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Technology And The State Essay, Research Paper

‘Technology, above all else, has changed the nature of the state, not least in terms of making boundaries permeable’In discussing this statement I am going to discover whether technology is responsible for changing the nature of the state, but more specifically whether it has made boundaries more permeable. Although the statement holds the assumption that technology is the main factor of change, after reading several texts I have come to the conclusion that this belief is true, be it directly as a technological innovation or indirectly by how these innovations may influence other means of penetrating borders. The development of new technologies has for the best part of 150 years had a tremendous effect on society in general, and the world as a whole, from the development of the steam engine to the discovery of nuclear power, states have never been able to react the same. Of course, major technological advancement has been a phenomenon witnessed more frequently by the west, which of course initially made conflict between these countries more probable but ultimately more devastating, as vividly portrayed by WWI and WWII.

I will begin by discussing the first major age of change and development, in this case, the industrial revolution. It now seems that the industrial revolution heralded the beginning of a new system that would concentrate on continuing development and heightening technology, not least when the military could find uses for them. Industrialization in the mid-19th Century also brought a new way of social classification, the traditional way of owning land to increase status had been replaced by capitalism where it seemed the more you earned the higher in society you could climb. This was an incentive for industry owners to seek greater efficiency through development.

A number of factors had greatly changed the way the military could react by the beginning of the First World War. The birth of manufacturing had meant that uniforms, boots, guns could all be produced by the thousand. America had emerged as the forerunners of manufacturing and their civil war is described as ‘the first industrialized war’. For the state it would be inevitable that they should get involved in industry because developments in industry brought about significant military applications.

For instance, the steam engine had brought trains, important for industry and trade as they could transport goods quicker, but also important for the military. They could now mobilize troops much easier than before and hopefully make better use of them being that traveling by train had been a less exhaustive experience. Add the development of the telegraph then mobilization of an army was frighteningly swift. Quite obviously the country that would could get as many troops as quickly as possible to the front line had an advantage over the opposition.

Not to be left at that we have the development of the internal combustion engine and the evolution of a car into a fully armored vehicle of war – the tank. By now technology had had a major effect on the nature of states not least in Nazi Germany under Hitler who employed the method of Blitzkrieg in Poland with amazing efficiency. Submarines had also made states feel uneasy, how could they feel secure when a fleet of enemy submarines could be a few miles off coast, armed and ready to fire? Of course maybe the most significant thing that had developed during the war was the airplane. The emergence of the airplane meant the need for completely new strategies for both attacking the enemy and defending yourself. Terrifyingly for the state they were now faced with the strong possibility of having their boundaries penetrated. This type of threat was much more difficult to respond to. How could the state provide a sense of security to the populace when boundaries were easily penetrated and answers elusive? War could now be staged by land, sea, or air – who’s land, sea or air seemed irrelevant.

The direct application of these new machines was devastating but also had a huge effect on society. Such sudden change in technology meant that the very nature of war itself changed, targets changed. Boundaries were becoming increasingly permeable, and the fact that bombers could travel hundreds of miles brought these new targets into play that were traditionally out of reach. It was now evident to states that the factories where weapons were produced could be targeted, cutting off the supply at the root. Without new technologies these options would not be open to them and the state would not have to worry bout aerial strikes at the heart of their societies.

Increasingly throughout the Second World War society was the target, the potential for death in the inner cities was immense. World war two had turned out to be a war of society vs. society. Bombers could be sent by the thousand and turn once bustling cities to rubble. Further technological improvement meant the emergence of the most destructive force known to man, the Atom bomb. Infinitely more has been at risk from the possibility of nuclear war than ever before, not a fact lost on states. The US was the first to develop this technology but was by no means the last. Not only did they gain a sense of superiority but they could also offer their citizens protection by using the bomb as deterrence against other states. Nuclear permeability is now feared above all else especially after witnessing that it’s capabilities aren’t speculatory, the results were clearly seen at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For a state the development of nuclear weapons has been an important factor, giving them a sense of achievement, power, status, strength but above all security. France for example strove for nuclear capabilities as a means of strengthening their role as an international actor. It seems paradoxical that states feel increased security by possessing nuclear weapons when in reality they are treading a line that could result in a nuclear winter. The foreseeable effects of nuclear war have been enough to deter states from going to war with each other. It has also meant that lesser conflicts have decreased because of fear of escalation. As Herz says, states have lost their sense of territoriality and with the advent of weapons of mass destruction new ways of assuring security have had to be addressed. States have had to become increasingly more diplomatic, shying away from the topics of war and attempting to see their one-time foes in a more amiable light.

This may present itself as an increased urge for international interdependence or a move toward complete globalization. As it stands both these avenues are being explored, the EU for European integration and the UN for global cooperation.

Boundaries are permeable by more than just military application. We must remember that advancements in technology have effects on both the military and civilian aspects of society. Trains, planes and automobiles are responsible for the transportation of goods not only nationally, but also internationally. Our world has become increasingly smaller as technology has led to globalization. Borders are much more than mearly permeable when it comes to trade. Over the past few decades we have seen big firms setting up production in foreign countries (foreign direct investment). Even in Britain, Japanese car and electronic firms are attracted here by our government. Technology has brought about the power of the Internet, available to all who posses a computer and modem. A virtual world that has no boundaries between countries, where even language barriers are diffused and where governments may strive for censorship but find it impossible to achieve. Increasingly states have began to concern themselves with international organizations that may not have direct power over countries but succeed nonetheless to keep order on things through mutual cooperation.

It seems then that technology has had an adverse effect on how states have reacted to threats. Although states would of course traditionally attempt to avert war, going to war seemed like the natural way of settling disputes. With the advent of improved technologies, namely the nuclear bomb, war against nuclear entities would not occur because of the potential for destruction. Long-range atomic missiles leave no part of the world free from the effects of an atomic blast. To a lesser extent is the threat from inter-continental ballistic missiles. These along with nuclear missiles can travel at jet-speeds of around 500mph. The potential to negotiate after a missile has been deployed is unlikely so states have had to tread carefully and rely much more on diplomacy and cooperation. Boundaries can be permeated therefore new ways of preserving national security have had to be discovered. As a result greater emphasize has been placed on inter-dependence and an attempt towards greater cooperation in times of crisis. States have begun to think in terms of a global unit as opposed to an autonomous entity, this is the legacy of technology in terms of its effects on the nature of the state.

BibliographyBull, Hedley. The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics. London: Macmillan Press, 1977.

Dunne, David. Introduction to international relations lecture: War and Force. 31/11/2000.

Evans, Graham & Jeffrey Newham. The Penguin Dictionary of International Relations. London: Penguin Books, 1998.

Herz, John ‘The Territorial State Revisited: Reflections on the Future of the Nation-State’. In James Rosenau, ed. International Relations and Foreign Policy. Toronto, Free press, 1969.

Kalder, Mary. New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in the Global Era. Oxford: Polity press, 1999.

Knorr, Klaus. On the Uses of Military Power in the Nuclear Age. 2nd edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969.

Russell, Alan. ‘Trade, Money and Markets’. In Brian White, Richard Little and Michael Smith, eds. Issues in World Politics. London: Macmillan Press, 1997.

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