Hostname: page-component-5db6c4db9b-mcx2m Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-25T21:13:13.376Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Why democracy must be global: self-founding and democratic intervention

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 November 2010

Hans Agné*
Department of Political Science, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Stockholm, Sweden


Globalization, foreign intervention, and failed states have drawn new attention to theoretical issues of how political orders and communities can be legitimately founded, and what it means for a people to be self-governing. In this article, I will challenge an argument in this debate saying that the founding of new political orders is always in some sense illegitimate insofar as it cannot be decided democratically. In opposition to this view, I will suggest that the founding of political orders is legitimate even from a democratic point of view when decided together by people within as well as beyond the boundaries inherent in the foundation. In case of persisting disagreement over boundary issues, political decisions can still derive democratic legitimacy from global procedures that are equally inclusive of everyone capable of contesting those decisions. Elaborating on the implications of this argument, I will also reject the notion that foreign interventions for establishing democracy are themselves necessarily illegitimate or undemocratic.

Original Papers
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Archibugi, D. (2008), The Global Commonwealth of Citizens, Princeton, Oxford: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Arendt, H. (1990), On Revolution, London: Penguin.Google Scholar
Ackerman, B. (1991), We the People I. Foundations, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Agné, H. (2006), ‘A dogma of democratic theory and globalization: why politics need not include everyone it affects’, European Journal of International Relations 12(3): 433458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Agné, H. (2007), ‘The myth of international delegation: limits to and suggestions for democratic theory in the context of the European Union’, Government and Opposition 42(1): 1845.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Agné, H. (2008), ‘We the people and the others: the co-founding of democratic states’, in J. Brunnee and A. Wiener (eds), ConWEB: Webpapers on Constitutionalism & Governance beyond the State, Bath, UK: University of Bath, pp. 128.Google Scholar
Abizadeh, A. (2008), ‘Democratic theory and border coercion: no right to unilaterally control your own borders’, Political Theory 36(1): 3765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bartelson, J. (2008), ‘Globalizing the democratic community’, Ethics & Global Politics 1(4): 159173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bartelson, J. (2009), Visions of World Community, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barzun, J. (1986), ‘Is democratic theory for export?’, Sixth Morgenthau Memorial Lecture on Ethics & Foreign Policy, Carnegie Council. Retrieved 27 March 2009 from Scholar
Bohman, J. (2007), Democracy across Borders: from Dêmos to Dêmoi, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
Benhabib, S. (2006), Another Cosmopolitanism, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Beetham, D. (2009), ‘The contradiction of democratization by force: the case of Iraq’, Democratization 16(3): 443454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bush, G.W. (2004), Address at the Army War College May 24, 2004, as transcripted by The New York Times the same day. Retrieved 10 February 2010 from Scholar
Cheneval, F. (2006), ‘The people in deliberative democracy’, in S. Besson, J.L. Martí and V. Seiler (eds), Deliberative Democracy and its Discontents, Hamshire/Burlington: Ashgate, pp. 159179.Google Scholar
Beitz, C.R. (1979), Political Theory and International Relations, Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Beitz, C.R. (2001), ‘Human rights as a common concern’, American Political Science Review 95(2): 269282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Buchanan, A. (2004), Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-determination: Moral Foundations for International Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Dahl, R. (1956), A Preface to Democratic Theory, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Doucet, M.G. (2005), ‘The democratic paradox and cosmopolitan democracy’, Millennium 34(1): 137155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Doyle, M.W. (2001), ‘The new interventionism’, in T.W. Pogge (ed.), Global Justice, Malden, Oxford, Victoria: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
Dryzek, J. (2006), ‘Transnational democracy in an insecure world’, International Political Science Review 27(2): 101119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dyzenhaus, D. (2007), ‘The politics of the question of constituent power’, in M. Loughlin and N. Walker (eds), The Paradox of Constitutionalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 129146.Google Scholar
Etzioni, A. (2007), Security First. For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy, New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Goodin, R.E. (2007), ‘Enfranchising all affected interests, and its alternatives’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 35(1): 4068.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Habermas, J. (1996), Between Facts and Norms. Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy (translated by W. Regh), Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
Habermas, J. (2001a), The Postnational Constellation: Political Essays (translated by M. Pensky), Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
Habermas, J. (2001b), ‘Constitutional democracy: a paradoxical union of contradictory principles’, Political Theory 29(6): 766781.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Habermas, J. (2003), ‘Interpreting the fall of a monument’, Constellations 10(3): 364370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Held, D. (1995), Democracy and the Global Order, Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
Honig, B. (2001), Democracy and the Foreigner, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Honig, B. (2007), ‘Between decision and deliberation: political paradox in democratic theory’, American Political Science Review 101(1): 117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kalyvas, A. (2008), Democracy and the Politics of the Extraordinary, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
List, C.Koenig-Archibugi, M. (2010), ‘Can there be a global demos? An agency-based approach’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 38(1): 76110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lang, A. (2006), ‘Democracy cannot be imposed by force’. Carnegie Council. Retrieved 27 March 2009 from Scholar
Locke, J. (1690 [2003]), Two Treatises of Government, New Haven, London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
May, K.O. (1952 [1982]), ‘A set of independent, necessary, and sufficient conditions for simple majority decision’, in B. Barry and R. Hardin (eds), Rational Man and Irrational Society?, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, pp. 299303.Google Scholar
Macdonald, T. (2008), Global Stakeholder Democracy: Power and Representation Beyond Liberal States, Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Macdonald, K.Macdonald, T. (2010), ‘Democracy in a pluralist global order: corporate power and stakeholder representation’, Ethics and International Affairs 24(1): 1943.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McGrew, A. (2002), ‘Transnational democracy’, in A. Carter and G. Stokes (eds), Democratic Theory Today, Cambridge: Polity, pp. 269294.Google Scholar
Michelman, F.I. (1999), Brennan & Democracy, Ewing: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Mill, J.S. (1859 [1973]), ‘A few words on non-intervention’, in G. Himmelfarb (ed.), Essays on Politics and Culture, Gloucester: Peter Smith, pp. 195246.Google Scholar
Mouffe, C. (2000), The Democratic Paradox, London, New York: Verso.Google Scholar
Nozick, R. (1974), Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Näsström, S. (2003), ‘What globalization overshadows’, Political Theory 31(6): 808834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Näsström, S. (2007), ‘The legitimacy of the people’, Political Theory 35(5): 624658.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Näsström, S. (forthcoming), ‘The challenge of the all-affected principle’, Political Studies, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9248.2010.00845.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Obama, B. (2009) ‘Speech in Cairo, June 4, 2009’, transcripted by The Guardian the same day. Retreived 1 October 2009 from Scholar
Olson, K. (2007), ‘Paradoxes of constitutional democracy’, American Journal of Political Science 51(2): 330343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Patomäki, H.Teivainen, T. (2004), A Possible World: Democratic Transformation of Global Institutions, London and New York: Zed Books.Google Scholar
Rousseau, J.J. (1765 [2003]), On the Social Contract, Mineola, New York: Dover Publications.Google Scholar
Schmitt, C. (2007), The Concept of the Political (translated by G. Schwab), Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schmitt, C. (2008), Constitutional Theory (translated by J. Seizer), Durham, London: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scholte, J.A. (2005), Globalisation: A Critical Introduction, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
Sieyès, E.-J. ([ca 1788-] 2003), Political Writings (translated by M. Sonenscher), Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
Smith, R. (2008), ‘The principle of constituted identities and the obligation to include’, Ethics & Global Politics 1(3): 139153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stilz, A. (2009), ‘Why do states have territorial rights?’, International Theory 1(2): 185213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vallentyne, P.Steiner, H. (eds) (2000), Left-Libertarianism and Its Critics: The Contemporary Debate, Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
Walzer, M. (2008), ‘On promoting democracy’, Ethics & International Affairs 22(4): 351355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wendt, A. (1999), Social Theory of International Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wendt, A. (2003), ‘Why a world state is inevitable’, European Journal of International Relations 9(4): 491542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wendt, A.Duvall, R. (2008), ‘Sovereignty and the UFO’, Political Theory 36(4): 607633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Whelan, F.G. (1983), ‘Prologue: democratic theory and the boundary problem’, in R.J. Pennock and J.W. Chapman (eds), Liberal Democracy, New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
Yack, B. (2001), ‘Popular sovereignty and nationalism’, Political Theory 29(4): 517536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zürn, M. (2000), ‘Democratic governance beyond the nation-state’, European Journal of International Relations 6(2): 183221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar