Sociology 181 Research paper Option B

“Designing a global people’s assembly or parliament: north/south collaboration”

George Monbiot contends that there is a democratic deficit in existing institutions of global governance, including the United Nations, and he advocates the formation of a global people’s parliament (assembly, congress) that would represent the interests of all the individuals, local communities and regions of the Earth in confronting global issues that have important impacts on individuals, households and local communities. [See Monbiot, Chapter 4(link below)].

            Your task is to assemble a small group of individuals to discuss Monbiot’s proposal and to suggest improvements on it. The job of your group is to design a new political organization that could legitimately represent the interests of all the peoples of the Earth. The group should include at least five but not more than nine individuals and at least half of the members of the group should be current residents of the global south (the non-core countries -- not the U.S., Japan or the developed countries of Europe). The rest of the group members should be from the global north. The discussions and meetings of the group will be directed toward the goal of designing a global peoples assembly (parliament, congress). If you can get all your people hooked up, the meetings will take place on Commonwealth Island in Second Life.[1] Otherwise your deliberations will take place by email discussion list.

Your first job is to find from three to five people who live in the global south who have the ability and willingness to participate in your research project, and, ideally, who have access to Second Life (but this is not required). These people will agree to attend at least two meetings in Second Life for the purpose of discussing and designing a global peoples assembly, or to participate in at least two email discussion sessions directed toward the same purpose. Please assure your participants that what they say and do in connection with your project will be kept confidential. Keep records of people’s contributions but do not connect these records with information that could be linked with their true identities.

The first task of the group is to discuss Monbiot’s proposal with regard to both its desirability and its feasibility (whether or not it would be possible to actually organize such an institution).

The second task is to try to design an alternative proposal for a global assembly that the group would prefer.

Decision-making in the group should be by consensus, in which all members are given an opportunity to have their say about each group decision. Monbiot’s chapter should be read by all the participants in advance of the first meeting. It is available at the public web site listed below. [2]

Your job is to:

1. Get together a group of people from the global north and the global south who are willing to participate in your research project. Friends or family are fine. Access to Second Life is desirable but not required. Ask the group to read Monbiot’s Chapter 4 in advance of the first meeting or discussion (link below).

 2. Conduct the meetings and record the discussions and the conclusions. The group may not be able to reach consensus on desireability, feasibility or a new design. That is ok. Just record what happens and ask people to explain the attitudes that they express.

3. write up the decisions of the group. Your paper should describe the participants and the procedures that you use, and should summarize the interactions that took place in at least two meetings or email discussion sessions.  Each email discussion session should be limited in time to two or three days.

In the first meeting or discussion you should go over the nature of your project, have all the participants introduce themselves, and have a general discussion of Monbiot’s proposal. Is it a good idea to try to set up a global people’s parliament, is it a realistic idea that might actually come in to being at some time in the future, or is it just a utopian exercise of the imagination? If the group concludes that the idea is either not desirable, or that it is not feasible, or both, try to find out the reasons that people have for these attitudes.

However the first discussion turns out, the second meeting should focus on the participants ideas about how to improve his proposal. You might suggest that they also read Joseph E. Schwartzberg’s essay about reforming the United Nation (see below). What problems and difficulties to do people see that would need to be overcome in order to bring about an institution that could actually discuss and confront the global challenges that face humanity?

If you are going to do this Option B for Sociology 181 Research Paper turn in a list of the participants in your north/south collaboration group, explain who they are (age,  residential location, occupation, etc.) and say whether or not you think they will be able to get access to Second Life. This is due in class on October 23. Also include your email address.  The final paper for this Option B will be due on December 6. The text of the paper that reports the results should be no longer than ten typescript pages. Additional pages can be used to append notes, bibliography or other relevant materials.


Second Life is at  You will need to download the program and install it on your computer. Second Life is free.

Monbiot’s chapter is at



William Sims Bainbridge 2007 “The scientific research potential of virtual worlds” Science 317: 472-476.

George Monbiot, 2004 Manifesto for a New World Order New York: New Press.

Joseph E. Schwartzberg 2003 “Entitlement Quotients as a Vehicle for United Nations Reform” Global Governance, Vol. 9,



[1] Second Life (SL) is an online three dimensional virtual world in which your avatar interacts with the avatars of others. If you use SL for this project create an avatar that is similar to yourself and encourage the others to do that too. If they already have an SL avatar they may use it.

[2] Ideally we would like to be able to do this experiment in languages other than English, and in the future this will be possible as translation programs become more accurate.  Eventually we look forward to immediate translation programs that allow direct interaction among people who are speaking different languages. For now we are constrained within the virtual world the is the English language by practical constraints such as the labor necessary to translate Monbiot’s Chapter 4.