Broadly globalising processes have been in train for centuries, but contemporary discourse about globalisation is here located within a specific historical context, particularly characterised by new forms of communications and the pressures on states produced by the decline of Keynesianism and the end of the Cold War. Coincident changes also led to a growing interest in national identities, marked not least by the founding of this journal in 1999. Globalisation, a series of processes rather than a single force, has a range of effects on states, nations and national identities, including accommodation and adaptation as well as resistance. Indeed, globalising forces, such as democratisation, are shown to require nation-building. Attempts to impose order on international society through cosmopolitan devices are arguably more inimical to national identities. As with nations, cosmopolitanism involves an imagined community. Because this necessarily exists outside time, the building of a sense of trust and commonality across people and territory is however more challenging. Without popular ownership, it is argued, cosmopolitanism is often more likely to appear a threat than a boon. Building a global civil society, or indeed local democracies, is also unlikely when so many societies still lack local versions anchored in some form of national identity.