Global Insecurity & the Retrograde State

Recently I contributed to a a valuable new thread on the website of the Zurich-based International Relations and Security Network, “Beyond the state”. It included numerous articles debating the place and relevance of the nation-state under the contemporary conditions of globalisation, including articles defending the state, questioning its ability to deal with global challenges, on R2P, the power of cities and organised crime, human security, and more.

My contribution was an article, “Insecurity and the Retrograde State”, which argued for a cosmopolitan evolution of states to support a global security order that works for all communities, and the ecosystems that they depend on, and for which we must assume better responsibility.

Insecurity and the Retrograde State

Like many other cities in China, Shenzen regularly feels the effect of poor air quality. Recently, it has become difficult for humans and animals to breathe, and a ‘combination of conditions’ has made it possible to look directly at the sun. These are daily conditions in Beijing, a city of 22 million.

Why is this such a scandal? First, there is state failure. The Chinese state is manifestly failing to protect and provide for its citizens’ basic health and human security – even as it robustly defends and pursues the rapid path of capitalist industrial development it has chosen. Second, there is the moral scandal of widespread atmospheric pollution, which so often crosses borders and damages the health of people in other states. The annual Southeast Asian haze – a product of illegal Indonesian forest burning – is a notorious example. While ecologists and international lawyers have a term for the problem – ‘transboundary atmospheric pollution’, for which European states have developed a non-binding convention – a moral philosopher would also remark that the air we breathe is a gift from the cosmos, a reminder of the fragile structure of our coexistence with the planet and each other. To poison it is a moral and political scandal.” Read more…

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