D. Archibugi, The Global Commonwealth of Citizens, Princeton University Press, Princeton-Oxford 2008, ISBN 978-0-691-13490-1
This book offers a thorough analysis and defence of the theoretical pillars of cosmopolitan democracy provided by one of its original and foremost proponents. Written with witty learning and civic passion, the book guides the reader to see how the present condition of international relations, which by and large is still characterized by anarchy, can be reformed to reach what Kant called a "juridical condition" and properly expanded beyond that already ambitious goal. The proposal is to establish a Union of States (that would be better named a world government) informed by the ideals and procedures of democracy, with limited areas of intervention, namely control over the use of force, strengthening of peoples' self-determination through the acceptance of a (reasonable) cultural diversity, monitoring of internal affairs mainly for the sake of human rights protection, participatory management of global problems (e.g. environment, world economic order). The Union's institutions would be composed of a Chamber of States, along the lines of the existing General Assembly, and by a world parliament representing global citizens. The Union would thus be intermediate between the confederate model and the federal one. In fact, while governments are the components of a confederation and citizens of a federation, the cosmopolitan model envisages that both individuals and governments have their delegates in global institutions. Moreover, if the confederate model assigns citizens neither rights nor duties vis à vis the confederation, and the federal model construes political obligation mainly in terms of rights and duties that citizens have toward the federation, cosmopolitan democracy envisages for all individuals, together with their national citizenship, a global citizenship that affords a minimalist list of rights (mainly human rights plus those political rights relative to the constitution of the global institutions themselves). Similarly, membership criteria are intermediate between the confederation's complete indifference to the internal affairs of states and the federation's request of institutional homogeneity. The cosmopolitan model includes democracies as different as Switzerland and India, and authoritarian governments, but excludes those who commit serious violations of human rights. Finally, as far as decision making is concerned, neither the confederation's principle of "one state one vote", nor the federation's "one citizen one vote" principle hold, but a combination of the two allowed by the presence of intergovernmental institutions (the Chamber of States), where the former principle holds, and of a World Parliament (the Chamber of Peoples), where the latter principle holds.
In the first chapters Archibugi aptly clarifies the conception of democracy operative in the essay. He identifies the essence of democracy in three principles: non-violence, popular control, political equality. In the author's opinion, all other characteristics of democracy - participation, representation, security, transparency and so on - can be inferred from this basic triad. The identification of a democratic core is not merely a theoretical exercise for its own sake. It allows Archibugi to show how the Union could be seen as a democratization of the existing system of International Organizations. In relation to the principle of non-violence, for example, one would move from the UN attempt to settle disputes peacefully and to limit the use of force to few cases (self-defence broadly construed and humanitarian intervention) to a system characterized by compulsory jurisdiction of international tribunals, individual criminal responsibility for the crime of aggression and improved mechanisms of humanitarian intervention for individuals at risk of suffering massive political violence.
The book also offers a powerful defence of cosmopolitan democracy from the main critiques levelled over the years by very diverse opponents - realists, Marxists, communitarians, sceptics of various forms - as well as an interesting application of the cosmopolitan principles to today's most pressing global issues (e.g. UN reform, humanitarian intervention, possibility of "exporting democracy", multilingual democracy).
In this context, and with an eye to provide some constructive criticism, it is perhaps opportune to focus on two difficulties that the normative proposal of cosmopolitan democracy seems to face. Difficulties in my view mainly turn on criteria of membership and participation.
In relation to membership criteria, the author says a) that cosmopolitan institutions accept only delegates deemed to be legitimate representatives of their respective peoples (p.104) and b) that governments violating fundamental human rights are excluded (ibidem). To begin with, it is natural to wonder who has the authority to decide whether certain delegates are "legitimate representatives." Notice that the delegates under scrutiny can hardly be those deemed appropriate by the represented people, because in that case they would be acceptable by definition, given the democratic orientation of cosmopolitan institutions. It follows that the criterion is relevant for representatives of authoritarian governments, but not of those guilty of massive violations of human rights, otherwise a) would implode in b). But even if a) and b) are meant to be identical, cosmopolitan membership criteria would still be way more restrictive than those used, for example, in the UN. It will be recalled that, owing to an interesting mix of legal positivism and Kantian legacy, the UN were built on the presupposition that all states were to be accepted, in the hope of a future approximation to the standards of justice. With cosmopolitan democracy this assumption is retained ("there is nothing like the existence of common institutions to facilitate the development of democracy from within" p. 111), but curiously forgotten when it comes to decide who is in. Notice that if a) and b) are not meant to be identical, not only brutal governments, but also rather benign rulers who are deemed (according to unspecified criteria and by unspecified judges) not to be representative of their peoples remain outside of the reformed General Assembly. Clearly the peoples oppressed by these brutal governments retain their representative in the "Chamber of Peoples". Yet the problem remains. Non-democratic world powers such as China, and perhaps even Russia, would be excluded from a "world" government that would be global only on paper. This result is particularly at odds with Archibugi's general willingness to be flexible with the cultural diversity whose defence is in fact one explicit "area of intervention" reserved to global institutions.
Regarding the criteria of participation, we find that states keep a right to enter and exit the Union at any time ("participation is voluntary and revocable"; p.106). We face here the same difficulties encountered by Kant's project of perpetual peace with regard to the "Federation of free states" of the second definitive article. Critics noticed that if participation in the Federation is thought of as voluntary and revocable, as Kant's more or less coherent rejection of a world government seems to imply, it follows that the Federation is at best a useless superstructure unable to counter any form of undesired behaviour by members. If a state wants to "misbehave" according to the standards of the Federation and avoid sanctions, all it needs to do is leave the Federation first and act as it wishes right after. One would think that juridical sanctions mean something within a state because individuals are not allowed to breach the social contract at will. Were the social compact voluntary and revocable, Leviathan would not be so threatening after all. Arguably, there would be no Leviathan at all. Why should this be different at the international level? Why would any of the functions assigned to the world government remain meaningful vis à vis these criteria of participation? Here the bicameralism of the system does not seem to help at all. If you ask today the Chinese people as to the right destiny of Taiwan, they would claim in great majority that that island must return to the homeland, through peaceful and perhaps even non-peaceful means. Were China to be admitted to the Union (if it manages to sneak in despite membership criteria), and plan an invasion of Taiwan, it should simply notify its desire to exit the Union the day before launching the attack. And the same presumably holds for the representatives of Chinese people in the world parliament.
I am aware that there are ways of rebutting both sets of criticisms, or of limiting its effects. Since the book does not address these issues, however, I offer them as an occasion to reflect on them and as a way to strengthen one of the most exciting normative proposals of our times - a position that heroically attempts to combine in a coherent whole realist and Marxist intuitions with a Kantian-liberal philosophy of history, toleration toward cultural differences with a belief in universal standards of justice, willingness to include as much as possible with a tendency to use membership in international/cosmopolitan institutions as an instrument of pressure, down-to-earth awareness of today's (and yesterday's) power politics with inflammatory utopianism. Archibugi is largely successful in this courageous enterprise and the book is a necessary reading for students and scholars interested in global political theory, international relations, political philosophy.
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