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Global Democracy


  • Page extent: 310 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.61 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 321.8
  • Dewey version: 23
  • LC Classification: JC423 .G585 2012
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Democracy
    • Democratization
    • Globalization

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521197847)

Global Democracy
Cambridge University Press
9780521197847 - Global Democracy - Normative and Empirical Perspectives - Edited by Daniele Archibugi, Mathias Koenig-Archibugi and Raffaele Marchetti

1    Introduction: Mapping global democracy

Daniele Archibugi, Mathias Koenig-Archibugi and Raffaele Marchetti

Until twenty years ago, very few international relations (IR) textbooks paid any attention to the problem of democracy across borders. If the word ‘democracy’ was mentioned at all (and sometimes it was not), it referred to how domestic regimes could affect national foreign policy behaviour, rather than the possibility of shaping global society or even international organizations (IOs) in accordance with the values and rules of democracy. When IR scholars started to be interested in the European Community, they usually saw it as a peculiar IO and neglected its embryonic democratic aspects. With rare exceptions, treatises on democratic theory mirrored this lack of interest and largely ignored the international dimensions of democracy. It is notable that even David Held, who played such a key role in placing the relationship between globalization and democracy on the intellectual agenda of the 1990s, had not yet addressed the issue in the first edition (1987) of his widely read Models of Democracy. In sum, the possibility of globalizing democracy was debated among people involved in political advocacy, such as the world federalists, but it attracted little scholarly attention.

Over the past twenty years, the intellectual landscape has changed considerably. Of course, many remain unconvinced that democracy can be applied beyond states, and regard the idea of a global democracy as an unachievable dream (Dahl 1999) or, worse, think that its advocates are barking to the moon (Dahrendorf 2001). But in spite of harsh dismissals by some authoritative democratic theorists, the issue can no longer be ignored. The seeds planted by scholars such as Richard Falk, David Held, Jürgen Habermas and Ulrich Beck have grown. Many recent handbooks in international relations and democratic theory discuss the issue of democracy beyond borders, and a new generation of scholars has developed the theme of democracy beyond borders in imaginative and sophisticated ways.

There are several good historical reasons that explain why the intellectual mood has changed so much and in a relatively short period of time. On the one hand, democracy has become widely, albeit not universally, accepted as the only way to legitimize political power; on the other hand, people around the world have become increasingly sensitive to global interdependencies – ‘globalization’ has become a ubiquitous catchword. Many supporters of democracy are increasingly keen and often optimistic about the possibility of extending their preferred system of governance to the global level. As it has often been said, the completion of the decolonization process, the end of the Cold War, and democratization processes in central and eastern Europe and in many countries of the global South, have all been historical events that provided a new impetus to the search for new and more progressive political scenarios. The momentous changes of the 1990s boosted interest in global democracy not only among scholars but also in old institutions such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, whose ‘Universal Declaration on Democracy’ of 1997 boldly states that ‘[d]emocracy must also be recognised as an international principle, applicable to international organisations and to States in their international relations’ (Inter-Parliamentary Union 1997). On 8 June 2011, the European Parliament asked the Council of the European Union (EU) ‘to advocate the establishment of a UNPA [United Nations Parliamentary Assembly] within the UN system in order to increase the democratic nature, the democratic accountability and the transparency of global governance and to allow for greater public participation in the activities of the UN’ (European Parliament 2011).

The justification, form, possibility and limits of a democratically organized global order are now studied by scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, especially normative political theory, international law and empirical social sciences. Philosophers and political theorists focus on the justifiability of global democracy and on the institutional implications of fundamental values. Political scientists and international relations specialists, on the other hand, examine to what extent global politics is moving beyond the so-called Westphalian model and what forces may be promoting or hindering the emergence of more democratic forms of international and transnational governance. In principle, normative theorists may acknowledge that work on empirical conditions is relevant to their aims, and empirically oriented scholars may acknowledge that exploring the reasons for democratic transformations of current international structures is an important task. But, in practice, normative and empirical scholars are often unaware of each other's work.

This book presents new scholarship on the theme of global democracy. It aims to be a bridge between different research communities and a vehicle for advancing the research programme on global democracy through cross-disciplinary dialogue. It consists of chapters that focus on normative questions and institutional models related to global democracy as well as chapters that examine the conditions of, and paths to, global democracy, including the exploration of embryonic forms of global democratic governance. In this introduction we provide a general background to the debate, we map various forms of global democracy considered by a number of scholars, we give a brief overview of various political, legal and social processes that may, or already do, contribute to the development of democratic governance beyond individual states, and we provide an overview of the rest of the volume.

The relationship between supranational governance and democracy

Advocacy of global democracy is based on the premise that forms of supranational governance can be combined with forms of democracy.1 However, the relationship between supranational governance and democracy has been tense in theory as well as in practice. Among political thinkers, support both for democracy and for some kind of supranational union experienced a marked increase from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but the two political projects did not always co-exist harmoniously. Authors such as Emeric Crucé (1590–1648) and the abbé de Saint-Pierre (1658–1743), for instance, argued that the elimination of war required a supranational authority to which states could appeal and envisaged a union with coercive powers provided by an international army composed of forces supplied by the member states. According to Crucé and Saint-Pierre, such a union would not only have guaranteed peace between states, but also reinforced the power that sovereigns had on their subjects. It can be said that they proposed to achieve peace at the expense of democracy (Archibugi 1992, 299). On the other hand, many of the growing number of advocates of democracy were wary of forms of supranational political organization. This attitude was to a significant extent due to the belief that democracy could flourish only on a small scale. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762/2008) not only maintained that ‘the larger the State, the less the liberty’ (61), but he also argued that, from a democratic perspective, ‘the union of several towns in a single city is always bad, and that, if we wish to make such a union, we should not expect to avoid its natural disadvantages. It is useless to bring up abuses that belong to great States against one who desires to see only small ones’ (92). Riley (1973) points out that, even if Rousseau took seriously projects to establish national and international federations, ‘his affection for the small and isolated republic always overcame his federalism’ (11).2 In a similar vein, many so-called anti-federalists objected to the proposed Constitution of the United States mainly on the grounds that a continental government would have threatened republican liberties and self-government.

Subsequent historical experiences provided some support to the view of a tension between democracy and IO. The German Bund, for instance, which lasted from 1815 to 1866, may have contributed to managing tensions among its member states; but its Diet's legal authority to restore order within member states, even without a request of the government concerned, was used to put down by armed force several democratic uprisings (Forsyth 1981, 51). Various political scientists argue that institutionalized cooperation among established democratic states impairs the quality of democracy. For instance, 40 years ago Karl Kaiser (1971) noted that ‘[t]he intermeshing of decision-making across national frontiers and the growing multinationalization of formerly domestic issues are inherently incompatible with the traditional framework of democratic control’ (706). Klaus Dieter Wolf (1999) points out that autonomy-seeking governments may pursue a strategy of ‘de-democratization by internationalization’, which can be seen as a ‘new raison d'état’ in an era of globalization and democratic government. Empirically, it has been shown that at times governments use international institutions to gain influence in the domestic political arena and to overcome internal opposition to their preferred policies, although the democratic implications of such an outcome are open to debate (Koenig-Archibugi 2004).

The pessimistic view of the relationship between democracy and supranational governance has been countered in various ways. For instance, it has been argued that, while IOs may occasionally be used to suppress or circumvent democracy, more often than not they help countries to establish and preserve democratic institutions. For instance, it has been shown that a country's membership in a regional organization with mostly democratic member states increases significantly the likelihood of a successful transition to, and consolidation of, democracy in that country (Pevehouse 2005). Other authors maintain that, even in well-established democracies, multilateral institutions can enhance the quality of democratic politics, as they can help limit the power of special interests, protect individual rights and improve the quality of democratic deliberation (Keohane et al. 2009).

Another response to the pessimistic interpretation of the relationship between democracy and supranational governance, which is particularly relevant to the topic of this volume, is that pessimism may well be justified, but only in relation to those IOs where governments have a monopoly of representing their societies. In the pyramidal international unions advocated by authors such as Crucé and Saint-Pierre, membership is clearly limited to the sovereigns and does not include the subjects.3 Even in IOs whose members are mainly or exclusively democratic states, often the model of representation still is what has been called ‘executive multilateralism’ (Zürn 2005): governments are the sole representatives of their societies in international negotiations and this gatekeeper role gives them very substantial informational and other advantages over other actors in shaping global policies. The democratic credentials of such organizations may be further weakened by the de facto or de jure ability of the more resourceful states to block the organization from taking decisions they do not like. But the key point of the ‘optimists’ is that these are not necessary consequences of supranational governance. Executive multilateralism is not the only viable model of IO, and other models are much better suited to reconcile governance beyond individual states with effective democratic control. Indeed, some cosmopolitan theorists go as far as asserting that the establishment of a democratic form of supranational governance may be the only way to realize democracy (Marchetti 2008).

This response has illustrious intellectual ancestors. On the problem of the size of the polity, for instance, James Madison famously turned the conventional wisdom on its head and argued that large republics were better equipped to resist the disintegrative effects of factions than smaller ones. Of course Madison did not suggest extending the union beyond the boundaries of the proposed United States. But several other authors developed proposals for polities that combine supranational authority structures with mechanisms of citizen representation that are not mediated by national governments, such as William Penn and John Bellers in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and Claude-Henri Saint-Simon, James Lorimer and Johann Caspar Bluntschli in the nineteenth century (Suganami 1989, Archibugi 1992). While these projects certainly displayed a certain degree of Eurocentrism, their authors often saw them as stepping stones towards global peace and sometimes even as a way to prevent unjust wars waged by Christians against non-Christians (Aksu 2008).

In the twentieth century, various intellectual and political movements have advocated democratic forms of global governance from a cosmopolitan standpoint: the World Federalist Movement that was especially active in the United States during and after World War II (for a history see Wooley 1988), the work by Grenville Clark and Louis B. Sohn on World Peace Through World Law (1958), the World Order Models Project developed by Saul H. Mendlovitz, Richard Falk, Rajni Kothari and others, the International Network for a United Nations Second Assembly (INFUSA), the Conferences on A More Democratic United Nations (CAMDUN), the ‘cosmopolitan democracy’ project (Held 1995, Archibugi and Held 1995, Archibugi et al. 1998), recent calls for ‘global stakeholder democracy’ (Macdonald 2008), to mention only some of the most prominent.4 To be sure, such intellectual and political projects were and are based on conceptions of global democracy that differed on very substantial grounds. Some of these differences are examined in the next section.

Forms of global democracy

What is common to all conceptions of global democracy is the vision of a system of global governance that is responsive and accountable to the preferences of the world's citizens and works to reduce political

Image not available in HTML version
Figure 1.1 Ideal-typical forms of global democracy: confederalism, federalism and polycentrism
inequalities among them. This ‘thin’ understanding encompasses a wide range of more specific conceptions, blueprints and models. It is important to think systematically about the differences between these conceptions, as judgements of normative desirability, estimates of empirical feasibility and recommendations for political strategy may depend crucially on which conception is envisaged. Falk (1975), for instance, warned against the ‘fallacy of premature specificity’ with regard to the institutional features of new world order arrangements, and urged not to shift the focus from ‘transitional processes’ to the contemplation of a ‘terminal model’. But he also noted that ‘a proposed world order model requires a certain amount of concreteness to elicit support and facilitate understanding of what is being recommended’ (152), and thus he presented a rather detailed plan for global institutions. Most discussions of global democracy either elaborate on the basic institutional features that are being envisaged or at least make implicit assumptions about them. Our mapping exercise is meant to facilitate the comparison of various conceptions, without any ambition to capture everything that is important about them.

We argue that most conceptions of global democracy differ principally in how close or distant they are from three ideal types, as shown in Figure 1.1.

The first ideal type is close to what authors have called ‘confederation’ (Archibugi 2008, 102–7), ‘intergovernmental democratic multilateralism’ (Marchetti 2008, 135), ‘fair voluntary association among democratic states’ (Christiano, this volume), or international democracy based on the communitarian principle (Bienen et al. 1998). Here we will call it democratic confederalism. Recently a variant of this type has gained political prominence in the form of calls for a ‘league of democracies’ or ‘concert of democracies’ (Carothers 2008). The key features of democratic confederalism are as follows: the constituent units are states that are democratically governed whose governments enjoy internal democratic legitimacy; these governments have exclusive rights to represent their citizens vis-à-vis other governments and the confederation as a whole, and citizens have no direct access to confederal institutions; member states participate in the confederation voluntarily and maintain the unilateral right to withdraw from it; decisions either require unanimity among all member states or, if votes are taken, they are based on the ‘one state, one vote’ principle (on ‘state majoritarianism’ see Buchanan 2004, 316–19); the confederation has no power of coercion of its own.

The second ideal type is what most authors would call a ‘world government’ or a ‘world federation’ (Archibugi 2008, 107–9; Marchetti 2008, 149–69). The key features of democratic federalism are as follows: there are several layers of state or state-like authority and citizens have a direct relationship of democratic authorization and accountability with each of them; elections to, and decisions in, federal institutions are guided by the principle ‘one person, one vote’, although this ‘democratic’ principle may be combined with ‘federal’ principles such as supermajority requirements and the overrepresentation of citizens from smaller constituent units; the federal level of authority (executive, legislative or judicial) usually has the final say on jurisdictional questions and has access to coercive power; secession from the federation is possible only in accordance with precise constitutional rules and is often subject to approval by federal institutions.

The third ideal type is more difficult to define. It is close to what has been variously identified as ‘global governance’ (Marchetti 2008, 139–42), ‘global stakeholder democracy’ (Macdonald 2008) and democracy under conditions of polycentric governance (Scholte 2008). We will call it democratic polycentrism.5 The key features of democratic polycentrism are the following: in today's global space power is exercised not only by states but also by a myriad of non-state actors, such as companies, business associations, specialized IOs, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), social movements and networks of experts; these actors and sites of power can be democratized directly by linking them, through mechanisms of authorization and accountability, to those whose interests are more intensely affected by their activities; these mechanisms of authorization and accountability can be specific to particular non-state actors and sectoral networks rather than to overarching state-like political structures; these mechanisms do not need to take the form of electoral authorization and accountability, as long as effective control by the relevant stakeholder groups is ensured.

Apart from a general commitment to democratic principles, the commonalities between the proponents of different ideal types of global democracy are to a large extent based on what they tend to reject, on grounds of normative desirability or empirical feasibility. ‘Confederalists’ and ‘federalists’ tend to ignore or reject ‘non-state’ political authority. Confederalists and ‘polycentrists’ reject global concentration of power. Federalists and polycentrists reject traditional state sovereignty.

What we have presented are ideal types, and it should be emphasized that the forms of global democracy defended, criticized and/or empirically assessed by various authors working on these topics are usually more nuanced and complex. But confederalism, federalism and polycentrism delineate a conceptual space in which many of those more specific forms can be located. For instance, a prominent model of global democracy, ‘cosmopolitan democracy’ (Held 1995, Archibugi 2008), combines federal and confederal elements in an original synthesis. And Gould (2004 and this volume) emphasizes the role of regional supranational unions and non-territorial communities, which represents a combination of federal, confederal and polycentric dimensions.

Pathways to global democracy

Participants in the debate on global democracy are interested not only in its nature, its forms and its justification, but also in the question of how to get from here to there. This is not surprising, as many of the contributors to the intellectual debate on global democracy, including some of the contributors to this volume, also actively participate in various campaigns to promote its implementation in real life. But the question of which actors and processes do or may promote global democracy concerns not only its proponents. Critics of global democracy belong to various categories, such as those who think that it would be undesirable, those who think that trying to realize it would produce dangerous unintended consequences, and those who think that in all likelihood it would merely be a façade for the overwhelming power of the strongest states and groups. Unless they believe that no step towards global democracy is empirically possible,6 such critics have no less reason to be aware of the forces and strategies that may promote it than its proponents.

In the following we discuss some of the processes that may increase the democratic quality of global politics. The first two sets of processes, social mobilization from below and the reform of IOs, have attracted much attention in recent years and are discussed in several chapters in this volume. The other two sets of processes are discussed less often in relation to global democratization, but deserve to be explored further: the expansion of supranational judiciary power, and ‘cosmopolitan’ changes within states.

Social mobilization from below

Global democracy involves greater political participation of individuals beyond the confines of their own states. The activities carried out by NGOs and other groups of activists are often independent from the agenda pursued by states (Keck and Sikkink 1998, Kaldor 2003). The participation of citizens can take different forms and motivations. Citizens may be mobilized because: (1) they have a sense of solidarity in relation to situations that are detached from their own lives, as happens in campaigns aimed at the protection of human rights in other parts of the world; (2) they feel that they have some common interests that are not faithfully represented by their governments and that transcend states' borders, as in the case of campaigns for environmental protection; (3) they perceive that there are specific problems that are better addressed by creating linkages across political communities; this may be the case when they organize specific interests that involve individuals on the basis of non-territorial affiliations (e.g., because they have common diseases, or because they are employed by the same multinational corporation, or because they are linked by a direct user–producer relationship). NGOs active in these three domains have grown in importance and have become more authoritative in global politics.

The participation of individuals in global politics may take a variety of forms. In principle, it may be fully organized and institutionalized, replicating at the world level the same channels of political representation existing in democratic states, in line with the federal view of global governance. In practice, it is usually voluntary and carried out by individuals without direct authorization or contact from their own states, in line with the polycentric view of global governance. According to proponents of global stakeholder democracy, NGOs and other non-state actors can be subject to mechanisms of democratic control and thus establish a polycentric system of global democracy (e.g., Macdonald 2008, and this volume; see also K. Macdonald and Frey, both this volume).

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