Historical and Contemporary Processes of Global Party Formation From Above and Below

Christopher Chase-Dunn

Ellen Reese

Transnational Social Movement Research Working Group

University of California-Riverside

The new abolitionists

Keywords: political parties, world revolutions, global party formation, transnational social movements, globalization, hegemony, global social change, global democracy, World Economic Forum, World Social Forum, north-south relations

This paper will be presented at the session on Global Party Formation From Above and Below to be held at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Chicago, Thursday, March 1, 1:45-3:30 pm.

This is IROWS Working Paper # 33 available at https://irows.ucr.edu/papers/irows33/irows33.htm

v. 2-27-07 7660 words

Abstract: This paper outlines an approach to the evolution of global governance in the modern world-system. We discuss the extension of the Westphalian interstate system to the periphery and the transformations in the institutions and capabilities that have occurred with the rise and fall of three hegemonies. We also consider the emergence of international political organizations since the Concert of Europe, the development of global parties among both elites and non-elites, a series of world revolutions since the Protestant Reformation and recent developments in global civil society, the World Economic Forum and the World Social Forum. We also address recent debates about U.S. hegemonic decline and vs. the efforts of U.S. elites to form a global empire.

All human societies have polities – authoritative institutions for making group decisions, regulating conflict and access to scarce resources and for engaging in relations with other polities. Human polities were originally quite small, consisting of nomadic hunter-gatherer bands. But polities have gotten larger and more hierarchical in the course of socio-cultural evolution, and they have sometimes merged, but most frequently some have engulfed others, such that the total number has decreased. The long-term rise in size and the decrease in number suggests an evolutionary trend toward an eventual Earth-wide state, though the processes of cyclical rise and fall, and only occasional upward sweeps in the size of largest polities makes it clear that the evolutionary process is anything but simple and inevitable. Elsewhere we have studied and theorized about this long-term trend (Chase-Dunn, Inoue, Alvarez Niemeyer and Sheikh-Mohamed 2007). Here we will focus primarily on the institutional and structural developments of global governance that have occurred in the modern world-system during the last 600 years.

The Trajectory of Global Governance and Political Globalization

     Global governance refers to the nature of power institutions in a world-system – a system of multiple societies. So by this definition there has been global governance all along. It has not emerged. But it has changed its nature. The modern world-system was originally politically organized as a European interstate system in which states allied and fought with one another for territory, control of trade routes, and other resources. As Europe became hegemonic over the rest of the world this system became the predominant form of global governance. The basic logic is the anarchy of nations and geopolitics, but this anarchy had a cultural backdrop that the English school of international relations calls “international society” (Buzan and Little 2000). In earlier millennia Christendom and the other world religions proclaimed and developed an ethic that differentiated the world into civilized, barbarian and savage peoples. Cannibalism, ritual human sacrifice and polygyny were banned. Individualism and humanism had begun to emerge in the context of the confessional world religions of the classical age but in the European Renaissance and the Enlightenment these elements were extended and accentuated. The rules of this civilized culture were applied in geopolitical alliances and conflicts. Wars with other civilized peoples were somewhat different than wars with barbarians or savages. Thus did a moral order come to stand behind the anarchy of nations, a moral order that condoned less ethical forms of coercion when dealing with the peoples of the non-core.

            The interstate system that emerged in Europe soon adopted institutions that had previously been elaborated in relations among the Italian city-states during the Renaissance. Diplomatic immunity and rules of engagement came to regulate warfare within the core. These rules were made explicit in the treaty of Westphalia in 1644. The balance of power among states was reinforced by the notion of “general war,” which prescribed that all states should band together against any “rogue state” that aggressively attacked another.  Theorists of the international system often portray this as a great discovery that distinguished the European interstate system from others, especially those more hierarchical interstate systems known to exist in South Asia and East Asia.  But similar institutions are known to have existed in much earlier interstate systems (e.g. the system of Sumerian city-states in the early Bronze Age).  The European balance of power system coincided with the emergence of Dutch hegemony in the seventeenth century, and indeed it was the Dutch state, arguably the first capitalist nation-state, that played a pivotal power-balancing role in that century. The growing importance of the accumulation of profits shifted the logic of state power increasingly away from tribute and taxation without dispensing with these entirely. Indeed, some states continued to pursue the tributary logic, but they were consistently beaten in competition with newly emerging capitalist states in the core. Thus did the logic of adjacent tributary empires become increasingly supplanted by a new imperial logic that sought the control of trade routes and access to valuable raw materials and labor that could contribute to the profitable production of commodities.

 The emergence of colonial empires corresponded with the reproduction of a multicentric core in which several European states allied with and fought each other. This system came to be taken for granted by international relations theorists as the natural mode of global governance. Despite that earlier systems had repeatedly seen the emergence of “universal states” such as the Roman Empire, the notion of a global state is now unthinkable because IR theorists define states in relationship to each other. This is part of the strong institutionalization of the modern interstate system – an historically constructed structure that has come to be seen as natural.

 The oscillation of earlier systems morphed into the rise and fall of hegemonic core powers in the modern system. A series of hegemons emerged from the semiperiphery -- the Dutch, the British and the United States. This cycle or sequence has itself evolved, with the hegemons becoming increasingly larger with respect to the size of the whole system, and with the institutional nature of states and finance capital getting reorganized in each “systemic cycle of accumulation” (Arrighi 1994). Tributary empires survived into the nineteenth century, but they were increasingly supplanted by nation-states. And the colonial empires of the European states brought the whole Earth into a single relatively homogenous global polity for the first time. The penetration of Qing China in the 19th century brought this last semi-independent center into the fold of the now-predominant Europe-centered system of states.

The evolution that occurred with the rise and fall of the hegemonic core powers needs to be seen as a sequence of forms of world order that evolved to solve the political, economic and technical problems of successively more global waves of capitalist accumulation. The expansion of global production involved accessing raw materials to feed the new industries, and food to feed the expanding populations (Bunker and Ciccantell 2004). As in any hierarchy, coercion is a very inefficient means of domination, and so the hegemons sought legitimacy by proclaiming leadership in advancing civilization and democracy. But the terms of these claims were also employed by those below who sought to protect themselves from exploitation and domination. And so the evolution of hegemony was a dynamic interaction between the global elites and the global masses. World orders were challenged and reconstructed in a series of world revolutions (Arrighi, Hopkins and Wallerstein 1984; Boswell and Chase-Dunn 2000)

Political Globalization and Global Party Formation

            The nineteenth century saw the beginning of what we shall call political globalization – the emergence and growth of an overlayer of regional and increasingly global formal organizational structures on top of the interstate system.  We conceptualize political globalization analogously to our understanding of economic globalization -- the relative strength and density of larger versus smaller interaction networks and organizational structures (Chase-Dunn, Kawano and Brewer 2000).  The most obvious indication of political globalization is the evolution of the uneven and halting upward trend in the transitions from the Concert of Europe to the League of Nations and the United Nations. The waves of international political integration began after the Napoleonic Wars early in the nineteenth century. Britain and the Austro-Hungarian Empire organized the “Concert of Europe” that was intended to prevent future French revolutions and Napoleonic adventures. After World War I the League of Nations emerged as a weak proto-state designed to provide collective security by preventing future “Great Wars.” The failure of the United States to take up the mantle of British hegemony during the Age of Extremes, and the weakness of the League (which the U.S. never joined) led to another round of unbelievably destructive world war. After World War II a somewhat stronger proto-world-state, the United Nations Organization, emerged and the United States stepped firmly into the role of hegemon.

The trend toward political globalization can also be seen in the emergence of the Bretton Woods institutions (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) and the more recent restructuring of the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade as the World Trade Organization, and the heightened visibility of other international fora (the Trilateral Commission, the Group of Seven [Eight].

Some of the proponents of a recent stage of global capitalism contend that strong transnational capitalist firms and their political operatives working within national states have combined with existing international organizations to constitute an emerging transnational capitalist state (e.g. Robinson 2004). This version of the global state formation hypothesis claims that a rather integrated transnational capitalist class has emerged since the 1970s, and that this global class uses both international organizations and existing national state apparatuses as coordinated instruments of its rule. A related perspective holds that the U.S. has so completely dominated the other core powers that it constitutes a world empire (Gowan 2006). These perspectives probably overstate the degree of integration of class governance and U.S. power on a global scale. The current reality is that both the old system of nationally competing capitalist classes and a very high degree of global integration now exist and these contend with one another to an extent that is much greater than in the past.  And while the United States is a much larger hegemon than Britain was, and does more completely hold global military power in its hands, U.S. economic hegemony has undoubtedly declined and efforts to unilaterally rule the world with military power do not seem to be working.

An internationally integrated global capitalist class was also in formation in the second half of the nineteenth century, but this did not prevent the world polity from descending into the violent interimperial rivalry of the two twentieth century World Wars (Barr et al 2006).  The degree of integration of both elites and masses is undoubtedly greater in the current round of globalization, but will it be strongly integrated enough to allow for readjustments without descent into a repetition of the Age of Extremes? That is the question.

            In addition to the formation of regional and global international organizations, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries also saw the emergence of transnational social movements and the enlargement of what has come to be known as global civil society.[1] These have also altered the form of global governance by providing expanded arenas in which individuals and organizations participate directly in world politics rather than through the mediating shell of national states. Specialized international and transnational non-governmental organizations (e.g. the International Postal Union) exploded in the middle of the 19th century (Murphy 1994). Abolitionism, feminism and the labor movement became increasingly transnational in nature.  Earlier local movements had also had a transnational aspect because sailors, pirates, slaves and indentured servants carried ideas and sentiments  back and forth across the Atlantic (Linebaugh and Rediker 2000), but the large global consequences of these movements resulted when many mainly local developments (e.g. slave revolts) occurred synchronously or within the same time period.

The Black Jacobins of the Haitian revolution, by depriving Napoleonic France of important sources of food and wealth, played a role in the rise of British hegemony (Santiago-Valles 2005). These kinds of effects of resistance from below became stronger in the middle decades of the 19th century – the years around the world revolution of 1848.  This is usually thought of in terms of developments in Europe, but millenarian and revolutionary ideas traveled to the New World to play a role in the “burned over district” in upstate New York, where several important new Christian sects and utopian communes emerged. And in China the huge Taiping peasant and landless rebellion was fomented by a charismatic leader who became convince that he was Jesus Christ’s younger brother after reading some pamphlets supplied by a millenarian Baptist preacher from Tennessee. Non-elites were becoming transnational activists.  Elites had long been involved in transnational “epistemic communities” as statesmen, churchmen, businessmen and scientists (Hass 1992; Whiteneck 1996). The decreasing costs of long-distance communications and transportation were now allowing some non-elites to play a more important and direct role in world politics.

            These developments ramped up during the Age of Extremes, the first half of the twentieth century.  Internationalism in the labor movement had emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century.  Global political parties were becoming active in world politics, especially during and after the world revolution of 1917. The Communist International (Comintern) convened large conferences of representative from all over the globe in Moscow in the early years of the 1920s. The history and evolution of global party formation is treated in several recent works on this topic that are considering current developments at the World Social Forum (Chase-Dunn and Reese forthcoming; Sehm-Patomaki and Ulvilla 2006; Patomaki and Teivainen 2006). Global party formation is playing a role in deepening the participation of the peoples of the Earth in world politics, and thus in the process of global state formation.

          The Comintern was abolished in 1943, though the Soviet Union continued to pose as the protagonist of the world working class until its demise in 1989. In 1938 Trotskyists organized the Fourth International to replace the Comintern, which they saw as having been captured by Stalinism. The Fourth International suffered from a series of sectarian splits and the huge communist-led rebellions that emerged during and after World War II were led by either pro-Soviet or Maoist organizations that held the Fourth International to be illegitimate. Conventional portrayals of the history of the Comintern focus mainly on sectarianism, vanguardism, intolerance of diversity and Soviet domination and these are held up as lessons for contemporary transnational movements in terms of what should be avoided.  A closer look at the red networks may also reveal valuable clues about how to put effective international and transnational organizations in motion.

            The Bandung Conference in 1954 was an important forum in which the leaders of the emerging nations explicated Third World interests. But the heady days of transnational social movements were overshadowed by the Cold War and the Keynsian national development project. It was only after the demise of the Soviet Union and the attack on the developmental state model by Reaganism-Thatcherism that a new wave of transnational activists began to form into a global justice movement.

Contemporary Contestation in World Politics

While transnational social movements date back to at least the Protestant Reformation, the scope and scale of international ties among social activists have risen dramatically over the past few decades, as they have increasingly shared information, conceptual frameworks and other resources, and coordinated actions across borders and continents (Moghadam 2005). In the 1980s and 1990s, the number of formal transnational social movement organizations (TSMOs) rose by nearly 200 percent.  While TSMOs are still largely housed in the global north, a rising portion are located in, and have ties to, the global south; the number of TSMOs with multi-issue agendas increased significantly, from 43 in 1983 to 161 in 2000 (Smith  2004). This rise in transnational organizing contributed to, and helped to produce the global justice movement. The global justice movement is a “movement of movements,” that includes all those who are engaged in sustained and contentious challenges to neoliberal global capitalism, propose alternative political and economic structures, and mobilize poor and relatively powerless peoples. While this movement resorts to non-institutional forms of collective action, it often collaborates with institutional “insiders,” such as NGOs that lobby and provide services to people, as well as policy-makers (Tarrow 2005; Keck and Sikkink 1998). The global justice movement includes a variety of social actors and groups: unions, NGOs, SMOs, transnational advocacy networks, as well as policy-makers, scholars, artists, journalists, entertainers and other individuals.

       Two important sections of global civil society and transnational activism are: (1) The participants in the World Economic Forum (WEF), who tend to see neo-liberal corporate globalization as a positive development, and (2) those that identify with the global justice movement and attend the World Social Forum (WSF). The WSF and the WEF represent two rather different slices of global civil society and may presage a new era in global party formation and political contention over the future of world society (Carroll 2006a,2006b; Chase-Dunn and Reese forthcoming).[2] The organizational forms, discourses, and goals are intentionally different, with the WSF being a popular alternative to the “leadership” focus of the WEF.  And yet some of the discourse and goals of the two forums overlap, and some individuals and organizations participate in both.

The WEF was established in 1971 as a non-partisan independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.[3] The WEF maintains a headquarters in Geneva and usually holds its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The WEF invites discussion among corporate and political leaders who want to help cope with problems that are exacerbated or not resolved by corporate globalization. They are concerned about the environment and poverty in less developed countries and about corporate social responsibility.[4]

Ulrich Beck’s (2005) effort to rethink the nature of power in a globalized world makes the claim that the power of global capitalist corporations is based mainly on the threat of the withdrawal of capital investment, and thus it does not need to be legitimated. Beck further argues that the transnational capitalist class does not need to form political parties, because its power is translegal and does not need legitimation. While this may be true to some extent, it is still the case that one may discern an evolution of political ideology that is promulgated by the lords of capital and the states that represent them.  The Keynesian national development project that was the hegemonic ideology of the West from World War II to the 1970s was replaced by neoliberalism, a rather different set of claims and policies. William Carroll (2006a, 2006b) traces the history liberalism and neoliberalism as it emerges from the eighteenth century, takes hiding in monastery-like think tanks during the heyday of Keynesianism, and then reemerges as Reaganism-Thatcherism in the 1970s and 1980s. The further evolution can be seen in the rise of the neoconservatives in the 1990s, and concerns for dealing with those pockets of poverty that seem impervious to market magic in the writings of such neoliberals as Jeffrey Sachs (2005). Stephen Gill’s (2000) suggestive discussion of “the post-modern prince” – a left global political party emerging out of the global justice movement, also proposes an analysis of corporate media, think-tanks, and institutions such as the World Economic Forum as participants in a process of global political contestation. Necessary or not, the transnational capitalist class and its organic intellectuals engage in efforts to legitimate its own power, and this can be seen to interact with popular forces. Thus did the advertised concerns of the World Economic Forum shifted considerably after the rise of the World Social Forum.

The World Social Forum (WSF) was established in 2001 as a counter-hegemonic popular project focusing on issues of global justice and democracy.[5] Initially organized by the Brazilian labor movement and the landless peasant movement, the WSF was intended to be a forum for the participants in, and supporters of, grass roots movements from all over the world rather than a conference of representatives of political parties or governments. The WSF was organized as the popular alternative to the WEF. The WSF has been supported by the Brazilian Workers Party, and has been most frequently held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a traditional stronghold of that party. Whereas the first meeting of the WSF in 2001 reportedly drew 5,000 registered participants from 117 countries, the 2005 WSF meeting drew 155,000 registered participants from 135 countries.  In opposition to Margaret Thatcher who declared that, “there is no alternative” to neoliberal globalization, WSF participants proclaim that “another world is possible.”  The WSF is both an institution—with its own leadership, mission, and structure—and an “open space” where a variety of social activists from around the world can meet, exchange ideas, participate in multi-cultural events, and coordinate actions. The WSF is open to all those opposed to neoliberal globalization, but excludes groups advocating armed resistance (Teivainen 2004). Participants vary in terms of their affiliations with particular movements and different types of organizations. Less connected local and national campaigns mix with long-time veterans of transnational organizations and internationally coordinated groups (Smith 2004). The WSF has inspired the spread of hundreds of local, national, regional, and thematic social forums (Byrd 2005; Della Porta 2005).

            Some have claimed that the pattern of hegemonic rise and fall is now morphing into a new structure of core condominium (Goldfrank 1999) while others see the rise of the neoconservatives in the United States as a repetition of the pattern of “imperial overstretch” that may portend another period of contentious interimperial rivalry.  Several outcomes are possible, including a repeat of what happened after the last decline of a hegemon -- another world war among core states (Chase-Dunn and Podobnik 1995). The current crisis of the world-system seems fraught with several possible, and potentially interactive, dangers of collapse – huge international and growing within-nation inequalities, ecological disaster, what would appear to be an unsustainable trade and investment imbalance, and a huge mountain of debt structured as “secure” claims on future profit streams.

Manifestos Galore in the World Revolution of 20xx

            It is in this context that a new world revolution is brewing. The movement of movements at the World Social Forum is in the midst of a manifesto/charter writing frenzy as those who seek a more organized approach to confronting global capitalism and neoliberalism attempt to put workable coalitions together (Wallerstein 2007).

            One issue is whether or not the World Social Forum itself should formulate a political program and take formal stances on issues. The Charter of the WSF explicitly forbids this and a significant group of participants strongly supports maintaining the WSF as an “open space” for debate and organizing. A survey of 625 attendees at the World Social Forum meeting in Porto Alegre in 2005 asked whether the WSF should remain an open space or should take political stances. Exactly half favored the open space idea (Chase-Dunn, Reese, Herkenrath, Alvarez, Gutierrez and Kim Forthcoming). So trying to change the WSF Charter to allow for a formal political program would be very divisive.

            But this is not necessary. The WSF Charter also encourages the formation of new political organizations. So those participants who want to form a new global political organization are free to act, as long as they do not do so in the name of the WSF as a whole.

            In recent Social Forum meetings, “Assemblies of Social Movements” and other groups have issued calls for global action and other political statements. At the end of the 2005 meeting in Porto Alegre a group of nineteen notable intellectuals and activists issued a statement that was purported to be a consensus of the meeting as a whole. At the 2006 “polycentric” meeting in Bamako, Mali a somewhat overlapping group issued a manifesto entitled “the Bamako Appeal” at the beginning of the meeting.  The Bamako Appeal is a Third Worldist call for a global united front against neoliberalism and United States neo-imperialism (see Bamako Appeal 2006). And Samir Amin, the famous economist, has written a short discussion entitled “Toward a fifth international?” in which he briefly outlines the history of the first four internationals (Amin 2006). Peter Waterman (2006) has proposed a “global labor charter” and a coalition of womens’ groups meeting at the World Social Forum are on the second revision of a manifesto for women.

            At present there is an impasse between those who are willing to risk charges of Napoleonism and those who want proposals and totemic texts to bubble up from the movements. And there are also important disagreements about both goals and tactics. Such political statements, particularly those issued by the 19 notables in 2005 and the Bamako Appeal, have generated considerable controversy about process and legitimacy, since they were issued by socially privileged and unelected leaders, mainly intellectuals, who claim to speak on behalf of the “masses.” Creating democratic mechanisms of accountability through which WSF participants can engage in global collective action and move towards greater political unity remains an important political task.

The issue of process is strongly raised in several of the critiques of the Bamako Appeal in a collection of documents published just before the World Social Forum meeting in Nairobi in January of 2007 (Sen et al 2007). This collection includes the Communist Manifesto, documents that came out of the Bandung Conference, recent communiqués from the Zapatistas in Mexico, and a number of substantive and processual critiques of the Bamako Appeal. Several sessions at the WSF in Nairobi discussed the Bamako Appeal, the processes that produce manifestos, resistance to promulgations by intellectuals, and alternative proposals for collectively producing manifestos and charters that would allow grass roots activists to participate (e.g. “wikifestos”).

The Multicentric Network of Movements

Just as world revolutions in the past have resulted in restructuring world orders, it can be presumed that the current one will also do this. But do the activists themselves agree on the nature of the most important problems, visions of a desirable future or notions of appropriate tactics and forms of movement organization? We performed a network analysis of movement ties based on the responses to the 2005 WSF Survey.[6] Our study of the structure of overlapping links among movements as represented by attendees of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in 2005 who identify with and/or are actively involved in a long list of movements shows that the structure of movement overlaps is a multicentric network (Chase-Dunn, Petit, Niemeyer, Hanneman, Alvarez, Gutierrez and Reese 2006). Human rights, anti-war, alternative media, anti-globalization and environmental movements are strongly linked with one another and are bridges to almost all the other movements (See Figure 1).   Figure 1: The network of WSF movement linkages

            Figure 1 shows the network structure produced by examining the patterns of those who say they are actively involved in movements. All the movements have some people who are actively involved in other movements. In order to compare the relative sizes of linkages among movements we eliminate connections that are below the average number of linkages.

            The overall structure of the network of movement linkages shows a multicentric network organized around four main movements that serve as bridges that link other movements to one another” peace, global justice, human rights and environmental. While no single movement is so central that it could call the shots, neither is the network structure characterized by separate cliques of movements that might be easily separated from one another. Remember that Figure 1 does not show all the connections in the network but rather shows those connections that are significant in size relative to all the connections in the network.

This structure means that the transnational activists who participate in the World Social Forum process share goals and support the general global justice framework asserted in the World Social Forum Charter. It also means that this group is relatively integrated and is not prone to splits. A Third Worldist and cosmopolitan united front approach that pays attention to the nature of this network structure can have reasonable hope for mobilizing a strong force for collective action in world politics, though solutions need to be found to address the issues of process that have become apparent in the first wave of manifesto-writing. 

North-South Issues

The focus on global justice and north/south inequalities and the critique of neoliberalism provide strong orienting frames for the transnational activists of the World Social Forum. But there are difficult issues for collective action that are heavily structured by the huge international inequalities that exist in the contemporary world-system and these issues must be directly confronted. A survey of the attendees of the 2005 World Social Forum found several important differences between activists from the core, the periphery and the semiperiphery (Chase-Dunn, Reese, Herkenrath, Alvarez, Gutierrez, Kim, and Petit. Forthcoming).

Those from the periphery were fewer, older, and more likely to be men. In addition, participants from the periphery were more likely to be associated with externally sponsored NGOs, rather than with self-funded SMOs and unions, as NGOs have greater access to travel funds. Southern respondents were significantly more likely than those from the global north to be skeptical toward creating and strengtheningor reforming global-level political institutions and to favor the abolition of global institutions.

Those who favor reforming or replacing global institutions in order to resolve global problems (see discussion of Monbiot below) need to squarely face these facts. This skepticism probably stems from the historical experience of peoples from the non-core with colonialism and global-level institutions that claim to be operating on universal principles of fairness, but whose actions have either not solved problems or have made them worse. These new abolitionists are posing a strong challenge to both existing global institutions and to those who want to reform or replace these institutions. These realities must be addressed, not ignored.

Democratizing Global Governance

Ideas of democracy that are deeply institutionalized in modern societies are being increasingly applied at the global level, raising issues about the democratic nature of existing institutions of global governance. Why are some countries allowed to have weapons of mass destruction while others are not? How have these decisions been made? Are the institutions and actors that made them legitimate in the eyes of the peoples of the world?

Ann Florini (2004) acknowledges the need for democratic global governance processes to address global issues that simply cannot be dealt with by separate national states. Florini contends that global state formation is impossible, undesirable and would engender huge opposition from all quarters. Instead she sees a huge potential for democratizing global governance through uses of the Internet for mobilizing global civil society. Florini and many others point out that existing institutions of global governance have a huge democratic deficit. The most important and powerful elective office in the world is that of the U.S. presidency, but only citizens of the United States can vote for contenders for this office. Thus is existing global governance illegitimate even by its own rules..

George Monbiot’s Manifesto for a New World Order (2003) is a reasoned and insightful call for radically democratizing the existing institutions of global governance and for establishing a global peoples’ parliament that would be directly elected by the whole population of the Earth. Ulrich Beck’s (2005) call for “cosmopolitan realism” also ends up supporting the formation of global democratic institutions. Monbiot also advocates the establishment of a trade clearinghouse (first proposed by John Maynard Keynes at Bretton Woods) that would reward national economies with balanced trade, and that would use some of the surpluses generated by those with trade surpluses to invest in those with trade deficits. He also proposes a radical reversal of the World Trade Organization regime, which imposes free trade on the non-core but allows core economies to engage in protectionism – a “fair trade organization” that would help to reduce global development inequalities. Monbiot also advocates abolition of the U.N. Security Council, and shifting its power over peace-keeping to a General Assembly in which representatives’ votes would be weighted by the population size of their country.

And Monbiot advocates global enforcement of a carbon tax and a carbon swap structure that would reduce environmental degradation and reward those who utilize green technologies.  Monbiot also points out that the current level of indebtedness of non-core countries could be used as formidable leverage over the world’s largest banks if all the debtors acted in concert. This could provide the muscle behind a significant wave of global democratization. But in order for this to happen the global justice movement would have to organize a strong coalition of the non-core countries that can overcome the splits that tend to occur between the periphery and the semiperiphery.  This is far from being a utopian fantasy.  It is a practical program for global democracy.

       Upward sweeps of city and polity growth have led to new levels of political integration in the past (Chase-Dunn, Inoue, Alvarez, Niemeyer and Sheikh-Mohamed 2007). What are the prospects for another upward sweep that would result in the formation of a real global state? It is generally the case that increases in organizational complexity and hierarchy require the appropriation and control of greater amounts of energy (Christian 2003). The last big upward sweep of city sizes and colonial empires was greatly facilitated by the harvesting of fossil fuels that stored the sunlight and heat of billions of years of photosynthesis and the storage of concentrated energy below the surface of the Earth.

            New energy technologies will eventually emerge that can facilitate new levels of human complexity, but in the mean time we will have to deal with the negative anthropogenic environmental consequences of this colossal harvest of energy, the coming of “peak oil” and the eventual exhaustion of the fossil fuel stores.  It would be reckless to bet on a “technological fix” that will arrive in time to allow us to continue to rely on the existing institutions of global governance. Thus the processes of political globalization, the growth of transnational activism, and the potentials for democratizing global governance that we have discussed above are needed to manage the huge issues that are on the immediate horizon: the interimperial rivalry between a declining U.S. economic hegemony and the rise of East Asia, the timely achievement of demographic stability as the non-core moves on from an industrial death rate and an agricultural birth rate to the demographic transition, the transition to a sustainable relationship with the biosphere and the geosphere, and the reduction of global inequalities.

            The global democracy movement is global state formation from below, whether or not it is politic to say so. Perhaps it would be better to call it “multilateral global governance.” Hopefully the U.S. will be “the last of the hegemons” (Taylor 1986). New economic challengers are emerging, but the autonomous role of political hegemon will likely be played in the future within a stronger context of multilateral global governance.

            The European Union process itself only creates a larger core state that can contend with the United States, and as such it does not change the logic of the interstate system and global governance by hegemony. But the example of the emergence of a multinational state apparatus out of a process of peaceful politics, rather than as a result of conquest, holds important lessons, both positive and negative, for the larger process of global state formation.  It shows it can be done.



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[1] We follow Mary Kaldor (2003:44-5) in defining civil society as “the medium through which one or many social contracts between individuals, both women and men, and the political and economic centres of power are negotiated and reproduced.” Kaldor’s explication of this descriptive and aspirational concept considers its emergence in Greek and Roman antiquity, the European Enlightenment, the 20th century totalitarian challenges to individual rights, and the world revolution of 1989 in which Eastern European and Latin American political theorists redefined the concept in ways that allow it to be expanded to a global political arena. It now includes the domestic realm of institutions as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), informal networks, social clubs and non-state religious organizations, and social movement organizations (SMOs). Global civil society, as defined above is a medium of contention in which all humans on Earth participate in one guise or another, since all are involved in the politics of the family and the household during at least some parts of their lives. We recognize that the aspirational elements of the idea of civil society, including civility, the rule of law, tolerance, reasoned political conversation, and etc. do not extend to all the people of the Earth, and we agree with Kaldor that it is a laudable goal to try to extend these virtuous conditions and opportunities to all. We also note that some who enjoy these conditions within national polities do not conceive of themselves as active direct participants in world politics at the global level. We employ the term “transnational activists” to designate those who identify with, and actively participate in, social movements, including religious movements, that are composed of social networks based in two or more nations (Tarrow 2005: 29).


[2] Interestingly, both forums claim to be “non-partisan.”

[3] World Economic Forum http://www.weforum.org/en/index.htm


[4] We have not been able to locate any systematic published research on those who attend the WEF but PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) has done an annual “global” survey of CEOs since 2001 that has been summarized at the WEF meetings by PWC executives.

[5] World Social Forum Charter http://wsf2007.org/process/wsf-charter


[6] The movement network results are reported more fully in IROWS Working Paper # 26 https://irows.ucr.edu/papers/irows26/irows26.htm