States and the Historical Process


The States develop their existence within a historical process that embraces and contains them but at the same time they help to shape, a historical process driven by transcendent forces, according to St. Augustine or Hegel, or by an internal dialectic, according to Karl Marx. The discussion about whether the historical process obeys impulses from transcendent  forces to an immanent internal dialectic or if it is the product of a transcendent force acting dialectically exceeded, logically, the limits of this work. However, it is interesting to note, to complete the analysis of the importance of history for the study of international relationships, the reflections of Helio Jaguaribe that, regarding the above discussion, argues that the internal dialectic "is derived not only from the class struggle, as Marx suggested, but from all motives and impulses that drive men to pursue their goals, from the simple need to find their own subsistence to a more idealistic purpose, such as Joan of Arc or Fidel Castro. In their human activities, in addition to their own will, they are subject to the circumstances of their material and cultural means, and - as Polibius wisely observed - to the arbitrary game of chance "(Jaguaribe, 2001: 35). By analogy, it can be said as the same of the activities developed by the States in the international stage?

Therefore, the historical process is subjected to a quadruple regime of causality, determined by real and ideal factors, chance and human freedom. Real factors include all natural and material conditions that are surrounding men. The ideal factors contain the culture of a society at a given moment in history and the culture of the societies with which it interacts. Chance is the random way in which in a given space and time, all actors combine to affect a specific actor. The first two factors (the real and the ideal) are structural. They form the average target within which human actions occur. The last two factors (chance and freedom) are of temporary nature: human events exercising their freedom within a context given by real and ideal factors, according to the latest configuration of the circumstances resulting from random.(Jaguaribe, 2001: 35)

The state remains the central actor

There is no lack of arguments to defend the cause of the decline of national states and the blurring of boundaries. At the current time transnational phenomena, religions, ideological parties, multinationals, NGOs, fashions, habits transformation, are crossing borders and escaping, in some extent, to the authority and control of the states. It is also undisputed that national States share the world stage with other non-governmental actors and new actors have more power and participate, although indirectly, in the game of international politics in better conditions than many national states.

However, it should be noted that from the universities of the central countries, some analysts insist "selflessly", that on the international stage, the role of the States is shrinking and that they would be quickly replaced by multinational and transnational companies, which would eliminate, in the practice, the boundaries and would not recognise the laws and national policies.

This erroneous theory, developed in the centers of power as a strategy of distraction, just to avoid political and social forces of the peripheral countries to get engaged in strengthening their national States and embark on sterile globalist struggles. This has, however, a real content. It is true that, from the very origins of the international system, alongside the States have been other international actors of great importance — it is enough to mention as an example the League of German bankers, led by the Fugger and Welser, that enabled Carlos 1 of Spain is transformed into Carlos V of Germany— However, the interesting points of view that talk about the disappearance of the State, as argued Samuel Pinheiro Guimarães, "do not take into account that the economic interests of large enterprises have always been linked to the States in one form or another, from the committee 21 of the Dutch Republic to the great English trading companies and US transnational corporations today.

However, current mega-companies have no way to become legitimate legislative and sanctioning organisms, that is, accepted by the society, that will always be indispensable while there is competition and conflicts between businesses, social groups, ethnic and religious, etc. The main functions of the State -besides defending the territory and its sovereignty- are to legislate, ie create standards of conduct; sanction, ie convict violators of these rules; settle disputes over its interpretation, and finally defend the interests of their nationals and their companies when they are under foreign jurisdiction. These state functions are radically different from the functions of the companies that consists in producing and distributing goods privately, from the market "(Pinheiro Guimaraes, 2005: 28).

JAGUARIBE, Helio, Un estudio crítico de la historia, Buenos Aires, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2001.

PINHEIRO GUIMARAES, Samuel, Cinco siglos de periferia. Una contribución al estudio de la política internacional, Buenos Aires, Ed. Prometeo, 2005.