“Walls” & “Fences”

by Kristina Vidrova

We have all examined a map at some point in our lives, attempting to recognize the whereabouts of the so-called lines that split and form the shape of numerous countries. The lines that defined a whole other nation with citizens, language, religion, views, and so much more—separate the diversity and uniqueness of each country, allowing people to define themselves via their ethnicities, upbringing, and even passports. These “lines” are known as political borders. Throughout the years of struggle, wars, and treaties, they have altered gradually, forcing unfortunate inhabitants to relocate and modify the very essence of their life. 

Furthermore, they must be tightly guarded, keeping an eye out for individuals and things that are not in the state’s best interests. One of the most significant improvements in border guarding is the employment of advanced technology, surveillance devices, and physical instruments to prevent someone or anything from crossing or escaping – never let some people get in; never let some people get out. Because the state’s laws, rights, and jurisdiction are only applicable and operative inside these bounds. However, how can one explain and make sense of the reason for borders’ existence, a good or a bad thing in a world of globalization?  

According to scholars on the topic, the sole existence and the study of borders can be explained and divided into three categories: realist borders, globalist borders, and a third, more recently introduced category: policing borders, a combination of the two. With the help of political science schools of thought, we can explain how and, more crucially, why borders have such significance for the different states, regardless of at times comparable interest.     

Referring to Realists’ views as one of the dominant schools of thought in international relations theory, they argue that the border of a state exists solely to serve as a military location. As a result, they are also referred to as military borders, where everything is played out and calculated meticulously, and the conflict never ceases. The people charged with the responsibility of protecting the border must be ready to deter interstate military threats at all times. According to realist views, people’s desires will never genuinely shift since human nature has always pointed in one direction. To put it simply, the more authority one gets – the more power one desires. Realists contend that it is fundamental human nature and that individuals near the border must always be prepared for anything. Even a simple miscalculation of an event can inflict unimaginable harm to a state. Furthermore, military borders’ historical trajectory includes the demilitarisation of the country – the downsizing of the state’s military armed forces. An equally significant aspect of the fall in the significance of the military border can be explained by the virtual extinction of the concept of direct military danger, the abolition of interstate warfare, and the assertion of democratic peace. Notably, many scientists argue that this approach of viewing the function of the boundaries has begun to lose its explanatory power. 

In this context, the second category consists of Globalists, namely their endeavours to comprehend all of the modern world’s interconnections. They claim that borders are losing relevance and importance due to new transnational actors and flow in globalization, explaining it with the notion of trade (the movement of goods and services between economic actors despite political borders) and the emptying of a state’s substances as examples. According to globalist political philosophy, borders are regulated by flows that reduce the state’s governmental capabilities. This is accomplished by diminishing the critical skills necessary for competence management. 

Furthermore, the entire notion of globalists is built on the economic component, which is why it is sometimes referred to as economic borders. Most significantly, it aims to collect tax commerce, while protecting domestic producers from foreign competition – protectionism – by assuring national security and economic growth. Additionally, its historical trajectory includes the collapse of economic liberalism or the collapse of support for a market economy based on individualism and private property in the production process. However, as the realists’ ideas have become more prevalent, the globalist way of understanding the purpose of borders has begun to lose credibility as an explanation since it cannot cover and explain elements and characteristics of a state’s borders. 

Considering everything mentioned above, the loss of significance in the first two perspectives has opened the door for developing a third combined logic, a more freshly established notion of political explanation of a state’s borders. That is “policing” – a term that describes how borders have always been a policed area, particularly with a purpose that has always existed, which is to display and be able to pick who enters the state’s territory and who has legal rights to join. Whether something or someone is desirable or undesirable on the territory of the state – or, to put it another way, territorially exclude non-state hidden transnational actors, who may pose an immense danger to the state’s interests and citizens at hand. 

The role of policing borders is a combination of globalist and realist ideologies, which means that although the border still has to be protected and manage threats, it must also encourage economic flows and the movement of specific individuals for the benefit of the state’s economy. Physical barriers between two nations, with continual inspection of individuals and goods going from one to the other, are hallmarks of such borders. Another critical aspect of border policing is that enhancing the state’s performance in border management is more attainable with the combination of resources from partner nations, thus extending the concept of joint capabilities for a better final outcome. The historical trajectory of policing borders is the expansion of criminalization and the potential ways for dealing with the consequences. Borders have never been totally shut, and specific individuals constantly discover new and inventive methods to gain entrance to a state’s territory, most notably to participate in illegal activities. 

In conclusion, political science is important because it allows diverse people with different perspectives on the world to explain what state borders are and why they exist. Individuals may comprehend the reasoning behind it, as well as why they are required in a globalized world. Moreover, political science matters because the schools of thought can unearth deeply fascinating, remarkably transforming, and mentally altering opinions about the origins, repercussions, and solutions to human behaviour and world events. Understanding them gives people the advantage of critically thinking about the future implications of their actions, avoiding previous mistakes, and even receiving assistance in understanding how the world works. Making sense of the world is and will always be one’s most extraordinary knowledge.