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School of Law

The Nation-State: Not Yet Ready for the Dustbin of History?

Date: Wednesday 8 December 2021

The Centre for Law, Democracy, and Society (CLDS) is hosted a series of talks themed on 'Authoritarian Constitutions'.

This talk was on 'The Nation-State: Not Yet Ready for the Dustbin of History?' with Professor Rein Müllerson, Tallinn University, Professor Emeritus.


The 1990s, as well as the first years of the current millennium, saw the publication of dozens of books by rather influential authors and many more articles, all promising or foreseeing the withering away of the Nation-States. Such predictions of the demise of the Nation-State were related to the wave of globalisation in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War, the increasing role of multinational companies as well as expansion of the Western concepts where the individual with her wants, needs and preferences runs prime and State’s role is limited to guaranteeing liberties and security of individuals as consumers and producers.

If a century earlier these had mainly been Marxists who had prophesised the death of the State under the coming of the world-wide communism, now these were free-market liberal democrats, who predicted the coming of a stateless and borderless world, à la John Lennon. Yet, this time it would not be the solidarity of working classes of different countries (Proletarians of all Countries – Unite), but the greed of capitalists not recognising national boundaries, which should have led to the demise of the State. Like the communist utopia, promising a world-wide peace in a stateless world, the extinction of national borders as a result of world-wide triumph of liberal democracy and capitalism, was also meant to lead to the ascension of universal democratic peace. Although capitalists’ greed is, certainly, a much more concrete and tangible item than the working-class solidarity, it is not leading to a better or a more peaceful world.


Rein Müllerson is a professor emeritus at Tallinn University (Estonia). From 2009 to 2017, he was the rector of Tallinn University Nord, later president of the law school and research professor of Tallinn University. Between the years 1994 and 2009, he was professor of international law at Kings College London. In 2004/2005, on sabbatical from Kings, he worked as the UN regional adviser for Central Asia. During the years 1992 to 1994, he was a visiting centennial professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science. In 1991/92 Müllerson was first deputy foreign minister of Estonia and in 1988/92 a member of the UN Human Rights Committee. Before that, Müllerson worked as the head of the department of international law at the Institute of State and Law in Moscow and was advisor to President Gorbachev on matters of international law. He is a graduate of the Law Faculty of Moscow University and holds PhD (1979) and doctorate (1985) from that university. Since 1995, he is a Member of the Institut de Droit International (IDI). In 2013, he was elected the president of the IDI, in Tokyo.

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