. . . for with freedom come responsibilities. Nelson Mandela Henceforth, our country should be the universe. Flora Tristan An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come. Victor Hugo True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice. Martin Luther King, Jr. *

Dossiers and Documents : Discussion Papers : Rethinking Global Governance

Rethinking Global Governance

The materialization of philosophical models

Rethinking Global Governance


Arnaud Blin, Gustavo Marin ¤ 2 January 2008 ¤
Translations: Español (original) . français .

In the 17th century, Thomas Hobbes brought to us the anarchical model that Thucydide had described earlier in a penetrating manner in his recounting of the History of the Peloponnesian War. Rousseau and Kant proposed federal models of collective security that inspired the (leaders of the) 20th century. Karl Marx admirably described, in ways whose echoes can still be heard today, the effects of capitalism and globalization. At the same time, Tocqueville understood from the outset the limits of modern democracy. Today, this development of political and economic thought started by Hobbes leads to the paradoxes of the current-day situation.

Today, the Hobbesian anarchy still prevails with a hybrid international system where the state continues to play a predominant role; where the power and influence it exercises in an individualistic, though sometimes collective, manner, determines the relationships of the moment; where war continues to be a political instrument (Afghanistan, Iraq, the Near East); where the U.N. system makes a place for itself without always imposing itself; where democracy makes a quantitative leap forward while simultaneously asserting itself as the only model of political organization; where globalization considerably changes the social arrangement of the planet as a whole; where Europe demonstrates unheard of possibilities at the federal framework level; where long-lasting peace affects entire areas across the globe.

Even so, this “system” that is not, and no longer, one, broke with the balance of powers of the past. At the same time, globalization, which is taking over the geopolitical sphere, is slowed down by the weight of the State, creating a gigantic gap between political and economic globalization. At the same time, liberal democracy, “victorious” model of the anti-totalitarian and Cold War battle, demonstrates its limits and weaknesses. As we have already suggested, the U.N. is globally irreparable even though it continues to represent, in spirit, the future of global governance. Europe, which remarkably integrated the whole, or almost, of its continental area, and admirably negotiated the post-Cold War turn, equally demonstrates the limits of its model. In sum, the world of the 21st century is in some ways the materialization of an historical cycle that started many centuries ago but that is also, paradoxically, an unfinished model, imperfect and on on the long-term, unviable. The Hobbesian model should, in theory, lead to a global government of authority: that of Rousseau to an international confederation, and that of Kant to a reformed, pacific collectivity of the State acting for the good of Humanity. At present, not one of these models seems to figure on the horizon. In other respects, if inter-State war has practically evaporated, other conflicts, often extremely violent, and other threats, paint a horizon whose sky is perpetually darkened by clouds. And, in spite of the end of totalitarianism and large-scale conflicts between nations, the 21st century perpetuates a regrettable tradition begun in the previous century, that of the civilian victim whose ratio vis à vis the military victim continues to grow (even if, in absolute terms, the (total) number of victims is decreasing.)

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