Written by: Amanda Jarrett
Connectology, by Parag Khanna, equips readers with the knowledge of how the modern world functions and how it is measured by connectivity rather than the relativity of one state to another. He demonstrates through multiple examples how the international system is becoming less reliant on the state system and that there is an increased dependence on prospects a state cannot control. Connectivity can be observed through technological advancements, increased value of a supply-demand world, global hubs, and continuous globalization. One argument that threads itself throughout the book is the one about cities. Cities—whether that be mega-cities, city-states, or smart cities—are becoming more important than states within the globalized world through increasing connectivity. The current system of the world functions through the sight of an anarchic world—no higher power than the state. This prohibits the continued development of complex supply-chains and other non-state actors to reach full capacity, which in the long term can be crippling to the state system. As long as states remain the highest power, connectivity will be perpetually limited. The perceived impact of cities will be discussed theoretically, through the lenses of globalization and connectivity, the state system and its challenges, and cities.
Through the Neo-realist view of the world, major economic cities create a security dilemma for the state. When a city becomes prosperous enough economically for it to stand on its own, the state can only do so such to secure its position over it. In the state system, states are the ones needing to balance out their power. But with the rise of cities and their continuous influence, states may not only have to battle with other states for power but will also have to do so within their own border over certain authorities (Jervis). Within some states, they put all of their emphasis and dependence to one or two major cities within its borders. This is unhealthy for the state because it creates economic imbalances within the country (Khanna, 48). When a state has issues balancing its own powers within its own state, it puts them at a disadvantage when competing on the international level. As cities become more influential they could threaten the political security of a state because only the relevance of a government matters. Within stable and successful cities that are economically independent, the relevance of the state government is not considered important. This makes cities economically relevant and their governments politically irrelevant.
The concept of liberalism is what allows the increased influence of cities to occur. Liberalism paved the way for capitalism to spread throughout the world as a main contributor of globalization. Globalization is made possible due to the ideas of free trade and the liberalism economic views. Liberalism also conveys that international politics are heavily influenced by domestic politics (Doyle). When large, stable cities are within a liberal state—that supports the idea of self-determination—then the cities within the state have the right and the ability to determine economic and sometimes political terms to abide by (Snyder). Furthermore, the growing application of self-determination has shaped the increased devolution throughout the world today (Khanna), which gives more power to a major city because the world is beginning to value connectivity rather than the size or potency of an actor—state or non-state. Cities pave their own commercial authorities which makes it easier for them to connect to other cities, ignoring the limitations of borders (Khanna, 278-279).
Cities challenge the original notions of neo-realist and liberalism theories because they were originally not considered a factor of influence to the global community. Once the world globalized and became more connected, borders of states have become less important. The physicality of a state limits their power in the world because they only have rule over a certain amount of land. A state or kingdom can rise and fall, but cities are everlasting (Khanna, 49). The technological advances in today’s society favors that of cities, not states because of easy access to information. States benefit when they strategic plays are not out in the open for everyone to read. Also, these technological advancements permit people to no longer be separated by borders. It allows people the ability to connect with anyone anywhere. The world as we know it today is no longer being measured by “geographic size and perceived influence” (Khanna, 43) but is instead measured by connectivity. This kind of world favors cities rather than states, because in a world this connected the relative power between states no longer matters. The balance of power is now measured through their connectivity.
With the world globalized, along with connectivity, smaller authorities are now on the same playing fields as larger states. This allows for more competitive connectivity, which is healthy for state building (Khanna). Though, devolution has been more and more frequent. States are devolving into smaller states, cities, and economic zones (SEZs). Even though there seems to be a growing number of borders, cities and states have never been more intimately connected. Globalization has challenged the sovereignty of states by shifting their agendas from a domestic one to an agenda that enforces a global agenda. “Connectivity strengthen[s] the autonomy and influence of key cities that—like corporations—pursue their own interests across increasingly permeable state boundaries.” (Khanna, 21). With smaller entities working the global system, it allows the process of globalization to speed up because they provide more economic linkages for the global economy to operate through.
With the speeding process of globalization through increased connectivity, “global connectivity gradually undermines national roots and augments or replaces them with a range of transnational bonds and identities” (Khanna, 56). With the world growing an increasing dependence on value of connectivity and borderlines, the state system is consistently challenged. The idea of borders and the physicality of states stem from aged politics. Borders are permanent, but the politics that created them and the people within them are ever changing. For example, “some countries are so culturally and politically diffuse that only geography holds them together” (Khanna, 45), like India. India’s politics are raging, barely keeping the state together with some provinces demanding succession and a multitude of cultures vying for a political seating. The domination of sovereignty and borders are not the organizing principles of the 21st century but that of supply chains and connectivity (Khanna, 20). “As populations, wealth, and talent concentrate in global cities, they gradually supersede countries as the world’s key gravitational centers” (Khanna, 50). Global cities are continuously drawing in people due to economic prosperity. Though the economic inter-dependencies between city and state are complexly tangled, if it certain that a state needs its city more than the city needs the state.
Though the world still follows a state system, cities are becoming major players in supply-demand world. Major cities are ranked by their connective influence in the global system. The geography does not matter. The world is connected through supply chains that flow from one region of the world to another. Supply chains are used for leverage, not dominance which is one of the ways a supply-demand world differentiates from an anarchic world. A product may be assembled in one state, but its parts come from many different places. Cities are global hubs for economic advancement because in an urbanized setting, people move to cities for economic opportunities. If a person moves to a global hub, then they have access to the global economy and can gain from learning to navigate it. Additionally, cities gain policy making leverage due to their “demographic and economic weight,” which then allows them to have greater autonomy. This leads to a city’s ability to negotiate diplomacy without being backed by the state (Khanna, 50).
The state system will stay in place, and will continue to be the main framework of the world because of the realization of the importance of civilizations. States are what keeps the world from devolving into smaller and smaller hegemonic factions. The culture that develops around being a citizen of a state is potent. Also, the world will remain politically centered due to the increasing need for social rights in the developing economically-based world. Though this may be true, “global connectivity gradually undermines national roots and augments or replaces them with a range of transnational bonds and identities” (Khanna, 56). The technology today along with the increasing amount of flows throughout the world makes citizens feel less connected with their state then they would with their economy loyalties—supply chain identity. Companies are investing more in its workers improvement of skills and creating loyalties a state cannot possess. With the world becoming more inclusive of a supply-demand world, loyalties will no longer be tied to any one state but instead be dividing and multiplying (Khanna, 366).
In conclusion, the increasing significance of cities in the state system shows that the world is shifting towards one that favors a supply-demand world rather than an anarchic world. Though the state system will no dissolve into a completely new system, it will need to be adjusted to fit this more connected and globalized world. The increasing importance of major cities challenges the original notions of citizenship and states by creating a new generation of rootless citizens.
Doyle, Michael. “Liberalism and World Politics.” American Political Science Review, vol. 100, no. 4, 1986, pp.683-684.
Jervis, Robert. “Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma.” World Politics, vol. 30, no. 2, Jan. 1978, pp.167-214.
Khanna, Parag. Connectology. Penguin Random House LLC, 2016.
Snyder, Jack. “One World, Rival Theories.” Foreign Policy, no.145, 2004, pp.52-62.