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The State as a ‘conception’ or as an ‘imagination’ remained in the flux situation from 1648 to the second decade of the 21st century. Are we moving from ‘Westphalia’ to ‘Westfailure’? Susan Stranger excellently articulated this idea of “The West-failure System” in the finishing years of the 1990s, where she portrayed the negotiating situation of ‘State’ in modern times. The nature of ‘State’ according to the ‘Westphalian principle’ focusses on the decree of ‘sovereignty.’ The state as a political entity has ‘sovereignty’ at its core, but the advent of tripartite juggernaut phenomenon i.e. ‘capitalism’, ‘neoliberalism’, and ‘globalization’ altered the structure of the ‘State’ that was curated in Westphalia. In the same vein, Fukuyama stated that “traditional notions of sovereignty had always been something of a fiction.” Certainly, Fukuyama had some solid case to make, but the present pandemic of the novel COVID-19 proved its potency by fuelling the idea of State in a new avatar. This new avatar of the State is diluting the arguments forwarded by the likes of Susan Stranger and Fukuyama who were claiming the curtaining of sovereignty from the grand conception of State.

This ad-hocism of this Sovereignty in between the Corona crisis will certainly be short-lived, as when the expressions of Corona will be earnestly embraced globally the eagled eyed transnational institutions will again come into the mainstay to show their fangs. The egoistic dimension of State emerged globally to curb the spread of this lethal unfaced catastrophe. The sealing of national boundaries, unplanned lockdown, state emergencies, surveilling the medical supply chain, and envisaging to monitor every individual through an equivocal mobile app are immediate expressions of newly loomed sovereign consciousness.

Individuals are turning into ‘Projects

The prior Corona world was not the flower bed for individuals per se, macrostructures were toiling hard to turn individuals into a product for the ‘global world.’ The present Corona stretch has different motives for individuals. The individuals are bending towards ‘projects’ where State is employing its every Repressive State Apparatus (from  Althusser’s vocabulary) to curb every movement of individuals to successfully lionize their lockdown. The unhygienic quarantined spaces where individuals are strictly cordoned by the district administration is another achieved spectacle for bureaucrats to get a pat from their chief. The frightening part emerges when every increase in death tolls or positive cases is reflected in numbers. The audience seated well comfortably on their couch, by using all their permutations and combinations guesses try to speculate their distance from the virus. Zizek warns us that we are slipping into ‘new barbarism’ where Corona Watch is turning into a balance sheet on national T.V where the working of administration is evaluated based on the death tolls.

This corona crisis turned society into an office space situated in a skyscraping building where the manager (read it State) is sweating to keep its employees into their cubicles. This manager earlier was under the constrained ruling of international TNC (Trans National Corporations). But this unprecedented crisis provided a room of freedom where this manager earnestly embraced its power and exploited it to a sickening degree.

The State is Sweating to Increase its Surveillance Grip

State shrewdly grabbed the expressions of fear among its populace and forwarded a vehement edict where it tried institutionally as well as through popular media to get a disputable app installed in their smartphone. The strong voices such as Yuval Noah Harari too are speculating an immense upswing in the surveillance culture in the post corona era. This application will assist the State to invade the interiors of life, which has every potential to manipulate our expressions and actions at the State’s will.

Globalization to Gated Globalization

Globalization – the ‘big idea‘ of the late twentieth century changed the role of the state in many ways: politically through interdependence and independence of states, socially through the problems and threats of terrorism, etc, technologically through the media and internet and economically through the change from national to global economies. The sovereign state was influenced by them (for better and for worse) and the near-monopoly of power once enjoyed by sovereign entities was being eroded. The role of the State was changing not because of their will but because the domestic and international environment in which the State was operating, has been so transformed that it altered the idea of sovereignty too. as to call into question the meaning and essence of sovereignty. The concept of sovereignty was in dilemma.

These submissions held much currency in pre- Corona outbreak but it seems that they are losing its relevance not lastingly but surely for a decent time amidst Corona crisis. Globalization came with a celebrated motto of ‘global village’ and ‘State with porous borders’ but present crisis compelled every State to restrict its national boundaries turning every country into a Gated Institution whose Gates will now be opened with noticeable native States discretion and conditions.  The entities that were uncontrollably wandering globally prior to the pandemic, their movement seems to halt for time being. Earlier each State accompanied by other corporational assistance was in business to turn its native economy to a respected status in the global market, now things are in flux, States presently are eyeing to Atmanirbharta loosely translated as self-reliance. An urge to primarily suffice one’s demand natively. The motives of Atmanirbharta certainly feel tranquilizing at first sight but it contains an inherent threat. The easing of labor laws, allowing of inconsiderable firing at will, and an extension of working hours is just a teaser to the bigger cinema which the State is capable of. We can expect many more hefty loan waivers to the close knits, of big Sahab residing in 7, Lokmanya Marg in the name of boosting up of the native economy. The State will effort more to reclaim its agency and create new contours of the new authority of which earlier existed Globalised world was hindering in.

Eagled eyed trio will again emerge

The rationality of the overpowering force of the eagled eye trio seems feeble for time being, but certainly, the last laugh will be enjoyed by them only. We can speculate another Capitalist Revolution where new imagination, expressions, and structures will be curated. The Capitalists are best in this, they enthusiastically cast and recast their methodologies according to societal needs devised by them only.

The reorganization of this new rationality will take a while to solidify, till then native State has an ample opportunity to claim its authority. But this claim will be short-lived once again the big fish will sail around the world. Let us hope this re-claiming of authority doesn’t end in bad taste. The native State amidst crisis should abide by the principle of welfarism, and should not consider this pandemic as a favorable circumstance where it can satiate its authoritarian appetite.

 

Bhawesh Pant is a research scholar at Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policies, Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai.


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