In his influential book, Straight Talk on Trade, Dani Rodrik provides a cogent critique of the existing international economic order and concludes: ‘So, I accept that nation-states are a source of disintegration for the global economy.’ This article critically engages with the idea that the nation-state is a legitimate force of disintegration of the international economic order, with particular attention to trade and investment agreements. There are disparate circumstances, from the realm of food safety regulation to the regulation of capital flows, in which it is arguably desirable that domestic institutions (re-)gain more power. Most importantly, the nation-state is today an important site of democracy and, only for that reason, it is worth defending. Yet, in times of rising authoritarianism, it is crucial to reflect on some of the limits of the nation-state and on the necessity to develop alternative paradigms for integrating economies and societies.
This article presents a two-fold critique of the idea that an expansion of national sovereignty is going to achieve a better socio-economic world order per se. The first critique is internal, showing that the nation-state does not possess intrinsic characteristics to facilitate democracy, equality and sustainability. The second is external and focuses on the necessity to look reflexively at the goals of the system of international economic law, to re-imagine it as capable to address questions of inequality and environmental degradation.
Alessandra Arcuri is Professor of Inclusive Global Law and Governance at the Department of International and European Union Law, Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her research focuses on international economic law and the relationship with human rights and environmental law, as well as global governance of risks and the emergence of global technocracy. She has published extensively in the field of risk regulation, international economic law and law and economics. Besides teaching regularly at the Erasmus School of Law, she has taught courses in several universities, including at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund University, Sweden, at the African Universities in Lomè, Togo, at the Luiss Guido Carli University, Rome, and at the University of Siena, Italy and at the Link Campus University in Rome. She has also lived and held positions in Florence at the European University Institute (Jean Monnet Fellow), New York, New York University (Hauser Global Research Fellow), Hamburg, Hamburg University (Marie Curie). Professor Arcuri is Co-Chair of the Young Erasmus Academy, Member of the Erasmus Institute of Public Knowledge and Member of the Erasmus Initiative on Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity.