[P2P-F] Fwd: Global Government Revisited (GTN Discussion)

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Thu Oct 12 09:04:21 CEST 2017

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From: Great Transition Network <gtnetwork at greattransition.org>
Date: Thu, Oct 12, 2017 at 2:15 AM
Subject: Global Government Revisited (GTN Discussion)
To: michelsub2004 at gmail.com

>From Luis Cabrera <l.cabrera at griffith.edu.au>

Response to Commentators on “Global Government
Revisited: From Utopian Vision to Political Imperative”

Luis Cabrera

It is a rare privilege to be involved in a dialogue like this, not least
for the insights to be gained from such accomplished theorists and
practitioners. It is even more of a privilege be in the position of
responding to their very thoughtful engagement with my own claims for
institutional alternatives beyond the nation-state. In this response essay,
I will first clarify the fundamentally instrumental nature of my claims and
show how that should help answer some concerns raised about possibilities
for regional and global democracy. I will then discuss concerns about
whether my argument takes sufficient account of global diversity and more
local belongings and governance, and also whether less formalized
alternative models of global coordination would be preferable. I close with
thoughts on possible global citizen actions which are implied by many of
the contributions to the dialogue.

The Instrumental Nature of the Core Argument

The argument I presented for deep global political integration and global
democratic practices is primarily instrumental. It sees democratic
political institutions as potentially important tools for promoting
individual rights protections. There are two main reasons for the focus on
political institutions, including the institutions of some world
government, as potential guarantors of rights. These were only implied in
the article, but some of the responses lead me to believe that they should
be made more explicit. The first reason is that political institutions are
tasked with providing *complete coverage* for all in their jurisdiction. In
this they are unlike private contractors, or the non-governmental and
global governance organizations many respondents highlighted, which may be
more selective. The second is that political institutions are uniquely
tasked with ensuring *full compliance* from all persons with duties,
including those related to adequately protecting the specified
rights of all in their jurisdiction. The deepening or development of
regional and ultimately global institutions is advocated as a potentially
important means of promoting protections of key social, political, civil,
and economic rights for more persons, in a global system whose current
structure tends toward a gross underfulfillment of such rights.

Participatory rights, along with rights to expression, assembly, ombuds,
and judicial challenge familiar from current constitutional democracies,
are also instrumentally valued. They provide mechanisms of accountability
and important incentives for power holders to better consider the interests
and rights of constituents, and to help ensure that political institutions
actually do work to promote and protect their rights. Thus, the model is
not one where, in Herman Greene’s words, “a global state would reach down
from its high perch to protect each human’s rights.” Rather, it is one
where individuals would have some robust means of publicizing and pressing
rights claims in relation to co-citizens and political leaders at all
levels. In that sense, it is in accord with Joan Cocks’s view that broader
institutions would not automatically practice ethical or human-centered
governance. Political struggle would remain the norm, but—if broader and
deeper political integration
proved feasible—it would be a broader struggle which could increase the
leverage of those whose interests are routinely neglected in the current
global system.

Such an instrumental approach should be compatible with the highly
sophisticated, state-weighted voting formula that Joseph Schwartzberg has
developed for his World Parliamentary Assembly proposal and discusses in
his response. [1] My presumption is that a genuinely defensible ideal or
end-state system would feature something much closer to one person, one
vote. But near-term compromises which reflect some of the current balances
of power and wealth among states might be instrumentally justifiable, if
they significantly increased possibilities for oversight, accountability,
and much broader input moving forward. In relation to Ian Lowe’s related
concern about diluted representation in very large global constituencies, I
would reinforce with Andreas Bummel the importance of subsidiarity: some
more local issues are appropriately addressed through local governance, but
truly global issues require global coordination and decision making. And,
as in very large states—India, for
example, has some 815 million eligible voters—individuals do not typically
expect to exert direct policy influence on such large-scale issues, but
they can join with others in efforts to influence decisions. This by no
means guarantees effective or fair influence, but a model which would aim
at ultimately giving all some concrete standing as global citizens should
be more promising than the current one of highly exclusionary global
negotiation conducted with little publicity and few channels of

Neo-imperialism, the Local, and Cosmopolitan Humility

Richard Falk, who for more than fifty years has provided inspiration and
careful arguments for more “humane global governance,” [2] raises
significant challenges concerning the diversity of beliefs in the face of
claims for universal human rights:

**I would be more persuaded by Cabrera’s vision of the future if he dealt
with the existential challenges posed by deeply entrenched adverse beliefs,
values, and structures that make his desired future seem in the end to be
more *dream* than *prospect*. Yet maybe Cabrera is right to posit a hopeful
vision of the future without its pull on the moral imagination losing all
credibility by being dragged through the swamps of political reality.**

For Falk, failing to engage with the politics of global diversity and
disagreement risks making an account of institutional transformation
irrelevant. I strongly agree. In fact, I see it as imperative to spend as
much time as possible directly investigating the salient contexts. When, as
Falk observes, I speak of unauthorized migrants as enacting a form of
“global civil disobedience,” it is because migrants themselves made me
aware of this possibility. For a book on global citizenship and national
belonging, I spent some five years interviewing more than 260 unauthorized
migrants, border agents, civilian border patrollers, and migrant-rights
activists in Mexico, the United States, and Europe. [3] I wanted to
understand as deeply as possible the conflicting moral claims and
viewpoints in play—including the deeply entrenched nationalist beliefs of
those US citizens who belted on pistols and spent their vacation time
scouting for unauthorized migrants at the Arizona-Sonora border.

Unauthorized migrants, I concluded, challenge the exclusionary norms of a
sovereign states system as few actors can. They starkly highlight ways in
which especially the economic rights pledged to all in binding treaties
signed by the large majority of countries remain available to relatively
few. Falk notes that such migration can create deep tensions in the system,
and for me that is very much the point—it can create a border-hardening
backlash, but also the realization that the economic forces partly driving
such migration demand more attention. The movement of persons can also, as
Daniele Archibugi notes, highlight inequities in current regimes for
distributing those migrants and especially refugees received in regions
such as Europe.

Pierre Calame suggests that human rights doctrine simply represents a form
of domination exercised by powerful Western countries in the 1940s and
continuing today. Important related concerns are raised by Ashish Kothari
about the self-determination of peoples—in particular indigenous peoples,
and by Richard Shapcott over whether countries would be forced into
membership to promote the rights protections indicated. These are
significant issues, and my current book project is centrally concerned with
how a rights-based argument for global political integration might give due
regard to more local beliefs and attachments. I frame this as a search for
“cosmopolitan humility.” [4] For core insights, I turn to the work of B.R.
Ambedkar, India’s Constitutional architect and revered symbol of Dalit
(formerly “untouchables”) social struggle. Ambedkar was insistent from the
earliest phase of his public career (ca. 1919–56) that Dalits’ universal
“human rights” must be
recognized and upheld. He inspired current efforts by the Dalit activists
noted in the initial article to enlist UN human rights bodies in pressuring
the Indian government on caste issues. Ambedkar’s contemporary and
correspondent, W. E. B. Du Bois, fought in much the same way against racial
discrimination in the United States, including approaching the newly
created UN in the mid-1940s with exhaustive documentation of the repression
of African Americans and a call for action.

It is by studying Ambedkar’s work, and by conducting interviews with some
fifty Dalit activists and those they serve around India, that I have sought
to gain a better understanding of how universal rights standards can figure
in more local struggles, and how more developed global institutions could
appropriately support those struggles. I have also interviewed more than
two dozen government officials and others from India’s ruling Hindu
nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, to better understand their claims that
the Dalit activists are simply disloyal national citizens intent on
“Breaking India” with the help of neo-imperialist Western forces.
Similarly, I have interviewed members of the United Kingdom Independence
Party about their Brexit claims for national self-determination for
“indigenous Britons,” and against admitting Turks to the European Union,
for reasons of “cultural fit.” In Istanbul and Brussels, I have sought to
understand secular Turks’ claims against
their own increasingly fundamentalist religious government, and the hopes
they once had for reinforcing their own rights through closer European

The model emerging is inspired directly by Ambedkar, who sought to put
India’s immensely diverse cultural, linguistic, and caste-divided groups
into relations of *political humility*: formal citizen equality within
shared democratic institutions. Humility I understand (with reference to
extensive recent literatures in psychology and philosophy) not as plain
deference to authority or competing moral claims, but as an acknowledgment
of the equal moral standing of others, an openness to input from them, and
an intellectual modesty about the finality and accuracy of the moral and
empirical claims one can offer, including on the final shape of rights to
be enshrined in constitutions or legislation. A similar ideal of
cosmopolitan political humility would seek to promote the recognition of
equal standing, participation, and reciprocity across borders in the near
term, while also seeking to expand institutional mechanisms of suprastate
input and participation, and especially
accountability to the vulnerable within states, over the longer term.

Thus, the model does not advocate the summary imposition of some fully
realized set of political institutions over the entire world, were that
somehow feasible. Rather, it entails a thoroughgoing commitment to
intellectual modesty about principles and institutions, and an incremental
and dialogic approach to global institutional integration and reform that
could appropriately promote rights protections. Nothing in the approach
dictates a rejection of local innovations, per the concern rightly raised
by Arturo Escobar. In fact, the Latin American innovations he highlights
could be important sources of insight for developing more cosmopolitan
local governance—as a recent account focused on Medellín, Colombia,
emphasizes. [5]

Alternatives to World Government

A fully integrated global political system is held up as a long-term aim,
but it is a prima facie or provisional aim, consistent with the core
instrumentality of the argument. If, for example, the laboratories of
regional integration (European Union, African Union, Mercosur, Caribbean
Community, ASEAN, etc.) somehow prove to have deep and recurring problems
with stability or cohesion, or if they somehow weaken rights protections
more than enhance them over time, that would be reason not to support
further integration. Or, if expansive global integration, even in the
powers-limited form I have advocated, ultimately threatens to harm rights
much more than protect them, it should be rejected. In this sense, the
incremental instrumentalism of the approach is a strength—it presumes and
encourages institutional dialogue and experimentalism over a long period of
time, in part because it presumes that identifying and developing a system
which actually would reliably protect the rights of
all persons in the world is a very long-term project.

A number of respondents suggest alternate models. Al Hammond, Gwendolyn
Hallsmith, and Michel Bauwens argue for ones featuring globally networked
cities, and Lucie Edwards, Frank Fischer, and others give emphasis to the
importance of global governance networks, including some centrally
featuring non-governmental or international civil society organizations. I
do not have the space here to give full credit where it is due to each of
these very thoughtful proposals or reports on practice. I will note,
however, that the instrumental approach I am advocating would very likely
endorse many if not all of them, as means of strengthening individual
rights protections, and as consistent with a more integrated global system.
Such integration, at the regional level and gradually the global, should
provide myriad opportunities for promoting the benefits the respondents
highlight, including sharing local knowledge, developing insights that can
be shared as global public knowledge, and
multiplying cooperative connections between cities and regions. Further,
the “cosmopolitan states” advocated by Shapcott, which would
constitutionalize principles against harming outsiders, should also be
compatible with regional and global institutions which could help to
reinforce such principles.

I would still want to raise concerns about a global governance or networked
city model as an end-state aim. This is because such frameworks do not seek
to provide full rights coverage for all individuals, or to provide
mechanisms by which adequate compliance with corresponding duties could be
achieved. Thus, while I would see many of these proposals as noteworthy and
practical contributions, I would not see them as comprehensive possible
solutions to the problem of massive rights underfulfillment in the current

Another alternative suggested is to the global market economy, or
capitalist system, presumed by my model. Adam Parsons and George Liodakis
both raise concerns about the dominance of global capital, and Chella Rajan
raises related concerns about the technocratic nature of current
governments. In fact, my supposition is that global capital’s voracious
appetite for new and bigger markets will provide much of the motive force
for driving forms of global integration. As cosmopolitan democrats such as
Archibugi and David Held have long argued, it is global trade and related
global economic integration which can figure strongly in demands for
political input and ultimately integration from below. I see it as
continually creating pressures for more inclusive decision making, and for
more political control over economic and related outcomes still very much
influenced by the neoliberal economic model Parsons rightly critiques. Over
time, trans-state efforts at expanding inclusion and input
could help to develop the global consciousness that Allen White, Michael
Karlberg, and Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen identify as crucial to advancing
any global political framework. A glimpse of the shape this might take is
offered in the globalized “anti-globalization” activism of the late 1990s
and early 2000s.

Finally, I presume that increasing integration would make it increasingly
possible to address persistent global problems such as nuclear weapons
proliferation. I of course agree with Andreas Bummel, Joseph Schwartzberg,
and others that such problems are immediate existential threats to
humanity. However, while we can point to progress in the reductions of
stockpiles since the Cold War, I am cautious about claims that the weapons
could be fully eliminated in the absence of some scheme of deep
integration, under which every existing and potential weapons holder has
some meaningful assurance of security after elimination. It’s hard to
envision a near-term scenario where that is possible, but if longer-term
deep integration is possible, it would seem more feasible. Integration also
should make more feasible in practice John Bunzl’s highly innovative
‘simultaneous policy’ approach to realizing concrete progress on a range of
global problems.


A great deal more could be said, and my apologies to those whose responses
were not engaged. I have profited from reading all of them. I will close
with a brief reinforcement of the instrumental nature of the argument and
its implications for near-term action. The imperative is to strengthen
rights protections for individuals, and this opens a vast range of actions
that could be undertaken by those seeking to act as global citizens. One
way to view such action is as an attempt to help provide those protections
that would be in place under global institutions which actually did seek to
provide robust rights coverage for all. I discussed some representative
actions in the 2010 global citizenship book, including donations targeted
to effective and transparent aid organizations; domestic advocacy for more
humane and liberal migration and migrant-integration regimes; admission and
integration of refugees; and support for deeper and more accountable
regional integration. The contributions
to this dialogue have offered many more practical and indeed inspiring
ideas about actions that those seeking to engage in practices of global
citizenship can take.

[1] Joseph Schwartzberg, Creating a World Parliamentary Assembly: An
Evolutionary Journey (Berlin: Committee for a Democratic UN, 2012).

[2] Richard Falk, (Re)Imagining Humane Global Governance (Abingdon:
Routledge, 2013).

[3] Luis Cabrera, The Practice of Global Citizenship (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2010).

[4] Luis Cabrera, The Humble Cosmopolitan: Rights, Diversity, and
Trans-State Democracy (New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2018).

[5] Fonna Forman and Teddy Cruz, “Global Justice at the Municipal Scale:
The Case of Medellín, Colombia,” in Luis Cabrera, ed., Institutional
Cosmopolitanism (New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2018).


Thursday, August 31, 2017

>From Paul Raskin <praskin at tellus.org>

Dear GTN,

The world confronts grievous global-scale risks with feeble global-scale
institutions, or, as I’m fond of putting it, Earthland resembles a failed
state (www.greattransition.org/publication/journey-to-earthland). This
dangerous incongruity demands reconsideration of the fraught project of
global government, a task Luis Cabrera takes on in his new GTI essay,
“Global Government Revisited: From Utopian Vision to Political Imperative.”

Surely any rigorous Great Transition vision must address the need for
supranational decision-making, but what are the contours of new
institutions appropriate for the task? What intermediate steps can move us
down that road? Read Luis’s answers at www.greattransition.org/

Please share your reactions and comments by SEPTEMBER 30.

Looking forward,
Paul Raskin
GTI Director

GT Network discussions of new essays occur in odd-numbered months. You
receive comments via email, and can review all postings at
www.greattransition.org/forum/gti-forum. Then, in the following
even-numbered month, we publish the essay along with a “Roundtable” (edited
commentary drawn from the discussion and the author’s response).

Hit reply to post a message
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