Friday, November 22, 2013

Territorialism and Capital Globalization

     The multi-faceted evolution of the international stage to Globalization has had a drastic transitional impact on territorialism since the 17th century.  When looking at historical perceptions of territory, it must be considered that “no scholarly research undertaken a thousand years ago made reference to bounded territorial spaces” (Scholte, 57).  In addition, the origins of the modern state was born from Westphalian sovereignty, and territorial boundaries were generally not recognized until “the high tide of colonialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries” (Scholte, 57).  This evolutionary stage in territorialism was concurrent with an evolution in manufacturing and trading technologies with “the growth of mercantile and industrial capitalism, and the rise of national identities” (Scholte, 57).  Analyzing the historical rise of territorialism closely, it is important to acknowledge that “mercantile and industrial activity that dominated capitalism during this period operated almost exclusively in territorial space” (Scholte, 57).

     It is evident that the creation of territorialism was an important transition in international identities caused greatly by advancements in technology and the rise of Capitalism. It is also important to analyze and identify the current declining transitions of territorialism that have occurred, and continue to occur, due to factors in the expansion and entrenchment of capital globalization.  The weakening of territorial emphasis is evident when considering “significant parts of capitalism now operate with relative autonomy from territorial space” and “old intellectual frameworks cannot adequately address the issues of distributive justice”, two examples that have traditionally been enforced by territorial states (Scholte, 58).  No area provides a stronger example of territorial decline than the area of global economics, with a global yearly foreign-exchange turnover of $450 trillion dollars, several trillion U.S. dollars' worth of offshore bank deposits, $60 trillion dollars in annual trans-border movements of securitized funds, 44,500 trans-border companies with collective annual sales of $7 trillion dollars, and over 250 multilateral regulatory institutions (Scholte, 59).  In the age of globalization, capital is able to flow across territorial borders with ease due to international currency exchange rates set by the International Monetary Fund.

     While the consolidation of global capitalism has weakened territorialism, by no means is territorialism dead.  States still control “territorial borders, continue to exert considerable influence on flows of merchandise trade, investment and migration” (Scholte, 59).  In contrast to the capital flow across state borders, many economic exchange methods such as “currencies, credit cards and other money forms have restricted circulation within a given territorial space” ((Scholte, 59).  One of the most interesting points of sustainment for territorialism is the way states strengthen their military powers, or their closest allies, by purchasing “technologies like supersonic aircraft, missile rockets, radar and spy satellites” (Scholte, 60).  In many cases, states such as the United States will issue large sums of capital in the form of military aid to foreign state allies with the requirement placed on the recipient to purchase military technology from corporations within United States territory. 

     The international stage presents a very complex and ever transitioning power structure.  The emergence of territorialism can be argued to have been an international trend influenced by technological advancements and evolving capitalist interests and exploitation, and should be considered a trend that is not a permanent one in past or present format.  Territorial states have weakened over the past few decades to become secondary actors on a capitalist international stage dominated by intergovernmental agencies, non-government organizations often private sector in nature, and international trade organizations.  While the current trend on the international stage appears to be the weakening of territorialism in the face of global private sector capitalism, future trends of territorialism are uncertain and will certainly be influenced by new technologies, possible conflicts, possible territorial or global revolutions, and new forms of economics and government.


Scholte, Jan. 2000. Globalization: a Critical Introduction. London, England: MacMillan, 57-61.


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