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Cosmopolitan Democracy: Paths and Agents


One of the recurrent criticisms of the project of cosmopolitan democracy has been that it has not examined the political, economic and social agents that might have an interest in pursuing this programme. This criticism is addressed directly in this article. It shows that there are a variety of paths that, in their own right, could lead to more democratic global governance, and that there are a diversity of political, economic and social agents that have an interest in the pursuit of these. Cosmopolitan democracy is an open-ended project that aims to increase the accountability, transparency and legitimacy of global governance, and the battery of agents and initiatives outlined highlight the direction and politics required to make it possible.

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1 Archibugi Daniele and Held David, eds., Cosmopolitan Democracy: An Agenda for a New World Order (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995); and Held David, Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995).

2 Held David, Models of Democracy, 1st ed. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987).

3 Paradigmatic examples include the statements of two UN secretaries-general and of the director-general of the WTO. See Boutros-Ghali Boutros, An Agenda for Democratization (New York: United Nations, 1996); Annan Kofi, “Democracy as an International Issue,” Global Governance 8, no. 2 (2002), pp. 135–42; and Lamy Pascal, Towards World Democracy (London: Policy Network, 2005).

4 The emergence of pluralism in international relations has been discussed by neoliberals, such as Keohane Robert O. and Nye Joseph S., Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition (Boston: Little & Brown, 1977), as well as by global civil society advocates, such as Kaldor Mary, Global Civil Society: An Answer to War (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003).

5 Archibugi Daniele, The Global Commonwealth of Citizens: Toward Cosmopolitan Democracy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2008); and Held David, Cosmopolitanism: Ideals and Realities (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010).

6 Koenig-Archibugi Mathias, “Is Global Democracy Possible?European Journal of International Relations 16, no. 4 (2010), pp. 124.

7 Held David, Global Covenant: The Social Democratic Alternative to the Washington Consensus (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004).

8 See Archibugi, The Global Commonwealth of Citizens, Table 5.1.

9 On the same lines, see Dryzek John, “Global Democratization: Soup, Society, or System?Ethics & International Affairs 25, no. 2 (Summer 2011), pp. 211–34.

10 Cerny Philip G., “Political Agency in a Globalizing World: Toward a Structurational Approach,” European Journal of International Relations 6, no. 4 (2000), pp. 435–63.

11 Beardsworth Richard, Cosmopolitanism and International Relations (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011); and Brown Garrett W., “Bringing the State Back into Cosmopolitanism: The Idea of Responsible Cosmopolitan States,” Political Studies Review 9 (2011), pp. 5366.

12 These institutions are scrutinized, also in relation to the UN system, in Alger Chadwick, “Expanding Governmental Diversity in Global Governance: Parliamentarians of States and Local Governments,” Global Governance 16 (2010), pp. 5979.

13 See Thomas Carothers, “Is a League of Democracies a Good Idea?” (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 2008). On the same argument, see Roundtable: Can Democracies Go It Alone?” with contributions from Lindsay James M., Schlesinger Stephen, Mahbubani Kishore, and Wedgwood Ruth, in Ethics & International Affairs 23, no. 1 (2009). See also Daniele Archibugi, “A League of Democracies or a Democratic United Nations,” Harvard International Review (October 2008), at

14 See Youngs Richard, International Democracy and the West: The Role of Governments, Civil Society, and Multinational Business (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). Something can be learned from the European Union's policies: see Youngs Richard, The European Union and the Promotion of Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). For the contribution provided by the UN, see Newman Edward and Rich Roland, eds., The UN Role in Promoting Democracy: Between Ideals and Reality (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2004).

15 See Buchanan Allen and Keohane Robert O., “The Legitimacy of Global Governance Institutions,” Ethics & International Affairs 20, no. 4 (2006), pp. 405–37.

16 For a review, see Patomaki Heikki and Teivainen Teivo, A Possible World: Democratic Transformation of Global Institutions (London: Zed Books, 2004); and Zweifel Thomas D., International Organizations and Democracy: Accountability, Politics, and Power (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005).

17 For a well-informed analysis of the real processes at the UN, see Smith Courtney B., Politics and Process at the United Nations: The Global Dance (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005).

18 See the handbook by Cassese Antonio, International Criminal Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

19 Glasius Marlies, “What Is Global Justice and Who Decides? Civil Society and Victim Responses to the International Criminal Court's First Investigations,” Human Rights Quarterly 31 (2009), pp. 496520.

20 On the Kampala Conference, see ICC, “Delivering on the Promise of a Fair, Effective and Independent Court: Review Conference of the Rome Statute,” at

21 For an attempt to integrate the ICC with juries, see Deess Eugene P., Gastil John, and Lingle Colin J., “Deliberation and Global Criminal Justice: Juries in the International Criminal Court,” Ethics and International Affairs 24, no. 1 (Spring 2010), pp. 6990.

22 Falk Richard, Law in an Emerging Global Village: A Post-Westphalian Perspective (Ardsley, N.Y.: Transnational Publishers, 1998).

23 For a list of the states, see “Declarations Recognizing the Jurisdiction of the Court as Compulsory,” at The same website also reports the declarations provided by each state.

24 See Cassese Sabino, “Administrative Law without the State? The Challenge of Global Regulations,” NYU Journal of International Law and Politics 37 (2006), n4, pp. 663–94; and Krisch Nico and Kingsbury Benedict, “Global Governance and Global Administrative Law in the International Legal Order,” European Journal of International Law 17, no. 1 (2006), pp. 113.

25 Falk Richard and Strauss Andrew, “Toward Global Parliament,” Foreign Affairs 1 (January/February 2001), pp. 212–20. Strauss explores the various juridical methods to introduce such an assembly in Strauss Andrew, Taking Democracy Global: Assessing the Benefits and Challenges of a Global Parliamentary Assembly (London: One World Trust, 2005).

26 Alger Chadwick, “The Emerging Roles of NGOs in the UN System: From Article 71 to a People's Millennium Assembly,” Global Governance 8 (2002), pp. 93117, explores the potential of UN-recognized NGOs.

27 Authoritarian regimes will have to face the dilemma by allowing free and fair elections to appoint MPs in a world parliamentary assembly (WPA) or increase their international isolation by not being represented there. In some cases, the WPA could also agree to invite as “observers” representatives of states whose governments are unwilling to allow participation in the WPA.

28 The Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly has even prospected the electoral systems and the number of deputies of such a world parliament. See See also Iglesias Fernando, Globalizar la democracia: Por un Parlamento Mundial (Buenos Aires: Manantial, 2006).

29 Gould Carol, Globalizing Democracy and Human Rights (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

30 Dryzek John, Deliberative Global Politics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006); and Macdonald Terry, Global Stakeholder Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

31 For a case study, see Macdonald Kate, “Globalising Justice within Coffee Supply Chains? Fair Trade, Starbucks, and the Transformation of Supply Chain Governance,” Third World Quarterly 28, no. 4 (2007), pp. 793812.

32 Macdonald, Global Stakeholder Democracy, pp. 95–96. For an application, see Macdonald Kate and Macdonald Terry, “Democracy in a Pluralistic Global Order: Corporate Power and Stakeholder Representation,” Ethics & International Affairs 24, no. 1 (Spring 2010), pp. 1943.

33 The necessity to reduce exclusion in international affairs is at the core of Marchetti Raffaele, Global Democracy: For and Against (London: Routledge, 2008).

34 Fanon Frantz, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1963).

35 Collier Paul, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

36 See Scholte Jan Aart, “Civil Society and Democracy in Global Governance,” Global Governance 8 (2002), pp. 281304.

37 Paradigmatic cases are George Clooney as a campaigner for Darfur and Angelina Jolie as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

38 On May 1, 2006, immigrants in the United States boycotted businesses, shops, and schools to show how important their presence was to the American economy and society.

39 The Sans-Papiers (“without documents”) movement started in France in April 2007 when a group of undocumented immigrants occupied the Church Saint Paul in Massy, claiming their right to be regularized.

40 See Cabrera Luis, The Practice of Global Citizenship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

41 Benhabib Seyla, The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents, and Citizens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

42 Eleonore Kofman, “Figures of the Cosmopolitan: Privileged Nationals and National Outsiders,” in Rumford Chris, Cosmopolitanism and Europe (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007).

43 Norris Pippa, “Global Governance and Cosmopolitan Citizenship,” in Nye Joseph and Donahue John D., eds., Governance in a Globalizing World (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2000).

44 See Furia Peter, “Global Citizenship, Anyone? Cosmopolitanism, Privilege and Public Opinion,” Global Society 19, no. 4 (2005), pp. 331–59.

45 See the website of Building Global Democracy at for a description of the ongoing activities.

46 Macdonald Kate, “Global Democracy for a Partially Joined-up World: Toward a Multi-level System of Public Power and Democratic Governance?” in Daniele Archibugi, Mathias Koenig-Archibugi, and Raffaele Marchetti, eds., Global Democracy: Normative and Empirical Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

47 For an optimistic but nevertheless disenchanted analysis of transnational actors as promoters of a democratic global governance, see Bexell Magdalena, Tallberg Jonas, and Uhlin Anders, “Democracy in Global Governance: The Promises and Pitfalls of Transnational Actors,” Global Governance 16 (2010), pp. 81101.

48 Global Civil Society Yearbook, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 4. The yearbook has been produced since 2001 by LSE Global Governance, which has produced a wide range of analyses on the significance and activities of global civil society. See also Kaldor, Global Civil Society: An Answer to War.

49 Scholte, “Civil Society and Democracy in Global Governance.”

50 For a notable attempt to explore the potential and limits of political parties in the global age, see Sehm-Patomaki Katarina and Ulvila Marko, eds., Global Political Parties (London: Zed Books, 2007).

51 Socialist International, “Reforming the United Nations for a New Global Agenda” (Socialist International Position Paper 2005.1.24, New York, 2005).

52 See Jan Aart Scholte, “Political Parties and Global Democracy,” in Sehm-Patomaki and Ulvila, eds., Global Political Parties.

53 See Heikki Patomaki and Teivo Teivainen, “Researching Global Political Parties,” in Sehm-Patomaki and Ulvila, eds., Global Political Parties.

54 For an overview, see Munck Ronaldo, Globalization and Labour: The New “Great Transformation” (London: Zed Books, 2002).

55 See Smith Jackie, Social Movements for Global Democracy (Baltimore, Md.: John Hopkins University Press, 2008).

56 Crane Andrew, Matten Dirk, and Moon Jeremy, Corporations and Citizenship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

57 Kaldor Mary, ed., Europe from Below: An East-West Dialogue (London: Verso, 1991), reports how bottom-up politics had a crucial role in terminating the cold war.

* A preliminary version of this paper was presented at the Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, Montreal, Canada, March 2011, and at the Workshop of the Democracy and Global Governance Programme of the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, June 2011. We wish to thank the participants for their comments. We have also greatly benefitted from the comments of three referees and the editors of this journal.

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Ethics & International Affairs
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