Network State

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* Book: The Network State. Balaji Srivanasan. 2022.


"Technology has enabled us to start new companies, new communities, and new currencies. But can we use it to start new cities, or even new countries? This book explains how to build the successor to the nation state, a concept we call the network state."


May have different meanings ranging from states that are networked, networks of institutions of officials within these institutions, etc..

Also has a more narrow definition, alike to that of a Cloud Country, by blockchain entrepreneurs such as Balaji Srivanasan:

"A network state is a social network with an agreed-upon leader, an integrated cryptocurrency, a definite purpose, a sense of national consciousness, and a plan to crowdfund territory." [1]


Balaji Srivanasan:

"Here we describe a peaceful, reproducible process for turning an online community premised on a proposition into a physical state with a virtual capital: a network state, the sequel to the nation state.

A network state is a social network with a clear leader, an integrated cryptocurrency, a definite purpose, a sense of national consciousness, and a plan to crowdfund territory. That clear leader is the founding influencer, who organizes the online community that eventually buys land in the physical world. Crucially, that land is not necessarily contiguous.


A network state is thus an archipelago of digitally-linked, interconnected enclaves. It's also a country you can start from your computer, a territory one can acquire but not conquer, a community aligned around cryptographic consensus, a DAO that materializes in patches of earth, a city-state in the cloud, a body based on math rather than science, a group organized by geodesic over geographic distance, a polity that prizes exit above voice, a state that recruits like a startup, and a nation built from the internet rather than disrupted by it.

Each of these implicit definitions illuminates a different aspect of the network state. "



Balaji Srivanasan:

"Once we visualize a network state as a combination of (a) a digital social network with an integrated cryptocurrency and (b) a physical network of distributed enclaves, we realize that it is much easier to acquire than to conquer.

Easy to Acquire

First, why is it easy to acquire? For the digital portion of a network state, when the founder sells it to an acquirer, it's like selling Instagram to Facebook. The digital logins of the two services are integrated and citizens in each network state now have access to the other's apps and physical territory. This is a modern analog to the Louisiana Purchase or the purchase of Alaska. It's also feasible to sell not the entire network, but simply a subnetwork - perhaps all those in a defined geographical location, or all those who have expressed a collective interest in changing citizenship. This is similar to Singapore becoming independent from Malaysia. Finally, it is also feasible to spin-off a subnetwork into its own network, like the UK exiting from the EU. lousiana-purchase.jpeg

If we visualize the physical portion of a network state as like a network of Google offices, or a string of restaurant chains, or the real estate footprint of a REIT, we see how we can handle the physical component of network state M&A as well. In the simplest version, after one network state consummates the acquisition of the other, all citizens from one network state can enter the territory of the other. The smart locks just get a software update and now open all the doors and gates. The branding changes too, to be consistent with the new unified entity, much like a large chain putting up new signage when it acquires a small one. Various kinds of reciprocity relationships with other network states may need to be renegotiated, just like many corporate deals have change-of-control provisions, but this too is straightforward so long as it is anticipated. restaurant-chains-map.jpeg

In theory, all of this can be done with current legal infrastructure. It's just like one multinational acquiring the digital, physical, and human resources of another, except it extends to people's residences rather than simply their offices, and except that the acquired people become not just employees of the combined entity but citizens - though they can always leave for any new network state that admits them.

Over time, however, the digital infrastructure for each network state should live on a blockchain, which allows the recording of all real estate transactions, the maintenance of all citizen records, and the management of private keys in a globally consistent way across legacy nation state jurisdictions. The problem of post-acquisition integration mostly then reduces to porting over the records from one blockchain to another.

This is then a way to extend the corporate concept of change-of-control to polities. It's a recipe for nonviolent competition between countries, where peace treaties between would-be rebels and current incumbents are signed via M&A.

Hard to Conquer

The network state reduces violence on another dimension: thanks to their geographical decentralization and physical invisiblity, network states are hard to conquer. global-france-map.png

First, geographical decentralization. If you look at a map of France that includes its islands in the South Pacific, you realize that it's difficult to invade or nuke the whole thing at once. So the geographical distribution of the network itself is a deterrent to physical force. Just like cryptocurrency, the decentralization deters violence.

Second, physical invisibility. This is much more subtle. Right now, you can see the physical border zone between France & Germany on a map. But you can't visualize the border zone between Twitter & Facebook. That is, which people are on the "border" of Twitter and Facebook, in the sense that they have accounts on both sites? facebook-map.jpeg

This might seem like a trivial concept, but isn't. The Twitter and Facebook networks are each bigger than France or Germany - combined. However, social network membership is invisible to all but the network operators. There's no public list of all Facebook and Twitter members. Only Facebook can generate a map like this.

This has immense implications. You couldn't have nationalism itself without maps of physical space. For example, think about 54° 40' or Fight, which made literal reference to latitude. You couldn't have that kind of border dispute without being able to visualize a border. People had to see the map to be able to fight over it.

So, because citizenship in a network state is invisible to a satellite, at least without the consent of the network state operator, these imagined communities are invisible countries. It's the return of secret societies, at scale, as secret states. Network states thus have the option of reducing violence by encrypting the map itself; you can't hit what you can't see.

A Group Organized By Geodesic Rather than Geographic Distance

Snapchat lies on a straight line with the dissolution of the nation state. Why? Because people are sharing intimate moments with others 3000 miles away, while they often don't know the names of the next door neighbors in their anonymous apartment complex. This undermines the underlying assumption of the Westphalian nation state: namely, that people who live near each other will share the same values and therefore agree upon laws, such that the geographically-premised mechanism of the nation state is the right entity to govern them. Instead, what we find is that people share values with people who are close to them in their social network...not in their physical space.

We can quantify this with a little math. First, take a look at the definitions for the great circle distance and the geodesic distance.

The geographic distance is the the distance between two points on the surface of the earth. It's the distance as the crow flies. You can do a modified version of this based on practical travel constraints, but to a first approximation this fis how far apart people are in the physical world. The geodesic distance, by contrast, is a completely different metric. It's the number of degrees of separation between two nodes in a social network along the shortest path.

Importantly, the geodesic distance is just as valid a mathematical metric as the great-circle distance. That means one can generate distance matrices, and hence maps, via techniques like multidimensional scaling. In fact, there are entire conferences devoted to cloud cartography, in which research groups present maps of online social networks - mapping not nation states but states of mind. social-network-map.png

Why is the geodesic distance important? Because the network state is enabled in nontrivial part by the fact that we are transitioning from a primarily great-circle-driven world to a geodesic-driven world. And that means the fundamental division is less the visible geographic borders of the nation state, than the invisible geodesic borders of the social network. This in turn means that we need to reconceptualize the state as a primarily digital entity, a network state.

Think about the difference between Russia vs Ethereum. Russia was a geographical entity that switched its ideology in 1991, from communism to nationalism. The geography was primary, the ideology was secondary. Conversely, Ethereum is an ideological entity whose primary existence is in a network. The Ethereum community holds meetups in places like Cancun or Shenzhen, but the physical materialization is evanescent while the digital community is persistent.

Or think about the fact that Russia's borders are (mostly) fixed, while Ethereum's borders are highly fluid. It's true that Russia's borders have changed since 1991; its predecessor state, the USSR, extended farther out into Eastern Europe and Central Asia. But the Russian people have been near the Baltics, the Turks, the Eastern Europeans, and so on for quite a long time. Geopolitics doesn't vary that much; Russia's "competitors" for citizens have mostly stayed the same.

By contrast, the Ethereum-to-XYZ exchange rate does vary quite a bit, for different values of XYZ. Solana is a new digital currency that has popped up on Ethereum's boundary and taken a good chunk of "citizens" from it, just as Ethereum itself rose in BTC terms since its inception.

This is similar to how early Facebook arose out of nowhere and took many citizens from Gmail, before Google "closed the borders". Of course, unlike territorial disputes, these games are not strictly zero-sum, as the space of cryptocurrency and internet users keeps expanding, as does the wealth to invest in different services.

It is the geodesic distance that enables this fluidity. Individuals and entire networks can instantly become adjacent to anyone else in a social network. Individuals can also move around the map to become adjacent to others in the physical world. But unlike individuals or networks, nation states cannot do this. They cannot just move around the map at will. The Russian state is mostly stuck with its neighbors in a way that individual Russians, or the Telegram and Ethereum networks (both founded by people of Russian descent), are not."



Balaji's Metapolitics

Vitalik Buterin:

"Team NYT basically runs the US, and its total lack of competence means that the US is collapsing. Team BTC (meaning, both actual Bitcoin maximalists and US rightists in general) has some positive values, but their outright hostility to collective action and order means that they are incapable of building anything. Team CCP can build, but they are building a dystopian surveillance state that much of the world would not want to live in. And all three teams are waaay too nationalist: they view things from the perspective of their own country, and ignore or exploit everyone else. Even when the teams are internationalist in theory, their specific ways of interpreting their values make them unpalatable outside of a small part of the world.

Network states, in Balaji's view, are a "de-centralized center" that could create a better alternative. They combine the love of freedom of team BTC with the moral energy of team NYT and the organization of team CCP, and give us the best benefits of all three (plus a level of international appeal greater than any of the three) and avoid the worst parts.

This is Balajian megapolitics in a nutshell. It is not trying to justify network states using some abstract theory (eg. some Dunbar's number or concentrated-incentive argument that the optimal size of a political body is actually in the low tens of thousands). Rather, it is an argument that situates network states as a response to the particular political situation of the world at its current place and time."


John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus:

"Questions of state change and sovereignty are becoming intimately linked with issues of global security, with talk of "failing states," "lawless zones," and "ungoverned spaces" increasingly dominating public discussion. While valuable, the state decline perspective has come to dominate public discussion at the expense of alternative ideas about change in the state system. Because concepts about state change are increasingly the basis of political-military debate, considering a wider range of futures provides a much wider range of options for current strategy. Security analysts should be aware that it is not at all clear that the state itself is necessarily collapsing-and that many political-military scholars and economic sociologists are analyzing potential state changes with far-reaching implications. We may be, as Paul Rogers observes, witnessing a A World in Revolt but its nature is far more complex than many analysts believe.

Network theory is increasingly being applied to terrorism, but the most exciting analysis about state change looks at the network effect on the state. Like Manuel Castells, the economic sociologist Saskia Sassen's work points to a changing world at best dimly acknowledged in national security analysis. Her seminal book The Global City revealed the rise of a global economy built around a series of nodal points. Sassen, and other human geography scholars, discuss what Scott Lash calls "disorganized capitalism," a system distinguished by increasing deterritorialization and overlapping commercial, legal, and political networks. It is these "global cities" and the networks that connect them that are increasingly the centers of economic power. In a recent article for OpenDemocracy [ citation needed ], Sassen also notes that far-reaching economic trends have resulted in a structural "hollowing" of many state functions that has paradoxically enhanced state functions.

One military implication of the framework from which Sassen writes is that capture, control, or disruption of strategic nodes in the global system and the intersections between them can have cascade effects. Sassen's focus is mirrored by recent American geostrategic thought focusing on the notion of the "contested commons," a series of strategic frontier zones(air, sea, and cyberspace) that states and hybrid forces contest for control of commerce and resources. Sassen takes a wider view, expanding on the notion of a growing "frontier zone," a zone of difference where identities, allegiances, and organizational forms exist in a state of constant flux.

Geostrategist Thomas P.M. Barnett has similarly argued that the true struggles of the 21st century are about the penetration of certain kinds of globalization into states dangerously disconnected from the outside world. Sociologist Benjamin Barber goes even further to posit a conflict between notional zones of traditional or neo-traditional practices and a postmodern globalized state. Philip Bobbitt, a professor of law studying the evolution of war and the state, sees terrorists as a kind of "plague at a feast" that must be conquered to preserve the integrity of a growing "market-state" emerging across the globe.

The idea of the network state, however, goes far beyond the social and economic sphere. Some scholars analogize the new state to a kind of distributed computer network. Military and information society scholar David Ronfeldt, for example, sees the new state as a proliferation of transnational network forms he calls the "cyberocracy"; Ronfeldt's conception of the cyberocracy is rooted in a primarily cybernetic vision of the government that rules by the use of information and of society, a vision reminiscent of the cybernetic sociology of Talcott Parsons. Elites derive power from control of information and the tools associated with it, much in the same way as elites in the industrial era employed mastery of certain scientific, economic, and technological modes of practice to wrest power out of the hands of traditional authorities such as the aristocracy and the Church.

The core of Ronfeldt's research involves the concept of the "nexus-state," a new networked state entity enabled primarily by technology and networks. While many tech boosters see technology as a primarily liberating force that empowers individuals and groups, Ronfeldt argues convincingly that there is an equal potential for centralization of power. Centralized control of information can lead to the construction of a systematic apparatus of control that uses information collected on the populace to keep them in check. In a more decentralized system, the state becomes the arbiter that sets the protocol that defines a complicated set of networks, actors, and relationships.

If we are to take Ronfeldt's speculative idea on its own terms, we must go beyond the simplistic web 2.0 slogan that "information is power." Rather, the problem lies in transforming certain kinds of information into power. There is a large disparity between the "soft power" represented by the global networks, social media groups, and non-governmental organizations and the critical and overwhelming mass needed to contest political power, especially when faced with a force that holds an overwhelming military advantage. All of the hype about the Iranian "twitter revolution" placed a naïve faith in the ability of technology to overcome the loyal security forces of an authoritarian state. Twitter, in the end, could not overcome the truncheon, gun, and bayonet.

Ronfeldt and his frequent writing partner John Arquilla suggest in their RAND monographs on information-age "noopolitik" that power politics will increasingly revolve around attempts to shift the structural norms of a the global system on the ideational level. However, such a task will remain a grave challenge for most would-be revolutionaries. It is far easier to disrupt the political bonds through violence. Military theorist Robert Bunker has often argued in his essays on "Revolutions in Political-Military Affairs" that contested zones of political and state power lie in what he calls the "trinitarian" bonds between the state, the people, and the armed services. Bunker suggests that non-state actors can manipulate these bonds in a much easier fashion than the state. The 9/11 attacks' ripple effects on American politics and grand strategy are an obvious case of his thesis, but the media-induced fear generated by the activities of the DC Sniper in 2002 are a subtler reminder of the growing power of individuals to generate fear through the (mostly inadvertent) use of information as a weapon." (


John P. Sullivan is a career police officer. He currently serves as a lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies on Terrorism (CAST). He is coeditor of Countering Terrorism and WMD: Creating a Global Counter-Terrorism Network (Routledge, 2006)

Adam Elkus is an analyst specializing in foreign policy and security. He is currently Associate Editor at Red Team Journal. He blogs at Rethinking Security, Dreaming 5GW, and The Huffington Post. He is currently contributing to the Center for Threat Awareness’ ThreatsWatch project. )

Martin Carnoy and Manuel Castells

The following is a 1999 commentary on the seminal book on state theory by:

* Poulantzas, Nicos (1980) State, power, socialism, London: New Left Books, Verso edition.

Source: Globalization, the knowledge society, and the Network State: Poulantzas at the millennium. MARTIN CARNOY and MANUEL CASTELLS


" 'Excerpt: Crisis and reconstruction of the state: the Network State'

"Towards the end of the twentieth century the state was confronted with a series of challenges: the process of globalization; the transformation of the work process, and its consequences for the welfare state, one of the pillars of state legitimacy; the centrality of knowledge in economy, and society, thus affecting the education system, a key source of control for the modern state; and a deep crisis of legitimacy, resulting from all the above, plus the damage inflicted upon the state by the rise of identity politics (Castells 1997/2000; Guehenno 1993). Let us briefly review these different dimensions of the contemporary crisis of the state without reiterating the arguments already presented in this paper.

Globalization limits the sovereignty of the state. But it also does something else: it redefines the social boundaries of the state (Held 1991). If nations are intertwined, the community to which the state is accountable becomes blurred. How can a strictly national state respond to transnational communities? The classic nation state requires a bounded national community as its frame of reference. When globalization forces the state to redefine this frame of reference, then national communities lose their channel of political representation. What follows is the development of nationalism against the state. The separation between nation and the state is a fundamental process characteristic of our time (Calhoun 1998).

The individualization of work, the development of networking and flexibility as forms of economic activity, the instability of employment, all undermine the institutions of the welfare state that were built on stable partnerships between representatives of capital, workers, and the state. The state reduces its role as a guarantor of social protection, and individualizes its relationship with most citizens. The ensuing crisis of the traditional welfare state undermines the legitimacy of the state because it loses its appeal as the provider of last resort.

The centrality of knowledge in the new economy enhances the role of schools as productive forces. Consequently, the role of the school as a national ideological and domination apparatus recedes, undermining one of the key elements of social control and ideological reproduction on the part of the state.

The rise of identity politics challenges citizenship as the sole source of political legitimacy. The state has to respond to a series of cultural demands, often contradictory, from a plurality of sources that supersede the individual citizen as the basis of political representation.

In addition to structurally induced crisis of legitimacy, the state also suffers from the crisis of legitimacy of the political system. This crisis is induced by the practice of media politics, closely associated to the politics of scandal. This is, the widespread use of character assassination and diffusion of damaging information as the main weapons in a political competition simplified into snap shots, and sound bites in the media, as media become the decisive space of politics (Castells 1997/2000; Rose- Ackerman 1999).

States, however, react to this multidimensional crisis. They react by reconfiguring themselves to try to accommodate to new pressures and new demands. This recon- figuration develops, primarily along two axes. First, nation states build international, supra-national, and co-national institutions, in order to manage together the process of globalization that threatens to overwhelm individual states. Let us take, as an example, the European states as the clearest expression of this new historical trend. They have constituted the European Union, with the historical project of incorpor- ating the whole of Europe, minus Russia. The 15 member European Union is already a new co-national state. It is co-national because the decision-making power is in the hands of the Council of Governments, in which all member states are represented, with veto power over key decisions. But this is not the extension of the member nation states. It is a new instance of shared sovereignty. As European states they have also created supranational institutions – institutions that, while ultimately dependent upon the member states, have their autonomy (European Commission, European Parliament), and even their independence (the European Central Bank). They have also trusted their defence to a supra-national organization with a high degree of autonomy in the conduct of the war: NATO.

A similar process is taking place at the world level, with institutions overlapping across areas of the world in key areas of policy making. The G-7 group (a co-national, informal institution) takes major decisions in managing the global economy. The execution of these decisions is entrusted to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. But these institutions also have a large degree of autonomy vis-à-vis their member states at large, although they work in close cooperation with the US government. International institutions also play an increasing role in handling social, environmental, and political problems around the world. These are institutions created by the nation states, with no real power, but with considerable influence in public affairs, as they become the space of negotiation and co-intervention for governments. They are the United Nations agencies, the regional associations (such as the Organization of American States, Organization of African Unity, Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation, ASEAN, the Arab League etc.). These organizations are half a century old, but their role is increasing, as shown by the growing number of military interventions and the observation of political processes under their flags. Besides, critical questions for humankind, such as environmental problems, public health, human rights, and emergency relief, are being treated internationally by a complex web of ad hoc agreements and organizations.

The other axis of the nation state’s reconfiguration is its attempt to regain legitimacy and to represent the social diversity of its constituency through the process of decentralization and devolution of power and resources. This translates primarily into revitalizing sub-state national governments (such as Scotland or Catalonia), regional governments, local governments, and non-governmental organizations. Indeed, the dramatic expansion of non-governmental organizations around the world, most of them subsidized and supported by the state, can be interpreted as the extension of the state into civil society, in an effort to diffuse conflict and increase legitimacy by shifting resources and responsibility to the grassroots. In the 1990s, Europe has seen an extra- ordinary development of regional and local politics, together with the expansion of citizen participation, and the growing recognition of national cultures and specific identities. These movements can be observed throughout the world (Borja and Castells 1997).

The two trends of supranationality and devolution go hand in hand. Nation states are surviving, and indeed strengthening, their position by going global and local at the same time and by trying to found their legitimacy both in citizenship and cultural plurality. In the process, they assure their historical continuity, but they contribute to the demise of the nation state as it was constituted during the Modern Age, and exported to the postcolonial world (Guehenno 1993; Hoogvelt 1997). This is because the modern nation state was based on the twin principles of national representation of citizens, and territorially-based national sovereignty. With shared sovereignty, and shared sources of legitimacy, the social foundations of the classic nation state are irreversibly undermined by supranationality from above, and transnationalism from below (Smith and Guarnizo 1998).

What emerges is a new form of the state. It is a state made of shared institutions, and enacted by bargaining and interactive iteration all along the chain of decision making: national governments, co-national governments, supra-national bodies, international institutions, governments of nationalities, regional governments, local governments, and NGOs (in our conception: neo-governmental organizations). Decision-making and representation take place all along the chain, not necessarily in the hierarchical, pre-scripted order. This new state functions as a network, in which all nodes interact, and are equally necessary for the performance of the state’s functions. The state of the Information Age is a Network State.

Can this Network State accommodate the pressing demands of adapting the welfare state to the new work process, and ensuring knowledge-production through the school system? Here is where Poulantzas’ teachings become invaluable. Let us conceptualize the state as on the one hand performing the functions of facilitating accumulation of capital and reproduction of labour power and on the other hand ensuring domination (of social interests), and legitimation (of state institutions). Based on this conception, we can hypothesize a set of new historical modalities of fulfilling this complex set of tasks via the Network State. Accumulation and domination are facilitated globally by co-national and supranational institutions. Legitimation and reproduction are ensured primarily by regional and local governments and NGOs. New, global dimensions of legitimation (human rights), and reproduction (environment, health) are fulfilled by international institutions, under the hegemony of accumulation-oriented supra-national institutions. The welfare state is downsized by supra-national, accumulation-oriented institutions (e.g. the International Monetary Fund), thus lifting the burden of responsibility from the nation state. The school system is gradually pushed away from national ideological domination toward generating knowledge based on global, not national values. The ideological functions of schooling are increasingly localized and customized to subsets of the national collective. Thus, the state diversifies the mechanisms and levels of its key functions (accumulation, reproduction, domination and legitimation), and distributes its performance along the network. The nation state becomes an important, coordinating node in this interaction, but it does not concentrate either the power or the responsi- bility to respond to conflicting pressures.

Now, who is ‘the state’? Does the state react by itself and reconfigure itself in full consciousness of this process, independently from social classes and other social actors? Here is where Poulantzas’ concept of relative autonomy becomes essential. Governments acted and reacted under the pressure of economic forces and social actors in the 1970s–1990s period. They made key decisions that induced global- ization, and allowed the emergence of a knowledge economy, and they reconfigured state institutions. Thus, states acted on their own. However, they acted under pressure from dominant capitalist groups within the framework of preserving/expanding capitalism and accepting liberalism as the hegemonic ideology. The ideological battle had been won in society by cultural libertarianism and by the demise of statist ideologies, associated with the collapse of Communism in the minds of people around the world. States that did not join this global network were increasingly marginalized. Governments which tried sharply different, nation-oriented policies were compelled to change course (e.g. France under Mitterrand in 1981), or were pushed aside by crisis (e.g. Peru under Alan Garcia in 1986). The Network State was integrated into global networks of accumulation and domination, while responding to pressures and demands from national/local societies. State policies were selected by dominant interests and legitimized by citizens in various degrees. The process of trial and error determined the course of political transformation. The Network State resulted from the outcomes of social struggles and geopolitical strategies fought in the transition period from the industrial era to the information age in the last lap of the millennium.

Conclusion: the theory of the state at the turn of the millennium

The theory of the state must tackle the issues posed by the history of the state. At the turn of the millennium, the three major issues concerning the state are the following: how social domination is enforced; how legitimacy is established; and which kind of autonomy the state has vis-à-vis dominant classes and social actors at large.

Because of the individualization of the work process, the state’s role in disorgan- izing class struggle has changed. The state is no longer required to individualize workers as citizens to undermine class consciousness, as Poulantzas brilliantly perceived to be the case in the era of industrial mass production. The production process does the job for the state. Class domination is now enforced at two fundamental levels. Vis-à-vis dominant classes (that is the collective capitalist), class domination is ensured by managing and spreading globalization. The capitalist state is the globalizing state. Thus, in order to represent the interests of capitalism, the state has to overlook the interests of the nation and of its national citizens. Still, it will have to deal with legitimacy problems arising under this new pattern of domination. But domination is exercised through globalization, and through the networking of nation states that become syndicated in defense of globalization. Vis-à-vis domestic social classes, the state exercises domination through the education system. In a society where education, information, and knowledge are the critical sources of wealth and influence, class formation takes place in the classroom. Who gets what in the education system determines who gets what in capital, communication, and political influence. But as we have argued, class domination through education is increasingly passed to more localized political units.

Domination cannot survive for long without legitimacy. People must feel some degree of allegiance to the state, or domination will become synonymous with dictatorship. The betrayal of national interests, the rise of media politics, and its close associate the politics of scandal, all contribute to undermine the legitimacy of the nation state. Its strategy to escape de-legitimation is two-pronged: it strives to stimulate economic growth, national employment, and domestic consumption; and, simultaneously, it decentralizes political responsibility by increasing local/regional autonomy.

For most people in the world, fully aware of what is going on, and ready to stay home, the critical matter is personal security. Security ultimately translates into economic growth and improving living standards. In this sense, even social inequality is not a major issue. If people see their lives improving, they will not be ready to lose what they have only to correct the injustice of the rich getting richer. So, steady improvement of living standards for the large majority of the population, via informational productivity, and globalization-induced economic growth, is the main axis for building state legitimacy. We are not saying this will work. We are simply observing that this is a widespread state practice, and is, in fact, the only option once the choice has been made to adapt to the rules of global financial markets. In addition, redistribution through welfare, pensions, taxation, and other efforts to equalize income, whenever and wherever possible, would increase legitimacy. But this is an afterthought for the Network State. Redistribution is only implemented under substantial pressure from social movements.

The second way to establish legitimacy in the new historical context is decentral- ization of state power to sub-state levels: to sub-national groupings, to regions, and to local governments. This increases the probability that citizens will identify with their institutions and participate in the political process. While nation states cede power, they also shift responsibility, in the hope of creating buffers between citizens’ disaffection and national governments. Legitimacy through decentralization and citizen participation in non-governmental organizations seems to be the new frontier of the state in the twenty-first century.

Still, the state will have to respond to social movements’ demands to avoid a legitimacy crisis. Some of these demands may not be easy to accommodate within the existing state institutions. This is particularly the case with demands emerging from the women’s movement, as the crisis of patriarchalism as a hegemonic institution will lead to the calling into question of the patriarchal dimension of the state.

The greatest historical change for the state is the dramatic decline in its autonomy. The state becomes dependent on the collective capitalist represented by global financial markets. It becomes dependent on the process of globalization of production, trade, technology, and communication. It becomes dependent on other states, as it links up with state institutions to constitute the new, network state. It becomes highly dependent on the ideological apparatuses constituted around global media. It is dependent on lower levels of the state, as these levels increasingly perform key legitimation functions previously in the hands of the nation state. And it continues to depend on the institutions of patriarchalism, and particularly on the patriarchal family, the corner stone of ideological hegemony (‘family values’). When and if captured by specific interest groups, states become predatory states (like in Russia, Mexico and Nigeria, among so many others), losing all autonomy. Last, but not least, when captured by fundamentalist identity movements, be it religious or nationalist (as in Iran or Serbia) they lose all autonomy vis-à-vis religions or ideologies. Overall, the relative autonomy of the state is fading away, to a large extent because relatively autonomous states chose their own historical demise.

At the same time, the legitimacy of the nation state and its capacity to enforce the underlying rules and regulation of national market economies through democratic means and smoothly running political apparatuses, as well as to support a well- developed market information system, are important to global finance capital. They lower risk for capital and raise profit/risk ratios (World Bank 1999). Global capital’s ‘co-dependence’ on smoothly functioning civil-political societies offsetssome of the decline in national autonomy we have described; it provides even those nation states in supranational arrangements some leverage vis-à-vis both global capital and pressures for more local autonomy.

We are thus entering a world that is very different from the one in which Poulantzas lived – together with us. Thus, many of his/our former analyses do not apply to new historical realities. But this is not a major flaw for social theories. Only metaphysics pretends eternal validity. Social theories are not supposed to provide answers forever. Instead, their value is tested on the relevance of the questions they allow us to ask. That we are tentatively able to explore the state at the turn of the millennium by asking questions inspired and conceptualized by Poulantzas’ theory is a tribute to the perennial value of his thought. Nicos Poulantzas lives in our minds, and he will continue to live in the minds of political theorists during the twenty-first century." (

More information

"The network state is built cloud first, land last. Rather than starting with the physical territory, we begin with a digital community."

- Balaji Srinavasan [2]