Prospects for Cosmopolitan Democracy
How can a world political community based on the values of democracy be boosted?
April 2, 2009
We cannot expect fresh changes in world political life to come solely from the top down, in the form of a sudden epiphany that enlightens the minds of the rulers.
Rulers often succeed in eluding public scrutiny in the democratic countries, and to an even greater extent in foreign policy as is shown by the farce of the weapons of mass destruction.
The hope that a radical transformation will occur in world politics lies in the entry onstage — in a more structured and institutionalized fashion — of a new political subject.
This can be the only political subject that possesses democratic legitimacy: the citizen. Only by creating a global commonwealth of citizens who will express themselves in world politics can some changes be achieved. Empowering the citizen of the world means to build up, at the global level, those checks and balances that have nurtured the evolution of democracy.
To demand a role for the citizens of the world does not mean replacing what individuals already have in a growing number of countries, but merely supplementing it. It is necessary to take into account the increased quantity and quality of the interactions among distant communities by means of increased participation.
The huge body of information of which global society is composed and the interactions and repercussions of the events that have spread across the continents still have no channels through which to be transformed into a forum of political decision making. Only a minimal part of the energy released by globalization is converted into the mobilization of global civil society.
The public opinion is capable of only sporadic, spasmodic action. Many have overemphasized the capacity of global civil society to effectively correct action by governments — and, indeed, over the past decade, global movements have emerged as the most original political actor of our era.
World public opinion and global movements are not always guided by unified intentions. Indeed, it often happens that the objectives pursued differ, or are even contradictory.
Nor is there any reason to expect that among such different subjects there can be a greater unity of intentions than that which exists within each separate state. World public opinion does not have the function of expressing a single totalizing view, but rather represents a counterweight vis-à-vis the choices made by the governments.
The function of world public opinion is not to converge on a single objective but to contribute to creating better and transparent context for policy making. My suggestions may be summed up in three keywords: Inclusion, responsibility and impartiality.
The application of these principles entails moving on from the politics of the polis, founded on borders, to that of the cosmopolis, founded on sharing.
A cosmopolitan democracy will certainly not result from a preconceived plan but will perhaps be the outcome of contradictory actions that take place on the stage of history. Above all, it will not be necessary to employ evil means even to achieve desirable ends. Each step toward a cosmopolitan democracy is, at the same time, a means and an end.
Many political subjects may be interested in applying in everyday practice the principles and proposal discussed herein. The international organizations can strengthen their channels of participation, also opening up to subjects that are not states.
The states themselves can become champions of cosmopolitanism not only by participating in and supporting the action of the international organizations but also by acting inside their own borders to include those who are different, whether they be minorities, immigrants or refugees.
Above all, it is the individuals who must today move on from their fragmented condition as subjects of globalization and become and act daily to build their own commonwealth of citizens.
The function of world public opinion is not to converge on a single objective but to contribute to creating better and transparent context for policy making.
Only a minimal part of the energy released by globalization is converted into the mobilization of global civil society.
Empowering the citizen of the world means to build up, at the global level, those checks and balances that have nurtured the evolution of democracy.
Research Director, Italian National Research Council (CNR) in Rome Daniele Archibugi is a Research Director at the Italian National Research Council (CNR) in Rome, affiliated at the Institute on Population and Social Policy (IRPPS. He is also Professor of Innovation, Governance and Public Policy at the University of London, Birkbeck College, Department of Management. He […]