The essay aims at setting a conceptual and historical framework in order to understand the relationships between phenomena as complex as modern states, globalization, and inter- and supranational institutions. Moving from the remark that in current societies the cost of public goods is increasingly higher, the author analyzes in broad historical terms the emergence of the modern territorial state, especially focusing on the role of the military, of fiscal imposition, and the progressive inclusion of the citizenry. While setting the institutional premises of the development of capitalistic economy, the state has recently been facing the rise of worldwide exchanges, which is usually referred to as «globalization». Such process lays on positive rational expectations, and has been fostered by long-run technological progress and the state itself, which is however currently dealing with the need of a re-definition on a larger scale. The declining capacity of nation-state institutions and the emergence of a plurality of cultural allegiances seem to pave the way towards the rise of a global neo-confederalism, understood with the label of a «governance towards a government» and based on several political centers at different levels.