Shifting Boundaries: the Rise and Fall of European Nation-States in Comparative Perspective

Paul Nolte 1 , 1
  • 1 Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut, Freie Universität Berlin.


The state is no longer a matter of course. On the one hand, one detects a fundamental and conceptual skepticism about the scholarly “master narrative” of a continuous rise of the modern state. On the other hand, empirical evidence is pointing to a growing heterogeneity of a previously unified state. This article reviews the peculiar historical conditions of European state-formation, which is interpreted as a process of differentiation of statehood vis-à-vis the market, the private and the public spheres. In the third quarter of the 20th century, this process reached its climax; since then, boundaries of statehood are being redrawn in various respects. Instead of representing a monolithic unity, the state increasingly figures in complex “network” and “bubble” structures. Nevertheless, the history of European statehood in a global perspective has not yet come to an end.

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