Global State Formation

and Democracy:

Legitimacy, Capacity and Security for the Governance of the Global Settlement System

Christopher Chase-Dunn, Hiroko Inoue,

Alexis Alvarez and Paul Peterson

Institute for Research on World-Systems (IROWS)

University of California-Riverside

Riverside, California, USA

chriscd@ucr.edu

http://irows.ucr.edu/cd/ccdhmpg.htm

 

 

To be presented at the 2011 ISSS-ISAC Annual Conference, October 14, 2011, 8am at the Hyatt Regency Irvine, in Irvine, California.  An earlier version was prepared for presentation at the Georgetown University/CCPS Semi-Annual Conference on Urban Management and Public Policy at the Chinese Communist Central Party School, Beijing, July 5, 2011

v. 10-10-11 6653 words

This is IROWS Working Paper #69 available at http//:irows.ucr.edu/papers/irows69/irows69.htm

 


This paper uses a world historical and evolutionary perspective on human institutions to discuss recent developments in the global system and to suggest policy directions for improving the governance of cities and of the human population of the Earth.

We briefly outline our notion of the evolutionary trajectory of global governance in the modern world-system, discuss what could be done to improve the legitimacy and capacity of existing institutions, especially the United Nations (U.N.), and consider the issue of where support for, and opposition to, democratization and capacity-building of the U.N. is likely to come in the next several decades.

The world settlement system has become a network of large cities and city regions that contain over half of the human population. There are immense inequalities between those powerful global cities that control global financial and military apparatuses that affect everyone and the huge cities of the Global South that face growing problems of poverty, disease and insecurity. The modern world-system has, over the past several centuries, exhibited cycles of globalization (Chase-Dunn Brewer and Kawano 2000), the rise and fall of hegemonic core powers, and upward trends in population growth and economic development. The massive global inequalities that emerged during the 19th century have not been reduced despite the rapid economic development of India and China (Bornschier 2010). This paper traces a trajectory of global state formation that started with the Concert of Europe, and proposes the strengthening and democratization of the United Nations in order to resolve future interimperial rivalries peacefully.

The three main challenges of the 21st century will be:

·        addressing huge environmental issues and moving in the direction of sustainable development; and

·        addressing the issue of huge inequality between the global North and South.

·        restructuring global governance in order to prevent a recurrence of warfare among the great powers and to improve the capacity for managing the other two challenges.

All the large cities of the world will be affected by the timing and rapidity of  these emerging crises and so a plan for restructuring the global system in order to more effectively meet these challenges is greatly needed.  This paper proposes the strengthening and democratization of the United Nations in order to enhance global cooperation for meeting these challenges and for supporting the empowerment of the peoples of the Global South.

The Core/Periphery Hierarchy

The world-systems perspective conceptualizes global inequalities as a hierarchy of national societies – the so-called core/periphery hierarchy (see Figure 1). The core is the twenty countries of the Global North (Japan, the United States, Western Europe) and the Global South is composed of the Periphery and the Semiperiphery.  Contemporary semiperipheral countries are relatively large (e.g. China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Russia) or are smaller but at intermediate levels of economic development (e.g South Africa, Israel, Taiwan, Korea, Argentina etc.).

 

Figure 1: The Core/Periphery Hierarchy

The Global Settlement System

The global settlement system is now composed of gigantic cities and city regions as well as remaining rural and wild regions. Human population density has risen slowly since the Stone Age, but the rate of growth became exponential in the last three centuries and the proportion of the total population living in cities (urbanization) has rapidly increased. Now over half of the people on Earth live in large cities. The sizes of the largest settlements have been strongly correlated with the degree of complexity and the relative power of human societies since the Stone Age (Morris 2010). The first states in Mesopotamia built the largest cities that had ever existed up to that point.  It was large empires that produced large cities in the Bronze and Iron ages (Chase-Dunn, Alvarez and Pasciuti 2005).  And London was the largest city in the world in terms of population size during the British hegemony of the 19th century. London was eventually surpassed in size by New York once the U.S. rose to hegemony in the 20th century. The relative sizes of the largest settlements have reflected the importance of different regions and civilizations for millennia (Chase-Dunn and Manning 2002; Morris 2010) and this was still the case at the beginning of the 20th century (see Figure 2).

But in the late 20th century the positive correlation between the power of national states and the sizes of the largest cities decreased because of the rise of very large cities in the Global South. The largest cities on Earth are now between 20 and 30 millions in terms of the population of the contiguous built-up areas, and the list of the very largest cities includes many that are not in the core of the modern world-system. Rather there are now several of the very largest cities in the semiperiphery (e.g. Mexico City, Sao Paolo, Shanghai, etc.), and the cities in peripheral zones of the contemporary world-system have also gotten very large. The world city size distribution[1] has flattened (Chase-Dunn, et al 2006; Chase-Dunn 2008).

Figure 2:  The Global City-Size Distribution in 1900 CE          

Some of the largest cities are centers of global financial services and the location of the headquarters offices of the world’s largest firms (Sassen 2001; Taylor 2004; Carroll 2010).  Others are huge cities populated by recently arrived people from rural areas who have been thrown off the land by the latest wave of agricultural export promotion. The huge cities of the Global South have become gigantic slums in which new migrants from the countryside live in shanty-towns along with recently downwardly mobile formal sector workers who have lost their jobs to downsizing, streamlining and privatization (Davis 2006).

                The latest wave of capitalist globalization has made all cities into world cities, though there are still important distinctions among cities regarding their functions in the world-system. [2]  So consideration of the governance of world cities is equivalent to the consideration of the governance of the whole human population because all the humans are now greatly dependent on what happens in large cities and all the large cities are greatly dependent on the global networks that link them to one another.

The evolution of global governance: political globalization

            Realistic consideration of possibilities for improving the governance of global cities needs to comprehend the long-term trends as well as recent developments in the evolution of global governance. The modern world-system is somewhat similar to earlier regional world-systems in that there is a cycle of the rise and fall of powerful polities. The existing system of global governance is based on a mixture of institutions that developed within formerly separate regional international systems. In the 19th century the European international system merged with the system that had long existed in East Asia (Arrighi, Hamashita and Selden 2003; Chase-Dunn and Hall 2011).  The European Westphalian interstate system merged with the trade-tribute system of East Asia (Arrighi 2006). In the 20th century the last great wave of decolonization extended the system of sovereign national states to the rest of the Global South (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Waves of colonization and decolonization, 1415-1995 CE (Source: Henige 1970)

Thus did the system of colonial empires that had been a major structure of global governance since the rise of the West come to an end. But the institutional means by which core countries could dominate and exploit non-core countries did not end. Colonial structures were replaced by neocolonial institutions such as financial indebtedness and foreign direct investment. This neocolonial regime was organized after World War II around international institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and what became the World Trade Organization. But the rise and fall of hegemonies that had long been a characteristic of the European system (Wallerstein 1984; Arrighi 1994) continued as the major structural basis of global governance. The British hegemony declined and the U.S. hegemony rose.

The rise and fall of hegemons intermittently supplies global regulation for the world-system, but the method of choosing leadership has been by means of a contest in which the winners of global wars become the hegemons. This is a form of leadership selection that humanity can no longer afford because of the development of weapons of mass destruction.

There was also a continuation of a trend that had begun with the Concert of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars – the emergence of both general and specialized international political organizations that began the formation of a world state.  The League of Nations was followed by the more substantial United Nations (U.N.). 

The long-term trends over the past two centuries have included the extension of national sovereignty to the Global South because of the decolonization movements (Figure 3 above), the growing size of the hegemon in the transition from the British to the U.S. hegemony (Figure 4 below; Chase-Dunn, Kwon, Lawrence and Inoue 2011)  and the emergence of still-weak but strengthening global-level political institutions.  This has been a process of political globalization in which global governance is becoming more centralized and more capacious because of the increasing relative size of the hegemon and the emergence of global proto-state organizations.[3] Of course there have also been counter-movements and periods in which the long term trend reversed. We are in such a period now because U.S. hegemony is in decline[4] (Wallerstein 2003; Chase-Dunn, Kwon, Lawrence and Inoue 2011) and support for the United Nations is also be in decline because the U.S. has been its main supporter.

      The current period is similar in many important ways to the period just before the outbreak of World War I. The hegemon is in decline and powerful potential challengers are emerging. In all earlier periods of this sort a World War among the contenders has settled the issue of who should be the next hegemon (Chase-Dunn and Podobnik 1995).  We can no longer afford to use this primitive form of leadership selection because a war among core states using weapons of mass destruction would probably be suicidal for humanity.  Thus the system of global governance must evolve an effective mechanism for managing uneven development without resort to major wars.  No single state is large enough to replace the United States in the role of hegemon. Thus the system is moving toward a multipolar structure. In the past this has been a prelude to World War.  What is needed to prevent violent interimperial rivalry is a structure of global governance that can effectively resolve conflicts peaceably (Chase-Dunn and Lerro 2008; Chase-Dunn and Inoue 2010). 

Figure 4: Shares of World GDP (PPP), 1820-2006 CE [Source: Chase-Dunn, Kwon, Lawrence and Inoue 2011]

Legitimacy: Democratizing the United Nations

            The United Nations was established ostensibly to do just this – to provide collective security.  Unfortunately the United Nations suffers from some defects that make it unlikely to be effective during a period of continued U.S. hegemonic decline and increasing multipolarity.  The most important issue regarding legitimacy has been called the “democratic deficit.”  The decision-making structures of the United Nations do not represent the peoples of the world.  There is no World Parliament in which populations are represented.  George Monbiot (2003) and others have proposed the establishment of a Global Peoples Parliament to represent the people of the world in global governance. Such a parliament should be based on delegation and representation of the peoples of the Earth and should operate on the principal of majority decision-making. Demographically large countries would have great influence in such an institution. But purely demographic weight could be counter-balance by the U.N. General Assembly in which each member state has one vote.  The General Assembly is democratic in form, representing national societies by the formula of “one nation, one vote.” But the existing General Assembly has little authority over most of the important decisions that are made by the United Nations.  The most important powers are held by the Security Council. The permanent members of the Security Council are the powers that won World War II. The Security Council can veto proposals to reform the structure of the U.N., which it has done repeatedly since the formation of the U.N. in 1945.  In order to be a legitimate global authority the United Nations would have to become more democratic by adding a parliament, broadening control of the Security Council and increasing the powers of the General Assembly and a new Peoples Parliament. Such a global authority would be widely viewed as representing the interests of the people of world.

Capacity: A Sizeable Portion of Legitimate Violence

            But there is another grave deficit at the U.N.  It does not have the capacity to effectively help humanity meet the challenges of the 21st century.  The main weakness is with regard to the U.N. ability to resolve major conflicts and to enforce decisions that are made. In order be able to resolve major conflicts among powerful national states the UN Peacekeeping Forces would have to be superior those military forces that might choose to oppose it.  It is usual to consider global governance without discussing Max Weber’s definition of a state as most importantly “a monopoly of legitimate violence.” But ignoring the issue of military power and security will not help us through the coming period of great power rivalry.  The United Nations is not a state by Weber’s definition. 

Rather a near monopoly of global violent capability is held by the armed forces of the United States. This is the de facto world state, but without legitimacy according to broadly accepted definitions of democratic control.[5]  The President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces.  But s/he is not elected by the peoples of the world. So U.S. military power is not legitimate, especially when it is exercised unilaterally, as it was during the Bush administration.  The Obama administration’s approach has been better in some cases, as demonstrated in the successful multilateral support for opposition forces in Lybia.  But this stealthy soft power approach is not likely to be successful in providing a structure for resolving potential conflicts that are likely to emerge among the great powers during a long period of slowly declining U.S. hegemony. And the new approach has not been consistent.  The eradication of Osama bin Laden was another instance of unilateral use of military force.

A legitimate global government would provide due process even to those considered to be evil.

            In order to have sufficient capability to resolve conflicts among the great powers the U.N. would also need the legal ability to collect taxes, such as the proposed Tobin Tax on international financial transactions.  With such capability, and with additional legitimacy produced by meaningful democratization, the U.N. would be in a much better position to effectively mediate the conflicts that are likely to emerge in the coming multipolar structure of interstate power.

            There is an existing global military apparatus that has been erected by the United States, composed of 865 facilities in 40 countries and overseas U.S. territories (Johnson 2010:183).  Chalmers Johnson, an intrepid critic of imperial U.S. foreign policy, decries the effects that hegemony, and especially the shift toward unilateral militarism, has had on the quality of democracy within the United States.  In order to prevent the permanent transition from a republic to an empire Johnson proposes that the U.S. global military apparatus should be sold back to the countries in which the bases and other facilities are located. This would also provide revenues that could be used to revitalize the physical infrastructure of the U.S..  We agree that hegemony has not been good for democracy in the U.S.  The rapid expansion of income inequality since the 1970s has produced a polity that is increasingly reminiscent of imperial Rome. Neoliberal economic policies have combined with neoconservative use of military power to undermine the middle class and the political process.  And so we agree with Johnson except that we add the neoliberal globalization project to the list of causes. 

            We also agree with Johnson that dismantling the empire would be a good thing for both the world and for the U.S. But we doubt that the culture and the dependencies that have been created can be rapidly changed. And so we propose a slightly different version of Johnson’s radical proposal that can help with the issue of the instability of a multipolar world while also helping the United States move in a more healthy direction.

            Johnson (2010) proposes that all 865 U.S. military facilities be sold to the countries in which they are located.  We propose that one third of these be kept under the control of the U.S. federal government in order to provide some continuity both domestically and in the larger world that has come to expect the U.S. to play the role of providing stability.  Another third should be sold the countries in which they are located. These facilities should be ones that are located in countries where the U.S. military involvement has generated a high level of popular resentment.  And the other third should be sold to the United Nations. Command over these should be transferred to a global multilateral agency similar in form to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but under the control of the democratized United Nations.  The U.S. would continue to play an important supporting role in this globalized and democratized structure of military power, which could provide useful continuity for a substantial part of the large military labor force and industrial complex that is the domestic legacy of U.S. hegemony.  

            A United Nations with a substantial share of global military power would have an enhanced reputation that would spill over to its other activities. The U.N. would also need to exercise more control over the global financial institutions – the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization and they would also benefit from the increased legitimacy to be derived from democratic oversight.

Support For and Opposition to Global State Formation and Democracy

            A revitalized, capacious and legitimate United Nations could also help humanity deal with the environmental and North/South inequality challenges that are going to be major problems in the next few decades (Smith 2008; Chase-Dunn and Niemeyer 2009).  But if further global state formation and democratization is going to happen, it will have to be supported by forces that are strong enough to overcome what will surely be a great deal of resistance.  The international system of states is so institutionalized that most people, and many social scientists, have a very hard time even imagining the possibility of a world state.  And yet the idea of a world government has been around for millennia since the emergence of the world religions.  The king of kings, the universal umma, the idea of a single godhead – these are all discourses about authority that posit the possibility of a singular unity of governance and right. Within the European Enlightenment and secular humanism there has also been a long discussion of the idea of a secular world government.  Immanuel Kant’s discussion is usually interpreted as a consideration of the notion of the democratic peace among a set of sovereign and autonomous republics, but other interpretations of his writings see a discussion of a singular federated global polity based on world law (Laursen 2010).                                                                     

 

 

Immanuel Kant

            Past rises of political globalization have been mainly due to the emergence of a hegemonic core power that provides support for a global governance regime that it largely controls. The main strides in institutionalization of general international political organizations have followed world wars that have caused vast death and destruction, and so many actors were strongly motivated to assent to institutions that were designed to reduce the likelihood of future disasters of this kind.

            The current situation is that we need to figure out how to motivate another round of global state formation before the war rather than after it.   A search on Google Images for symbols of world government is instructive. About a half of the images are somewhat positive or neutral, while the others suggest fear of an evil empire -- a conspiratorial new world order that is being constructed by an oppressive elite.  Anti-authoritarianism is a healthy human tendency, and modernity does not seem to reduce it.  Chiefdom formation, state formation and empire formation have all had to overcome strong resistance to the rise of new forms of authority.  Modernity reproduces radical egalitarianism and strong norms about equity. These are all healthy tendencies that are produced by peoples’ skepticism and lack of trust in those who claim the right to rule, and by repeated instances of corruption and abuse of power and wealth by elites.

The justifications of governance have evolved to legitimate centralized authority by limiting it to certain functions, providing countervening powers, mechanisms for replacing elites that do not perform well, and by institutionalizing rationality and science as justifications for governmental functions. Functional and process claims will also be important justifications of a new level of centralized global governance in the next few decades.   And these justifications will have to overcome the fears and mistrust that have been generated by the history of hierarchical institutions as fig leaves for exploitation and domination. 

            The back and forth history of the European Union has important implications for the prospects of increasing the capacity of global governance institutions.  To the extent to which the EU has been successful at creating a supranational level of governance, it is a positive example of how state formation can occur by means other than conquest.  Most of the big upward sweeps of polity size since the Bronze Age have been instances in which a semiperipheral marcher state conquers a group of older core states to form a core-wide empire.  The League of Nations and the United Nations were formed after huge world wars. The fact that the EU has come forth by peaceful means is encouraging.

The EU has made great strides, but there has been substantial resistance.  The European version of neoliberalism has been far more social democratic than the forms that are strong in the United States and the United Kingdom, but the European neoliberals succeeded in resisting the social charter that would have incorporated unions and popular participation into the supranational governance process.  This victory for the neoliberals generated much of the resistance.  The lesson for a new effort at democratic global governance is clear. Labor and other popular forces should lead a campaign for “globalization from below” that challenges many of the institutions that have been put in place by the neoliberal globalization project.

            How much support for globalization from below will come from the core, the periphery and the semiperiphery? One might suppose that the powers-that-be would oppose democratic reforms of the institutions that they already control.  But as neoliberalism and neoconservatism fail to keep global order many of those who have been supporters of the old institutional structures will see the need for new levels of legitimacy and capacity at the global level. During the years in which the neoliberal globalization project could take credit for economic growth in many parts of the world the challenges were weak. But since the financial crises of 2007 and the ensuing global recession even many of the elites are casting about for new directions.

            The World Social Forum (WSF) was established in 2001 to serve as a global movement of grassroots progressive movements that could counter the politics of the World Economic Forum. The WSF has become the main arena in which transnational social movements try to coordinate their activities with one another.  A survey conducted at a meeting of the World Social Forum in Nairobi in 2007 shows that most of these New Global Left members of global civil society have rather critical attitudes toward the existing institutions of global governance (Reese et al 2008: Table 2).  The percentages of respondents who want to abolish the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank vary from 18% at the WSF in Nairobi in 2007 to 27% at the WSF in Porto Alegre in 2005 to 53% at the U.S. Social Forum meeting in Atlanta in 2007. But only from 5% (Nairobi) to 11% (Atlanta) want to abolish the United Nations. Between 67% (Atlanta) and 78% (Nairobi) want to reform the United Nations.                                                               

 

New Abolitionists at the WSF in Nairobi

            Social Forum attendees were also asked about support for the idea of a democratic global government.  Attendees were given three choices in answering the question: “Do you think it is a good or bad idea to have a democratic world government?” Check one:  oGood idea, and it’s possible oGood idea, but not possible oBad idea

At the Nairobi WSF on 15% thought that a global democratic government is a bad idea, but at Porto Alegre that number was 36% and at Atlanta is was 28%.  In Porto Alegre that percentage indicating that a global democratic government is both a good idea and is possible was only 25%, but in Nairobi that number was 47% and in Atlanta it was 45%. The others thought it was a good idea, but not possible (Reese et al 2008:Table 2).

Given the antistatist politics and commitment to horizontal leaderless movements that seem to be favored by the World Social Forum attendees (Santos 2006), it is somewhat amazing how much support there is for the idea of a democratic global government. A major stumbling block, however, is that a large proportion of those in favor think that this goal is unrealizable.

Chase-Dunn et al (2008) further analyzed the 2005 Porto Alegre survey to examine global North/South differences.  Among those from the core only 16% say that democratic world government is a bad idea, while in the periphery it is 23% and in the semiperiphery it is 37% (see Table 1 below). It was suspected that this apparent higher skepticism about democratic world government in the semiperiphery may have been due to the large presence of locally oriented activists from Brazil. However, when Brazilian attendees were excluded from the analyses, the percentage of semiperipheral respondents opposing the idea of a world government rose to 39%. As stated above, thirty-nine percent of the Porto Alegre attendees from the core thought that democratic world government is a good idea and it is possible, while 45% say that it is a good idea but not possible. This more sanguine core attitude toward global institutions was also found in the question about international financial institutions. This may be related to the fact that existing global institutions have been core-controlled and that the forms of democracy that have been institutionalized in global political structures are mainly based on cultural assumptions that emerged from the European Enlightenment. These facts of world history are likely to make non-core peoples skeptical about the possibility and desirability of “democratic global governance.” But even in the core there is considerable skepticism about the real possibility of a democratic world government. The interstate system is still strongly institutionalized despite the rise of globalization in popular consciousness.  

 

                                        Good idea                          Good idea                             Bad idea

                                     and possible                 but not possible

Core                                   39% (40)                            45% (47)                            16% (17)

Semiperiphery                  26% (106)                          37% (148)                          37% (148)

Periphery                           30% (12)                            48% (19)                              23% (9)

All respondents               29% (158)                          39% (214)                          32% (174)

Table 1: Attitudes toward the idea of a global democratic government by world-system position (Numbers of attendees in parenthesis)

            One might suppose that support for reforming and democratizing the U.N. would come from those national societies that are excluded or only play a minor role in the current structure. Japan and Germany are world powers that were largely excluded from the Security Council because they lost World War II.  The countries of the non-core would also be likely supporters.  One would think that the “Pink Tide” populist regimes of Latin America would support globalization from below despite their somewhat tendentious relationship with the New Global Left.

If a legitimate and effective road to improving global governance is not found humanity risks repeating the chaos that characterized the first half of the 20th century, except that it might be worse because of the global environmental problems that are likely to exacerbate rivalries and North/South issues.[6]  As described by Mike Davis (2010), populist social movements in the teeming cities of the Global South are demonstrating how humanity can live happily with a smaller environmental footprint.  Thus might the Planet of Slums help to build a collectively-rational and democratic global commonwealth.

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[1] A “city size distribution” is composed of the relative sizes of the largest settlements in a region. Most city size distributions approximate the rank-size rule in which the second largest is one half the size of the largest, the third is one third the size and so on.  Some regional city size distributions are called “urban primacy” by geographers because the largest city is much larger that would be predicted by the rank-size rule.  And some size distributions are called flat when the largest settlements are about the same size.  The global city size distribution has become flat since the middle of the 20th century. It is as if there is a size ceiling on large cities of about 25 million and so largest do not get larger than that while others catch up to the size ceiling.

[2] The best research on the recent changing structure of the world settlement system is being carried out the scholars at the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) at Loughborough University. http://www.lboro.ac.uk/gawc/

[3] A careful quantitative study of the trajectory of political globalization over the past two centuries would provide valuable insights into current and potential future trends.

[4] Chase-Dunn and Lawrence (2011) consider what would have to be done for the United States to rise again to another round of hegemony. This is possible, but unlikely,

[5] Democracy is a contested concept in the contemporary world in the sense that there are competing definitions, including disputes about representation vs. delegation. But the broad notion that government should reflect the interests of and be changeable by the people is very widely accepted.

[6]  Chase-Dunn and Lawrence (2011) compare the similarities and differences between the periods of the British and U.S. hegemonic declines and portray three possible future scenarios for the 21st century.