Die Hard: The Changing Role of the Nation-State in the Making

Shin, Hyemi (2016) Die Hard: The Changing Role of the Nation-State in the Making. In: 32nd EGOS (European Group for Organizational Studies) Colloquium, 7th - 9th July 2016, Naples.

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Economic organizations increasingly tend to operate in environments where governance is not a purely national affair anymore (Quack, 2010; Slager, Gond, & Moon, 2012). The regulation of business conduct now often has transnational scope and reach (Djelic & Sahlin-Andersson, 2006; Hahn & Weidtmann, 2012). The fields of accounting (Arnold, 2005; Botzem & Quack, 2009; Mennicken, 2008), law (Cutler, 2010; Quack 2010) and professional service (Faulconbridge & Muzio, 2011; R. Greenwood et al., 2010; Ramirez, 2010; Suddaby et al., 2007) all reflect such an evolution. Over the last decade, some of scholars in organization studies and political science have pushed their scholarly attention on the rise of such transnational rules and their influence. They have explored the dynamics of transnational governance and the different roles of various actors in that context (Djelic & Sahlin-Andersson, 2006; Dingwerth & Pattberg, 2009; Djelic & Quack, 2010; Hahn & Weidtmann, 2012). In particular, non-state actors (private firms and civil society organizations) in processes of transnational rule-making and institution-building have been shed light on (Büthe & Mattli, 2011; Cutler, 2010; R. B. Hall & Biersteker, 2002; Nölke, Graz, Graz, & Nölke, 2008). Interestingly, as scholars were focusing on the striking phenomenon of private authority and private regulations, they have tended to forget about the necessarily re-invented role and place of the nation-state in that context (but see Jacobsson, 2006).
When it comes to governance, nation-states have neither disappeared nor even “retreated” (Strange, 1996). Still, they have been changing and their roles and attributions have evolved quite significantly (Djelic & Sahlin, 2012, p. 747). From direct interventionism, many states have morphed into a “regulatory” posture (Bach & Newman, 2007; Brühl, 2006; Hood, James, Scott, Jones, & Travers, 1999; Levi-Faur & Gilad, 2004; Majone, 1994). With the rapid rise of new forms of public-private partnerships and multi-stakeholder governance platforms, nation-states have had to reinvent themselves. The literature that started to explore the changing role of nation-states has generally focused on changes in the role of the state at the national level (Bach & Newman, 2007; Brühl, 2006; Hood et al., 1999; Majone, 1994; Levi-Faur & Gilad, 2004). With respect to the role of nation-states in the dynamics of transnational governance, we know quite a bit about the power and influence of a small number of states from advanced countries, known as Great Powers (the U.S., Russia, and leading countries in the EU). We know much less, however, on the role played by less powerful nation-states in processes of transnational governance. If anything, the expectation is that non-western nation-states (and even some of the smaller western nation-states) are mostly rule-takers in that context.
In the concert of nations, there is a group of middle power countries whose position in the international relation is middle class (Wood, 1987) —neither great powers nor developing countries. Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Taiwan, Indonesia, Denmark, Finland, Malaysia, Singapore, or South Korea are largely considered middle powers, even if there is no unanimous agreement as to which countries should be considered middle powers. Those middle powers are not only rule-takers but also rule-makers in transnational governance arenas (Neack, 1992; B. Wood, 1987). Middle powers play a more important role in moving the world toward greater international cooperation and in shifting the focus of international relations toward the common good (Bradford, 2015). Moreover, a world of growing complexity, diversity, and interconnectedness, in which interests and ideals seek visibility and voice, necessitates middle powers to balance the international agenda by providing a variety of viewpoints, modalities, and means that influence global decisions and outcomes (Bradford, 2015).
In spite of the large number of middle powers today and of their increasing visibility and role in international relations, scholars working on transnational governance rarely look at their inscription in transnational governance dynamics. In this paper, I propose to open this black box. I explore the role and contribution of a middle power, South Korea, in the dynamics of transnational governance – both at the interface between national and transnational and in the transnational arena. South Korea has been officially seated at the G20 as one of sixteen middle powers since its establishment of the G20 in 1999. It is not only a member of the G20, but also a leader in it, having hosted the fifth G20 Leaders’ Summit in Seoul in 2010—the first emerging nation doing so. Due to its current international status, scholars in the field of international relations (see Bradford, 2015; Heo & Roehrig, 2014; Melissen & Sohn, 2015; O’Neil, 2015) as well as the South Korean government (see Kim, 2013) have considered South Korea a representative middle power. The historical narrative of South Korea’s economic and political transformation makes the South Korean case more interesting with respect to the changing role of a middle power in the dynamics of transnational governance. As the South Korean status in international relations was drastically changed from one of the world poorest countries right after the Second World War to a middle power only in five decades, I expect to see more dynamic changes in the role of the state with the status of a middle power both at the interface between national and transnational and in the transnational arena.
I analyzed the field of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as the field today, where various global guidelines and standards emerge and are negotiated by state and non-state actors, is certainly considered a typical example of transnational governance. However, it was not born as transnational governance. It started as an abstract notion that referred to a businessperson’s responsibility for society in the beginning, but the concept has evolved to more concrete systems or agendas not only within an economic organization but also within a nation and even a transnational platform. Thus, it is a fair assumption that the role of states has drastically changed in this evolution. Moreover, national institutions can matter more than other transnational arenas due to the societal aspect of the concept “CSR” in itself. Lastly, middle powers are expected and tend to represent the social, environmental, and human interests of humanity because of their size and relative lack of military strength while economic and military agendas at the transnational level tend to be led by a few great powers (Bradford, 2015). Understanding the capacity and the expected role of middle powers in international relation, South Korea has announced to be a leader in promoting the development of green technology and industries with a vision of “green growth” since 2009 (Heo & Roehrig, 2014). As a result, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), established in Seoul as a South Korean non-governmental organization, became an official international organization in 2012 and achieved Observer Status at the UN General Assembly in 2013. Hence, the examination of the changing roles of South Korea in the transnational CSR governance is relevant to the purposes of this study.
As such, this paper focuses on the evolving role through time of a nation-state, the South Korean state, in transnational governance in the making – the governance of CSR in this case. As South Korea moved from being a peripheral country within the international arena towards asserting itself as an important middle power, the nature and the impact of the South Korean state role in the dynamics of transnational CSR governance changed quite significantly. As briefly summarized my findings, the changing role of the nation-state with the middle power status occurs on both a local and a transnational arena. The role of the nation-state within the local CSR context went from authoritarian interventionism to regulatory facilitation with four specific action sets - motivating, mediating, enabling, and steering. In parallel, the place and role of the South Korean in the transnational arena changed also quite notably. The South Korean state went from being a marginal and passive rule taker to being an actively engaged rule taker and finally a rule making facilitator in its new position as a significant middle power.
This paper has a clear contribution by providing specific roles of a new role of a middle power state as a rule making facilitator: motivating, mediating, enabling, and steering. In doing so, this study contributes to the transnational governance literature by underscoring the importance of bringing the nation-state back into our discussions of contemporary transnational governance dynamics. States have not disappeared or retreated. They have morphed but remain significant actors in the context of those dynamics. They are involved in the development of soft laws but they also play a role in bridging those systems of soft laws with harder forms of steering and monitoring.
With a focus on CSR as its empirical field, this paper also contributes to the current rich debates on political CSR. The political CSR literature has focused on the involvement of private actors in “social” activities and their central role in multi-stakeholder and self-regulatory initiatives (Matten & Crane, 2005; A. G. Scherer & Palazzo, 2007, 2011). With this strong focus on the political role of private actors, the political CSR literature has tended in parallel to somewhat downplay the role of nation-states within these new political arenas (e.g., Scherer & Palazzo, 2011). One of the contributions of my study is to propose some rebalancing and to underscore the important role of the nation-state behind the rise of private involvement in political CSR. I have shown above how a nation-state played an important role in motivating, enabling, mediating, and steering the CSR activism of private actors – stabilizing their engagement through time and making it more resilient. This has happened, furthermore, in spite of the fact that this nation-state – like many others – moved from an interventionist to a regulatory template in the same period. Another interesting contribution of this study is to point to the role and influence of middle powers within the international arena– which have rarely been considered in the literature. More needs to be done to document the significance of these middle powers in contemporary transnational governance dynamics.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: N100 Business studies
N200 Management studies
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Newcastle Business School
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Hyemi Shin
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2017 16:00
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 21:34
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/29169

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