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Why in news?

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that the nation-state is not only alive but absolutely essential.
  • Paradoxical as it may sound, COVID-19, a global menace, has demonstrated the resilience of the nation-state often portrayed as antediluvian by the advocates of globalisation.
  • It has ended up strengthening the relevance of national boundaries as the major instrument for the control of the spread of the virus.
  • One of the first things that governments have done is to close borders and stop international travel.

The principal barriers

  • The COVID-19 outbreak has demonstrated that national boundaries are seen as the principal barriers to the spread of the disease.
  • Air traffic across most state boundaries has either been halted or drastically curtailed and foreign citizens have been denied entry into national space.
  • Even the search for a COVID-19 vaccine has become a matter of international competition.
  • For the U.S., Europe and China, national pride is at stake in this race.
  • National pride and national security issues have thus become irretrievably intertwined with the search to combat COVID-19.
  • All this is happening while simultaneously political leaders and pundits are making statements daily about the urgent need for international cooperation to prevent the spread of the disease.

Identifying with governments

  • Moreover, human beings obey orders not simply because they are issued but because they consider the issuing authority legitimate and, even more, identify with it at an emotional level.
  • No matter how ineffective or bumbling national governments may be, their legitimacy as authoritative institutions is far greater than that of any competing institutions.
  • People’s emotional identification with them because of the sense of national identity drilled into their consciousness from an early age also make them comparatively far more effective institutions for the enforcement of orders especially in times of crisis.
  • It is no wonder therefore that the pandemic has also become a major source of resuscitation for the nation-state that for the last few decades has been facing challenges from advocates of globalisation.
  • It has demonstrated that the nation-state is not only alive and well but absolutely essential particularly in times of crisis and that the rhetoric about its imminent demise is vastly exaggerated.
December 2023