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Abstract

The Internet is often regarded as a challenge to the nation-state's ability to regulate flows of finance, information, and symbols. Rather than examining whether it is possible to enforce regulation on such a media, this paper addresses two additional fundamental questions: (1) what do regulatory discourses and attempts to regulate reveal about the nation-state's political authority under globalization, and (2) how does this authority vary across social, political, and cultural contexts? In order to address these challenging queries we follow a unique path, both empirically and theoretically. Theoretically, we argue that political authority is a pivotal common denominator that undergirds diverse understandings of globalization. We then critically examine different conceptions of political authority and construct a typology that orients our study. Empirically, we follow our typology by comparing two historical phenomena: attempts by the Catholic Church to regulate the printing press during the 15th and 16th centuries, and attempts by China, Malaysia and the United States to regulate the Internet. Despite certain important commonalities, we posit that each of these cases illustrates a different model of the legitimization processes and transformations in political authority that occur under globalization.

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