The Global Commonwealth of Citizens: Toward Cosmopolitan Democracy

The Global Commonwealth of Citizens: Toward Cosmopolitan Democracy

by Daniele Archibugi


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691166537
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 06/23/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Daniele Archibugi is professor of innovation, governance, and public policy at the University of London, Birkbeck College, and a research director at the Italian National Research Council in Rome. His books include Debating Cosmopolitics and The Globalizing Learning Economy.

Read an Excerpt

The Global Commonwealth of Citizens

Toward Cosmopolitan Democracy
By Daniele Archibugi

Princeton University Press

Copyright © 2008 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-13490-1

Chapter One

Introduction: A Queen for the World?

1.1 A Queen for the World?

An American peace thinker, William Ladd, in 1840 published one of the last peace projects which flourished during the European Enlightenment. In his project, he called for the creation of an international congress comprising one ambassador for each state. He envisaged this international congress as a world legislative power that would lay down rules that were shared and respected by all. Ladd realized that such a congress would be insufficient without a judiciary power charged with interpreting the rules and settling disputes, so he also proposed to set up an international court of justice. In a project so explicitly based on the separation of powers that existed in his native America, Ladd could not avoid raising the question of executive power. According to him, executive power was neither conceivable nor probably even desirable and it was therefore necessary to rely on the intangible power of world public opinion, which he optimistically dubbed "the Queen of the World."

The idea that public opinion could be the queen of the world is today even more attractive than it was in the nineteenth century. As championed by numerous visionaries, many international organizations have been set up that are nowadays much more sophisticated than the thinkers of the past ever dreamed they would be. The United Nations General Assembly and the International Court of Justice, for example, have a much vaster and more ramified jurisdiction than Ladd was proposing. IOs are charged with dealing with a wide range of problems-security, development, communications, trade, environment, childhood, health, and so on. Yet now, as then, no world executive power exists. As a result, at the world level, a huge gap exists between the solemn statements of principle and bleak daily reality.

The violation of human rights, conditions of extreme poverty, periodic recourse to war, and environmental degradation are but a few of the many problems facing humankind today. These ancient problems have taken on a different dimension today, as they are increasingly difficult to confine to, and sometimes even to situate in, a circumscribed geographic area. The capacity for a territorial government to ensure security and promote prosperity is therefore substantially limited. Can a single world power contribute to finding a solution for this? There are many reasons to doubt that it can. Concentration of coercive power is always dangerous, and not even the most sophisticated checks and balances can rule out the danger that this power may be transformed into some new form of planetary despotism. This was the concern of Ladd, and of Immanuel Kant before him.

Restoring the power into the hands of public opinion does not arouse the same concern. Indeed, public opinion does not possess any armies, police forces, secret services, prisons, mental hospitals, or other repressive institutions. Public opinion can only disapprove and express indignation. The public can also express its own opinion through collective action and, in the democratic countries, vote a government that has proved ineffective out of office. But at the world level, public opinion has no voting rights. It has been split into an infinite number of rivulets. Over vast regions of the world, its power to express itself has been limited by dictatorships. Even in the internet age, only a small proportion of the population is duly informed about or even interested in world politics. Its power is, at best, symbolic, and its disapproval is often ineffective and uncertain. To appeal to public opinion and even raise it to the status of queen of the world is therefore a hyperbole. Yet giving public opinion a greater role to play seems to be the only hope we have of tackling the many alarming problems that exist in the modern world.

The present book explores the chances of increasing the legitimacy of world politics by introducing the germs of democracy and subjecting world politics to the citizens' scrutiny. Under what conditions could public opinion become the queen of the world? To what extent can the general public control the actions undertaken by the various subjects, whether national governments, international organizations, or multinational corporations? What institutional instruments are available to confer an effective political role on the inhabitants of the planet? These are the issues to which cosmopolitan democracy-an intellectual project formulated by a group of scholars at the end of the Cold War-must endeavor to find a response. Cosmopolitan democracy is indeed one of the many offspring generated by the great expectations that blossomed after the fall of the Berlin wall. After the collapse of the Soviet empire and the decisive affirmation of the western democracies, it was hoped that there would be some positive repercussions on the global system. It was thus deemed possible to reform the international organizations, to plan the geographic expansion of democracy, and finally to make human rights more certain and to allow world citizens to express themselves through ad hoc institutions. One goal has been achieved: it is no longer sacrilegious to consider that democracy can be applied even outside the state. However, many, too many, of these hopes have so far been dashed. Why? And above all, what hopes remain today that democracy can make its appearance also in world politics?

1.2 The West without Decline

We live in a highly fragmented world that is, however, dominated by a small group of countries that, using a loose but readily understandable term, is defined as the West. The West is an entity composed of countries that have a market economy and consolidated democratic institutions. With the sole exception of Japan, the West involves Europe and its ancient settlements. Too often it is forgotten that this part of the world comprises at most one sixth of the world population. Within the West a single country, the United States, has today emerged as dominant. Never before has such a vast and profound hegemony been witnessed. Suffice it to observe the distribution of resources-production, consumption, knowledge, military capacity-to see how a relatively small part of the world became powerful. This power is not only material; its ideology is equally dominating. Cinema and science, literature and technology, music and mass communications are all in the hands of the West. The principles of political organization that prevail today were also produced by the West: the western visions of freedom and democracy have become increasingly universal values, and there is no reason to regret this. The West has no cause to be ashamed of having proposed and developed forms of government that have gradually also spread to other parts of the world. The peoples of the five continents have taken to the streets to demand them, often against their own rulers, because they have fully understood that freedom and democracy not only guarantee greater personal dignity but also allow more material benefits to be distributed.

The West, for its part, has endeavored to make converts. Yet these efforts have proved incoherent and ambiguous. Freedom and democracy have been turned into ideological screens to defend vested interests and attack enemies. The vicissitudes of colonialism and then of imperialism show that only too often has the West claimed these values for itself and denied them to others. Can the power that the West wields today be used to involve and include rather than to dominate and subjugate? Is it possible to enlarge the number of subjects among whom to distribute the benefits? Cosmopolitan democracy has the objective of representing an intellectual contribution to the attainment of these objectives.

Cosmopolitan democracy opposes the idea of constructing a fortress in the western area and excluding all those who do not passively accept the new hegemonies. A strategy of this kind cannot but stir up new enemies and lead to futile crusades. Such a vision of the cosmopolitan project is also based on the factual observation that it is impossible to draw a dividing line between "us" and "them," between "friends" and "enemies." The planet is made up of "overlapping communities of fate," to use the apt phrase coined by David Held, and it is a difficult, and often impossible, task to mark the confines between one and the other. What is the most suitable political community to democratically decide on navigation on the Danube? Does not the spread of contagious diseases affect all the inhabitants of the Earth? And what must be said about issues concerning not only all the present inhabitants of the Earth but also those of the future, such as nuclear waste management or the ozone hole?

There is no obvious, easy answer to these questions. Nevertheless, the Modern state-one of the West's favorite offspring-based on the assumption of sure frontiers and rigid criteria of membership continues to be the main political subject in international relations. In just a few centuries, the territorial state has spread over the entire land surface of the planet. With the sole exception of Antarctica, there is no longer a strip of land that does not belong to or is not claimed by a territorial state. In order to participate in world political life, each individual is obliged to become a member of a state, and each community must contrive to speak with a single voice, that of a monocratic government. World politics is therefore practiced by a small group of actors that have set up a directorate, giving rise to what may be defined as an intergovernmental oligarchy. It cannot be denied that the state plays an essential role in nourishing democracy: without actually deciding, often arbitrarily, who is in and who is out, it would not have been possible to develop self-government. The intensification of the processes of economic, social, political, and cultural globalization, however, has rendered traditional boundaries increasingly vague and uncertain, undermining the capacity for certain political communities to make decisions autonomously. The key principle of democracy, according to which decisions must be taken only after discussion among all those affected by the decisions, is increasingly being questioned.

Today it must be acknowledged that the situation has changed. The rigidity of the frontiers of the political communities, an element that historically enabled self-government to be born and prosper, now stands in the way of democracy's evolving and even surviving. As soon as each political community receives and transmits the echo of its actions from and to the exterior, the state-based democratic procedure is eroded. In order to survive, democracy must undergo a radical transformation comparable to that experienced in the transition from direct to representative democracy. Democracy must be able to create new forms of management of public matters that are also open toward the exterior and to include in the decision-making process those who are affected by certain decisions.

Many attempts have already been made to increase participation and inclusion. International organizations, for example, have increased in number and functions, and almost every country in the world is now a member of the UN. In the so-called Old Continent, a mighty effort is being made to create common institutions, and the European Union has been extended southward, northward, and eastward. Half a century ago, the EU was concerned solely with coal and steel, while today it is competent in all aspects of public policy. Other regional organizations are developing on the other continents. World political life is beginning to assign jurisdiction and legitimacy to subjects other than state representatives, such as nongovernmental organizations, multinational corporations, cultural associations, and transnational pressure groups. This process of institutional integration is still only partial and unsatisfactory, however, compared with the intensity and rapidity of the changes occurring in the global process.

Who is willing to undertake the necessary institutional reforms? The West has preached the lofty principle of the sovereignty of the people, at the same time applying this principle with suspicious parsimony. The West has often declared its intention to promote democracy in other people's back yard but is by no means willing to share the management of global affairs with others. This is what I call democratic schizophrenia: to engage in a certain behavior on the inside and indulge in the opposite behavior on the outside. It is a contradiction that is difficult to justify, although here the West can appeal to a powerful and sophisticated ideological apparatus, the function of which is to demonize any political system that opposes its own. The ideological apparatus is used to disseminate a Manichean view in which anyone opposing the will of the West is presented as a barbarian and a savage. It is certainly not difficult to demonize what happens in the world: you have only to open a newspaper to read about the atrocities committed for political reasons in places far and near. The ideological apparatus does not merely demonize, however; it must also sanctify, and so it proceeds to obscure the atrocities committed by the democratic countries. War crimes are transformed into collateral damage, aggression is converted into prevention, torture is modified to become coercive interrogation. The point is reached in which the democratic states are deemed to be peaceful by nature, and when they fight it is only because other states are not as democratic.

In other words, a consolatory view of democracy arose that demonized its enemies and glorified itself. However, this view is analytically tautological and politically reactionary. It is tautological in that it not only defines democracy as good but also defines what democracies do as good. This prevents any assessment of the relationship between two variables, postulating as an axiom what instead remains to be demonstrated. And it is politically reactionary, as this complacency prevents an analysis of which problems are still open and the transformations needed to fulfill the commitments inscribed in the constituent pact of the democracies. Consoling oneself about what democracy stands for is an obstacle to the democracies' progress.


Excerpted from The Global Commonwealth of Citizens by Daniele Archibugi Copyright © 2008 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents

Tables and Figures ix

Acronyms and Abbreviations xi

Preface and Ac know ledg ments xiii

Chapter 1: Introduction: A Queen for the World? 1


Chapter 2: The Conception of Democracy 17

Chapter 3: Democracy and the Global System 53

Chapter 4: The Architecture of Cosmopolitan Democracy 85

Chapter 5: Critical Debate on Cosmopolitan Democracy 123


Chapter 6: The Central Importance of the United Nations 153

Chapter 7: Cosmopolitanism and Humanitarian Intervention 184

Chapter 8: Can Democracy Be Exported? 206

Chapter 9: A Cosmopolitan Perspective on the Self-Determination of Peoples 226

Chapter 10: Is a Multi lingual Democracy Possible? 249

Chapter 11: Conclusions: The Prospects for Cosmopolitan Democracy 274

Index 289

What People are Saying About This

Glyn Morgan

Substantial and important. Archibugi has written a provocative book that imagines an alternative political world to the one we currently inhabit, and he describes and defends this alternative with tremendous verve and imagination. He forces us to rethink some of our assumptions about the possibilities of democracy in a global society. This is a book from which we can all learn.
Glyn Morgan, author of "The Idea of a European Superstate"

Anne-Marie Slaughter

The Global Commonwealth of Citizens is not a book of dreams. It is a serious, learned, but nevertheless accessible effort to grapple with some of the most important issues of the twenty-first century. Is it possible to be cosmopolitans—citizens of a world of more than six billion people—and to find ways that allow us all to govern ourselves? The debate that this book engages is the debate of our time. Daniele Archibugi has made an important contribution.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University


This is the first theoretically sophisticated and conceptually innovative effort to build an overall case for the total democratization of political life at all levels of human interaction. This is a truly groundbreaking book that will arouse widespread interest, commentary, and debate about both the desirable approach to global governance and the proper relationship between domestic and foreign policy in liberal democracies.
Richard A. Falk, author of "The Declining World Order"

Jan Aart Scholte

Daniele Archibugi is one of the world's leading exponents of cosmopolitan democracy, and this book admirably consolidates his own position and provides one of the most systematic and searching statements in the genre. His arguments are thoroughly researched, erudite, engaging, accessible, important, and inspiring.
Jan Aart Scholte, author of "Globalization"

David Held

Daniele Archibugi provides a bold and innovative approach to thinking about democracy within and beyond the borders. At a stroke, he helps consolidate a new political discourse to meet the challenges of our global age. Modern political theory has thought of the political good as limited within the boundaries of nation-states. Archibugi demonstrates why this no longer works, and shows how to move on.
David Held, London School of Economics and Political Science

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