the elite of the country and the world take advantage of the uneven distribution of power in their own societies and the international realm of sovereign states. This, along with the flow of the four “I’s”, multinational corporations, and terrorist groups that are no longer confined to state boundaries, has undermined the sovereignty of states like Pakistan. It is important to realize the decreasing role of Westphalian ideals of sovereignty – especially the territorial aspect – and thus the need to strengthen legitimate and contingent sovereignty. Failure to do so will give superpowers like the modern United States of America even more power to intervene in other state’s affairs and letting the war horse of democracy and capitalism run loose on the rest of the world through its hegemonic power thus creating further inequality. Globalization is changing the way the international system works from the simple aspects of the Treaty of Westphalia. Hence, we are in a transition from a world of states that confined their activities to their borders to an international system where boundaries have become transparent through integration and interdependence; as Matthew Arnold’s says: “we are ‘wandering between two worlds,/One dead, the other unable to be born.”
Works Cited
Agnew, J. (2005). Sovereignty Regimes: Territoriality and State Authority in Contemporary World Politics. In Taylor & Francis Online. Retrieved March 15, 2012, from
Akhter, M. (2012). The Politics of Sovereignty in Pakistan. In Business & Company Resource Center. Retrieved March 19, 2012, from
Cecilia, B. M., Mikael, J. S., & John, M. J. (2009). Society: the basics (4th ed., pp. 244-246). Toronto, Canada: Pearson Canada Inc.
Chronology: Pakistan. (2011). The Middle East Journal, 65(4), 649-653. Retrieved from Dreyfuss, R. (2011). The US-Pakistan Rift. Nation, 293(26), 6-7. Retrieved March 20, 2012 from
Drone attacks tantamount to violations of Pakistan's sovereignty. (2009). In Business & Company Resource Center. Retrieved March 17, 2012, from
Garner, R., Ferdinand, P., & Lawson, S. (2009). Introduction to Politics. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.
Hebron, L., & Stack, J. F. (2010). Globalization. In Pearson. Retrieved March 17, 2012, from
India–Pakistan Rivalry. (2005). In Encyclopedia of United States National Security. Retrieved March 20, 2012, from SAGE Reference Online:
Ken'ichi, O. (1995). The End of the Nation State: The Rise of Regional Economies (pp. viii, 2-4, 10). New York, NY: Free Press.
Krasner, S. D. (1995). Compromising Westphalia. In JSTOR. Retrieved March 18, 2012, from
Nam, M. (2009). Globalization. Foreign Policy, (171), 28-30,32,34. Retrieved March 17, 2012, from Pitzl, G. R. (2006). Imperialism. In Encyclopedia of World Poverty. Retrieved March 20, 2012, from SAGE Reference Online: Shah, Nisha. (2010) Terra infirma. Political Geography (Vol. 29, Issue 6, 352-355. doi:10.1016/j.polgeo.2010.04.002. Retrieved March 17, 2012, from Sidky, H. (2006). Pakistan. In T. Riggs (Ed.), Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices (Vol. 3, pp. 179-187). Detroit: Gale. Retrieved March 19, 2012 from

[ 1 ]. [ (Garner, Ferdinand, & Lawson, 2009, p. 367) ]
[ 2 ]. [ (Pitzl, 2006) ]
[ 3 ]. [ (Joseph, 2011) ]
[ 4 ]. Ibid.
[ 5 ]. [ (Nam, 2009) ]
[ 6 ]. [ (Benoit, Jansson, & Macionis, 2009, p. 245) ]
[ 7 ]. [ (Benoit, Jansson, & Macionis, 2009, p. 246) ]
[ 8 ]. [ (Krasner, 1995) ]
[ 9 ]. [ (Shah, 2010) ]
[ 10 ]. [ (Krasner, 1995) ]
[ 11 ]. [ (Agnew, 2005) ]
[ 12 ]. [ (Hebron & Stack, 2010) ]
[ 13 ]. [ (Omae, 1995, pp. viii, 2-4) ]
[ 14 ]. [ (Hebron & Stack, 2010) ]
[ 15 ]. Ibid.
[ 16 ]. [ (Agnew, 2005) ]
[ 17 ]. [ (India–Pakistan Rivalry, 2005) ]
[ 18 ]. [ (Sidky, 2006) ]
[ 19 ]. [ (Joseph, 2011) ]
[ 20 ]. Ibid.
[ 21 ]. [ (Sidky, 2006) ]
[ 22 ]. [ (India–Pakistan Rivalry, 2005) ]
[ 23 ]. [ (Akhter, 2012) ]
[ 24 ]. [ (Dreyfuss, 2011) ]
[ 25 ]. [ (Drone attacks tantamount to violations of Pakistan's sovereignty, 2009) ]
[ 26 ]. [ (Chronology: Pakistan, 2011) ]
[ 27 ]. (Akhter, 2012; Krasner, 1995)
[ 28 ]. [ (Agnew, 2005) ]
[ 29 ]. [ (Akhter, 2012) ]
[ 30 ]. [ (Shah, 2010) ]
[ 31 ]. [ (Shah, 2010) ]
[ 32 ]. [ (Omae, 1995, p. 10) ]

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