. 4
( 8)


of Capitalism: The Trans-Paci¬c Sector of “The World System” ™, in Culture in Practice.
Selected Essays (New York, 2000), pp. 415“69.
Catalysts 87

and different meanings. Kellogg™s tried to convince Indians to start the
day with Corn Flakes and Sugar Puffs, but they recoiled at the thought,
preferring traditional hot parathas or idlis. Kentucky Fried Chicken swag-
gered into India, convinced that it would win the country over to the ˜KFC
experience™ and, humbled by vegetarians and lovers of tandoori chicken,
was reduced to just one branch, a heavily vegetarian one at that. Pizza
Hut and Dominos “ which offers toppings such as ˜Peppy Paneer™ and
˜Chicken Chettinad™ (a topping that mimics a traditional southern dish) “
suffered a similar fate. And McDonald™s, the world™s largest user of beef “
it has some 30,000 franchised restaurants in 120 countries “ knows what
it means to think globally and act locally: in the Indian context, there is
no beef or pork in its products, its mayonnaise is made without eggs, and
its popular McVeggie Burger and McAloo Tikki Burger (a spicy potato
concoction) are cooked in different parts of the kitchen, so as to avoid
the slightest contamination that would lead to plummeting sales.
Turbocapitalist ¬rms are not only caught up in the business of cultivat-
ing and negotiating social meanings. Their operations are also generally
antipathetic to violence and, for that reason, they contribute to the civility
upon which global civil society feeds. It is true that some companies, in
certain contexts, have bad records of colluding with the violence of po-
litical or gun-toting authorities hell-bent on destroying their opponents
and civil society itself “ as they did in South Africa before the revolution
against apartheid, or as they continue to do widely in the global small arms
industry. There are even global businesses, like the diamond and cocaine
trades, that operate through murderous networks of guerrilla armies and
armed thugs. Yet “ the quali¬cation is important “ most businesses that
operate globally share a common, long-term interest in the eradication of
violence. Their chief executive of¬cers, for instance, do not like working
within the shadows of knee-capping, abduction, or murder; they shudder
at stories of corporate executives who have been forced to sit tied up on
a concrete ¬‚oor with hoods on, or being bundled into vans and forced
to run blindfold across muddy ¬elds, at gunpoint. Some businesses (like
Wellington Underwriters and Kroll Associates) even specialise in mak-
ing money from insuring against risk, or from providing a global kidnap
security service.107 In general, the conduct of business, which requires
the freedom to calculate risk over time, prudently and without interrup-
tion, is made dif¬cult or impossible when violence threatens, which is
why investment is chronically low, or non-existent, in zones of uncivil
war, like Sierra Leone, Angola, southern Sudan and parts of the former

107 ˜The Global Executive™s Nightmare™, Financial Times (London), 25 May 2001.
88 Global Civil Society?

Finally, on the positive side, acknowledgement must be made of the
contributions of global business to the ˜thickening™ of communications
networks that enable the operation of the non-pro¬t organisations and
networks of global civil society. Under modern conditions, states rather
than global businesses have usually been the inventors or initial appli-
cators of new technologies of transport and communication. While this
rule holds true, say, for the World Wide Web and geostationary satellites,
subsequent new investments in these and other communications tech-
nologies are typically market-driven: private investment goes where the
returns are high, and high they can be in the ¬eld of communications
technologies. The commercial introduction of technologies like software
systems, wide-bodied jet aircraft, ¬bre optics, superfreighters and con-
tainerisation (which enables safe transhipment from one type of transport
to another), has several cumulative “ revolutionary “ effects. Through
privately owned and leased networks, organisations large and small can
now operate over vast geographical distances, thanks to the growth of
country-to-country links, regional hub-and-spoke networks, and global
telecommunications services.108 There is a sharp reduction of both the
operating costs and the time it takes both information and things and
people to move from one part of the world to another. The friction of
distance is greatly reduced.

Market inequalities
While the growth of market-driven communications within global civil
society ˜shrinks™ the world, such time“space contraction is extremely
uneven. Shaped like a slim octopus with the globe half in its clutches,
in¬‚uential cities, together with powerful national economies and globe-
straddling ¬rms, are drawn together, as if they are part of the same body;
but while certain places and people become the head and eyes and ten-
tacles of global civil society, whole geographic areas and whole peoples,
many millions of them, are left out and left behind, in the spaces between
the slim tentacles of communication.
Such gaps between the communication rich and the communication
poor remind us that there are limits to the various ways in which turbo-
capitalism nurtures the precious social interdependencies of the emerging
global civil society. Those who praise turbocapitalism as a force for ˜one
world™ sadly tell half the story of turbocapitalism, which otherwise op-
erates as a contradictory and disruptive force within global civil society.
108 J. V. Langdale, ˜The Geography of International Business Telecommunications: The
Role of Leased Networks™, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 79 (1989),
pp. 501“22.
Catalysts 89

Those who presently champion ˜anti-capitalism™ may be na¨ve in their±
analyses and short on viable solutions, but they have put their ¬ngers
on the key point: that commodi¬ed economies, left to their own devices,
produce great social inequalities and, thus, tend to destroy the structures
of civil society within which they are embedded, and upon which they de-
pend for their reproduction. An obvious example is the way in which the
business units of global civil society exercise what C. B. Macpherson once
called ˜extractive power™ over their workers and other dependents, for in-
stance through day-to-day hiring and ¬ring practices, and their ability to
pay ruinously low, take-it-or-leave-it wages.109
Turbocapitalist businesses also have at their disposal the power to
weaken or ruin others™ lives by deciding to invest here and not there,
or instead by moving their investments from here to there, thus ensuring
that our world is full of overworked and unemployed people and marked
by extraordinary deprivation and staggering inequality.110 The pro¬t-
hungry, speculative thrust of capital markets is a closely related, espe-
cially worrying example. High-risk, ˜hot money™ speculations produced
a series of contagious ¬nancial crises in the summer of 1931, bringing
to an end the last long cycle of economic globalisation. Similar worries
about the boom“bust volatility of the turbocapitalist economy are today
developing, fuelled by concern about stock exchange upsets, debt crises,
corrupt banking and the general unease caused by such phenomena as
the ˜Asian ¬‚u™, the Mexican ˜tequila effect™, and the ruinous collapse of
the Argentinian economy. Such phenomena breed suspicion and ner-
vousness. Many worry that our world™s ¬nancial system, run as it is by
organisations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World
Bank, is deeply prone to collapse because it contains a basic instability:
this system, in which (by agreement) the sum of trade de¬cits must equal
the surpluses, is targeted at countries with trade de¬cits. When one coun-
try “ Mexico or Thailand, say “ reduces its de¬cit, as normally happens
after it falls into crisis for local reasons, then another de¬cit soon appears
elsewhere in the system. Of course, the United States acts as the de¬cit-
of-last-resort within the system, thus prompting many to ask: For how
much longer will the world have an appetite for America™s equities and
bonds? Can the richest sector of the turbocapitalist economy continue to
borrow inde¬nitely from the rest of the world?
There are other problems. Pressured by turbocapitalism, global civil
society, which otherwise displays a strong tendency towards polyarchy,

109 C. B. Macpherson, Democratic Theory. Essays in Retrieval (Oxford, 1973).
110 Amartya Sen, ˜Work and Rights™, International Labour Review, 139:2 (2000),
pp. 119“28.
90 Global Civil Society?

naturally cradles new property relations. It contains staggering discrep-
ancies in wealth and income distribution. The economies of giant ¬rms
like Ford and Philip Morris exceed the gross domestic products (GDPs)
of countries like Norway and New Zealand. Meanwhile, a small elite
of winners, the ˜transnational managerial class™111 “ corporate execu-
tives, peripatetic lawyers, rock-stars, jet-age nomads living in penthouse
apartments in choice locations, like the Upper East Side of Manhattan,
and holidaying in Tuscan palazzos, secluded spots in Mustique and Irish
castles “ monopolises more than its share of wealth and income. The
combined wealth of the world™s richest 200 billionaires reached an aston-
ishing US$1.1 trillion in 1999 “ the year in which the combined incomes
of 582 million people living in the least developed countries was US$146
billion, or less than a dollar a day.112 According to some estimates, based
on Gini coef¬cient data, the gap between the poorest and wealthiest ¬fths
of the world™s population has risen from 1:30 in 1960, to 1:60 in 1990, to
1:74 in 1997; the annual income of 358 billionaires is now equivalent to
that of the poorest 45 per cent of the world™s population, that is, nearly
3 billion people.113 For the time being, and in the absence of power-
ful redistributive mechanisms, this billionaire bourgeoisie exercises power
globally over a mass of survivors or losers of varying af¬‚uence or poverty.
Not surprisingly, turbocapitalism strengthens the hand of market dom-
ination over the non-pro¬t institutions of civil society, which tend to be
pushed and pulled, twisted and torn into bodies that obey the rules of
accumulation and pro¬t maximisation. Given the virulence of these com-
modi¬cation imperatives, those who conclude that global civil society is
˜¬rst and foremost, a product of the rise of a newly globalised, neo-liberal
form of capitalism™114 can be forgiven for confusing trend and outcome.
Global civil society is constantly under market pressures. Some NGOs
formerly dependent on government funding, like the Seattle-based em-
ployment and rehabilitation service agency Pioneer Human Services, opt
for self-¬nancing through their own for-pro¬t business enterprises.115
Market forces also produce great inequalities among INGOs “ Green-
peace, with a US$100 million annual budget, and the World Wildlife

111 Robert Cox, ˜Social Forces, States, and World Orders: Beyond International Relations
Theory™, in Robert O. Keohane (ed.), Neorealism and its Critics (New York, 1986),
pp. 204“54.
112 Michael Hirsh, ˜Protesting Plutocracy™, in the special Davos edition of Newsweek
(December 2000“February 2001), p. 79.
113 Data cited in Dieter Rucht, ˜Social Movements Challenging Neo-Liberal Globaliza-
tion™, in John Keane (ed.), Civil Society: Berlin Perspectives (London, 2004).
114 See the introduction to John L. and Jean Comaroff (eds.), Civil Society and the Political
Imagination in Africa: Critical Perspectives (Chicago and London, 1999), p. 7.
115 www.pioneerhumanserv.com.
Catalysts 91

Fund, with US$170 million, are wealthier than the UN Environment
Programme (UNEP) and most other state-level governments they deal
with116 “ while in some sectors it is as if the emerging global civil so-
ciety is merely the appendage of the turbocapitalist economy. Some
NGOs “ business NGOs or BINGOs “ even explicitly model them-
selves on business enterprises by developing commercial departments,
head-hunters, media sections and private fund-raising and investment
strategies. The neat division between the corporate and NGO worlds
consequently dissolves.

116 Timothy Shaw, ˜Overview “ Global/Local: States, Companies and Civil Societies at the
End of the Twentieth Century™, in Kendall Stiles (ed.), Global Institutions and Local
Empowerment. Competing Theoretical Perspectives (New York, 2000), p. 14.

A court society?
Although turbocapitalism is arguably the force that most strongly en-
ergises the non-governmental sector from within, global civil society is
not simply its child. To repeat: global civil society is overdetermined by
various forces. It is a ˜syndrome™1 of processes and activities which have
multiple origins and multiple dynamics, some of them (like the recent
collapse and discrediting of communism) more conjunctural than deep-
seated. Together, these forces ensure that global civil society is not a
single, uni¬ed domain, and that it will not be turned into something that
resembles a combined factory, warehouse and shopping mall retailing
consumer products on a global scale “ let™s say, a version of Disney™s
˜Its a Small World After All™ or Naomi Klein™s ˜international rule of the
brands™.2 Global civil society is not simply reducible to the logic of com-
modity production and exchange, which helps to explain both its se-
mantic promiscuity and its normative appeal to an astonishing variety
of con¬‚icting social interests, ranging from groups clustered around the
World Bank to broad-minded Muslims defending their faith and radical
ecological groups pressing for sustainable development.
If the institutions of global civil society are not merely the products
of civic initiatives and market forces then is there a third force at work
in nurturing and shaping it? It can be argued that global civil society
is also the by-product of governmental or intergovernmental action or
inaction. Contrary to those for whom global civil society is driven by a
single social logic, like voluntary action or turbocapitalism, it is impor-
tant to see the ways in which many global NGOs and actors are both
framed and enabled by “ and sometimes heavily dependent upon, in
matters of funding and in¬‚uence “ governmental organisations of various

1 The idea that globalising processes can be analysed as a multi-dimensional ˜syndrome™ is
developed in James H. Mittelman, The Globalisation Syndrome: Transformation and Resis-
tance (Princeton, 2000).
2 Naomi Klein, No Logo (London, 2000).

Cosmocracy 93

kinds.3 In ¬elds like telecommunications and air, land and sea traf¬c, po-
litical bodies such as the International Postal Union (IPU) and the World
Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), most of them resting for-
mally on agreements to which states are signatories, exercise formidable
regulatory powers that enable many parts of global civil society to keep
moving, at a quickening pace. Governmental agencies, much more than
corporate philanthropy, also currently play a major, positive-sum role in
protecting, funding and nurturing non-pro¬t organisations in every part
of the earth where there is a lively civil society.4 Included in this category
are civil organisations that operate on the margins of the governmental
institutions that license them in the ¬rst place. Examples include a body
like the International Committee of the Red Cross which, although non-
governmental, is mandated under the Geneva Convention and is linked
to states through the organisation of the International Federation of Red
Cross and Red Crescent Societies; similarly, the International Association
of Religious Freedom, a forum for interreligious dialogue, has accredited
NGO status at the UN and UNESCO levels.
To cite such examples at random is not to say that global civil society
is describable as a para-governmental body. It is not a ˜court society™, of
the kind that prevailed before the eighteenth-century emergence of civil
societies, when concentric rings of social life were typically attached like
barnacles to the hulls of monarchic states, which distributed favours and
privileges to members of ˜society™ roughly in direct proportion to their
proximity to the centres of administrative power.5 The feisty institutions
of global civil society are on the whole more dynamic and independent
than the court societies of old. There is another key difference, which
is that, unlike the early modern civil societies, which typically hatched
within the well-established containers of empires and territorial states,

3 Thomas Risse-Kappen, ˜Transnational Actors and World Politics™, in Walter Carlsnaes
et al. (eds.), Handbook of International Relations (London, 2002).
4 Lester Salamon, ˜Government and Nonpro¬t Relations in Perspective™, in the publication
of the Urban Institute, Nonpro¬ts and Government: Collaboration and Con¬‚ict (Washington,
DC, 1999); the comparative ¬ndings cited in Peter Evans (ed.), State“Society Synergy:
Government and Social Capital in Development (Berkeley, 1997); and on the funding of
Japanese INGOs by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Posts and Telecom-
munications, see Toshihiro Menju and Takako Aoki, ˜The Evolution of Japanese NGOs
in the Asia Paci¬c Context™, in Tadashi Yamamoto (ed.), Emerging Civil Society in the Asia
Paci¬c Community (Singapore, 1995). See Ken Conca, ˜Greening the United Nations:
Environmental Organisations and the UN System™, Third World Quarterly, 16:3 (1995);
and Margaret Clark, ˜The Antarctica Environmental Protocol: NGOs in the Protection
of Antarctica™, in Thomas Princen and Matthias Finger (eds.), Environmental NGOs in
World Politics: Linking the Local and the Global (London, 1994).
5 The difference between civil society and a ˜court society™ (sociedad de corte) is noted in
Victor P´ rez-Diaz, ˜La formacion de Europa: nacionalismos civiles e inciviles™, Claves
e ´
(Madrid), 97 (November 1999), pp. 10“21.
94 Global Civil Society?

global civil society has emerged and today operates in the absence of a
global state, a world empire, or comprehensive regulatory structures that
are describable in the state-centred terms of political ˜realism™.
Some observers quickly conclude from this generalisation that the term
˜global civil society™ is meaningless; for them, the term is logically the
Siamese twin of the term ˜global state™. The point that they want to drive
home is: no global state, no global civil society.6 Such reasoning is un-
convincing, if only because it overlooks the utter novelty of our situation.
It is true that there is currently no global state. It is also most improbable
that in future one could be developed, even on the doubtful assumption “
made by groups that champion a World State with a World Police, like the
Weltb¨ rgervereinigung 7 “ that it would be desirable to do so. Our situation
is different, and without historical precedent. The current growth spurt of
global civil society under ˜anarchic™ conditions certainly outpaces govern-
ments of all descriptions, but that is why it contains within it a pressing
constitutional agenda which must be conceptualised in fresh ways: the
need to go beyond the present clutter of global political institutions, in
order to ¬nd new governing arrangements that enable something like ef-
fective and democratically accountable government, the rule of law and
more equitable and freer social relations, to develop on a global scale.
The challenge is daunting, and it is not made easier by the fact that con-
ventional political wisdom has little to say on the matter. If one looks at the
literature in the ¬elds of international relations and political theory, it is
evident that a string of political questions has been left dangling, knotted
and neglected: Who does the governing in today™s world? Through which
institutions do they govern, in the sense that their decisions structure and
con¬ne the ¬elds of judgement and action of actors within global civil so-
ciety, even forcing them “ through law, diplomacy, sanctions, violence “ to
do things that otherwise they would not do? Can governing institutions in
this sense be given a name? How do they compare to previous typologies
of government? In whose interests do these institutions operate? What
key decisions do they make, where are they made, and who makes them?
In short, through which administrative, legal, military/police and other
structures do some people determine how others get what, when and how
at the global level? How much authority do these institutions enjoy within
their respective domains? To what extent are they perceived as legitimate?
6 Chris Brown, ˜Cosmopolitanism, World Citizenship, and Global Civil Society™, Critical
Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 3 (2000), pp. 7“26; and the remarks
of Klaus von Beyme on the ˜unthinkability™ of a civil society without the concept of
˜a state™ in ˜Die Liberale Konzeption von Gesellschaft und Politik™, unpublished paper
(Wien, 2001).
7 See www.weltbuergervereinigung.de and Ernst Heinrichsohn, World State, World Citizen-
ship: How a New Consciousness Can Save the World from Self-Destruction (New York, 2000).
Cosmocracy 95

Could they become (more) publicly accountable “ even more democratic
in the eyes of the constituents of a global civil society? If so, how?
Despite much recent talk of ˜globalisation™, plausible answers to such
questions have not been forthcoming. Something like a numerical “ rather
than a visually imaginable “ theory of global politics prevails. ˜Hundreds
of organizations now regulate the global dimensions of trade, telecom-
munications, civil aviation, health, the environment, meteorology, and
many other issues™, a prominent international relations analyst typically
observes.8 This quantitative model “ counting up the numbers of po-
litical institutions with a global reach “ usually leads to the conclusion
that a term like ˜global government™ is inappropriate. This conclusion, in
turn, has given a boost to two different, but related intellectual trends.
One of them emphasises the need for more ˜realism™. Despite all recent
talk of ˜globalisation™, it is argued, our world in reality is still in the grip
of territorial states, whose reliance upon the trimmings of ¬‚ags and
embassies are signs of substantive “ not just nominal “ independence.
˜Globalization is a process that cannot easily be applied to politics™, writes
Eric Hobsbawm. ˜We can have a globalised economy, we can aspire
to a globalised culture, we certainly have a globalised technology and
a single global science, but politically speaking, we have a world that
remains in reality pluralist and divided into territorial states.™ He con-
cludes: ˜The reality is that there are no global political institutions.™9
Other ˜realists™ dig in their heels more deeply. They insist that at the
heart of the international system is the institution that Thomas Hobbes
famously called the ˜mortall God™, the armed lawmaking territorial state
that is capable of unleashing violence upon both its own subjects and
its neighbours. These states are functionally similar and interact in an
anarchic environment. They are constrained only by their interaction
with other states; otherwise, they act in their own self-interest, even if
this entails the development of two-faced comity, transgovernmental co-
operation and other forms of ˜international society™.10 At a minimum,

8 See Joseph S. Nye, Jr., ˜Globalization™s Democratic De¬cit™, Foreign Affairs, 80:4 (July“
August 2001), p. 3.
9 Eric Hobsbawm, On the Edge of the New Century (New York, 2001), p. 43.
10 Another species of etatisme relies upon the concept of a society of states to emphasise
that so-called realism is in fact not realistic enough. The world is indeed clothed in a
system of states, but these states together fashion rules and regulations “ international
laws, diplomatic conventions, customs and immigration procedures, even rules of war “
that have the effect of protecting and nurturing the states system itself. This system is
certainly prone to changes that stem from either persuasion, or threats, or the actual
use of armed force; yet it is not a system of anarchy, in which the strong out-muscle the
weak and each helps themselves for the sake of themselves. Even the weaker members of
the system can bolster their security by taking advantage of international norms, rules
96 Global Civil Society?

states ˜seek their own preservation and, at a maximum, drive for universal
In a strange and round-about way, the second intellectual trend “ let
us call it the global governance school “ agrees with this conclusion.
But rather than being preoccupied exclusively with the unit of analysis
called territorial states, it favours efforts to conceptualise the hotch-
potch of international institutions as examples of ˜governance without
government™.12 This school issues a direct challenge to the whole theory
of global civil society. It claims that political life in the world is much
more complex and messier than state-centric ˜realist™ observers make
out. Nothing like a global political system or a global civil society exists,
it is observed. Instead there is ˜a multiplicity of governance systems or in-
stitutional arrangements aimed at solving collective-action problems™.13
The choice of the loosely formulated, rather vague term ˜governance™
is deliberate. It refers to any collective process of making and enforc-
ing rules among interdependent actors. ˜Governance™ does not utilise
formal organisations that we normally associate with government. It is
suggested that the so-called system of ˜global governance™ does not really
deserve the name ˜system™. Our ˜disaggregated™ world of governance
is better described (and in future would best function) as ˜networked
minimalism™,14 non-hierarchical arrays of governmental units, private
¬rms and NGOs focused upon speci¬c policy problems. It comprises
a clutter of overlapping, sometimes con¬‚icting institutions, ad hoc agen-
cies and programmes, like UNICEF (United Nations Children™s Fund)

and institutions. The world is governed by territorial states, but these states ˜conceive
themselves to be bound by a common set of rules in their relations with one another, and
share in the working of common institutions™ (see Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A
Study of Order in World Politics, New York, 1977, p. 13). A version of the same argument
is presented by Anne-Marie Slaughter, ˜The Real New World Order™, Foreign Affairs,
75:6 (September“October 1997), pp. 183“97.
11 Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Relations (Reading, MA, 1979), p. 118.
12 James N. Rosenau and Ernst-Otto Czempiel (eds.), Governance Without Government:
Order and Change in World Politics (Cambridge and New York, 1992); see also Joseph S.
Nye and John D. Donahue (eds.), Governance in a Globalizing World (Washington, 2000)
and Danilo Zolo, Cosmopolis: Prospects for World Government (Cambridge, 1997).
13 Oran R. Young, International Governance. Protecting the Environment in a Stateless Society
(Ithaca and London, 1994), p. 17. It is worth noting that Young™s attachment to the
theory of governance is underpinned by a not-so-secret normative bias against govern-
ment. He writes: ˜the maintenance and operation of any government or public agency
is costly, both in purely material terms (for example, the revenues required to run gov-
ernment agencies) and in terms of more intangible values (for example, the restrictions
on individual liberties imposed by governments™ (Young, 1994, p. 16).
14 Nye and Donahue (eds.), Governance in a Globalizing World, p. 14. Note their deep-
seated, residual ˜realism™: ˜the political world is organized largely around a system of
unequal states™ (p. 33). They draw from this observation the normative conclusion that
˜the state will remain the basic institution of governance well into the century™ (p. 36).
Cosmocracy 97

as well as intergovernmental structures with sectoral responsibilities, like
the World Trade Organisation and the OECD, and the International
Court of Justice (ICJ) and other global institutions seeking to enforce the
rule of law. The hotch-potch system of governance, it is said, also includes
global accords, treaties and conventions, such as the Montreal Protocol
covering ozone levels; policy summits and meetings like the Davos World
Economic Forum; and new forms of public deliberation and con¬‚ict res-
olution, like truth commissions, that have a global impact.

Summarising the dynamics of these various interacting and overlapping
structures is admittedly not easy, but for various strong reasons that will
become clear it can and must be done. Its necessary precondition is a
bold leap of political imagination. Some groups within global civil soci-
ety have spotted this. Transparency International™s image of good global
government as like a Greek temple “ with foundations built from publicly
shared values, pillars comprising separate branches of government and a
roof structure that supports the world-wide rule of law and a sustainable,
high-quality way of life “ points in this direction.15 A new theory of the
emerging world polity is indeed urgently needed. And so a principal thesis
of this book: our world is today coming under the in¬‚uence of a new form
of governmental power that can be called a cosmocracy. The neologism
(from kosmos, world, order, universal place or space; and krat¯ , to rule
or to grasp) is used here as an idealtyp. It describes in simpli¬ed form a
type of institutionalised power that de¬es all previous accounts of differ-
ent governmental forms “ beginning with Aristotle™s attempt to develop
a typology of states and continuing today in various efforts to distinguish
among ˜Westphalian™, ˜post-modern™ and ˜post-colonial™ states (George
Sørenson) or ˜modern™, ˜post-modern™ and ˜pre-modern™ states (Robert
Cooper). Although cosmocracy was not conceived as part of a grand
design “ it is much more a combined product of will, luck, accident and
unintended effects “ and although it has old roots, over time it has come to
display a certain coherence and distinctiveness. Understood as an emerg-
ing system of political power, cosmocracy is without precedent. It de¬es
all previous typologies because it is a form of government sui generis, with
the following features.
Cosmocracy is the ¬rst-ever world polity. Despite the fact that it does
not appear as such on maps of the world, cosmocracy is a system of

15 Interview with Miklos Marschall, Executive Director of the Hungarian chapter of Trans-
parency International (Berlin, 3 June 2002); and www.transparency.org.
98 Global Civil Society?

world-wide webs of interdependence “ of actions and reactions at a dis-
tance, a complex m´ lange of networks of legal, governmental, police and
military interdependence at world-wide distances. These chains of inter-
dependence are oiled by high-speed, space-shrinking ¬‚ows of commu-
nication that have a striking effect: they force those who wield power
within the structures of cosmocracy to become more or less aware of its
here“there dialectics. The power structures of cosmocracy are constantly
shaped by so-called ˜butter¬‚y effects™, whereby single events, transac-
tions or decisions somewhere within the system can and do touch off a
string of (perceived) consequences elsewhere in the system. Those who
wield power know not only that ˜joined-up government™ is becoming
commonplace “ that governmental institutions of various function, size
and geographic location, despite their many differences, are caught up in
thickening, fast-evolving webs of bilateral, multilateral and supranational
relations.16 They also know that ˜splendid isolation™ (Adam Watson) is
impossible, that their decisions are potentially or actually unrestricted in
scope and effect “ that what they say and do (or do not say or do) impinges
upon the lives of others elsewhere on the face of the earth. Both wilful
and unintended political intervention in the affairs of others is a chronic
feature of cosmocracy, as is meddling™s opposite: regrets of abstentions
and missed opportunities, even expressions of shame and public apolo-
gies (like that of President Clinton™s to the survivors of the 1994 Rwandan
genocide) for not having intervened politically in others™ affairs.
Cosmocracy stands on the spectrum between the so-called
˜Westphalian™ model of competing sovereign states and a single, uni-
tary system of world government. It functions as something more and
other than an international community of otherwise sovereign govern-
ments. It is not understandable in terms of the nineteenth-century idea
of balance-of- power politics. It is also wrong to understand it as a two-
tiered, proto-federal polity that has been formed by the gradual ˜pooling™
of the powers of territorial states under pressure from arbitrage pressures
and cross-border spillovers.17 Cosmocracy is much messier, a far more
complex type of polity. It is better understood as a salmagundi of multi-
plying, highly mobile and intersecting lines of governmental powers. It is a
conglomeration of interlocking and overlapping sub-state, state and suprastate
institutions and multi-dimensional processes that interact, and have political
and social effects, on a global scale.

16 See Slaughter, ˜The Real New World Order™, pp. 184“6.
17 Examples of this commonplace way of thinking include the introduction by Daniele
Archibugi and David Held to Cosmopolitan Democracy (Oxford, 1994), and the preface
by Henry J. Aaron et al., ˜The Management of International Convergence™, in Miles
Kahler, International Institutions and the Political Economy of Integration (Washington,
DC, 1995), pp. xxi“ii.
Cosmocracy 99

Cosmocracy (1)

Figure 3.1

Viewed vertically, cosmocracy resembles a series of unevenly-shaped,
tree trunk-like concentric circles (see ¬gure 3.1). Its inner core (A)
includes the political, legal and military structures governing the peoples
of North America, Japan, South Korea, the Council of Europe countries,
and Australasia. Here the webs of governmental interdependence are the
longest and thickest and most dynamic; the density of ef¬cient telecom-
munications is heaviest, and land and sea barriers to the movement of
people, goods, decisions and information are consequently least meaning-
ful. In the era of cosmocracy, the ability to move information, things and
people at high speed “ a specialty of the inner core “ are decisive sources
of power. That is a key reason why, within this inner core of cosmocracy,
governmental structures are the most interdependent. Mutual recogni-
tion, in the form of exchanges of information and consultations designed
to constrain the formation of separate regulations and policies, is most
highly developed. So too are monitoring and surveillance mechanisms “
of the kind found in the IMF™s and the Group of Seven™s surveillance
of exchange rate and macroeconomic policies. Patterns of explicit har-
monisation, joint decisionmaking and continuous bargaining are also
This inner core of cosmocracy, out of which thick and long webs of
interdependence radiate, is embedded within, and functionally related
100 Global Civil Society?

to, three outer zones of political power. The second of the four zones
(B) is a zone of populous, large-scale, quasi-imperial territorial states like
China, India, Indonesia and the Russian Federation; except for India,
these are not power-sharing democracies (two of them are in fact post-
totalitarian regimes), but their governing structures, although jealous
guardians of their own territorial ˜sovereignty™, are in important ways
interlinked, both with one another, and with other zones and struc-
tures of the cosmocracy, in the form of push-and-pull, pressure-reverse
pressure, more or less con¬‚ictual relationships. Examples of this inter-
dependence readily spring to mind: Russia, the world™s second largest
arms peddler and an observer-member of NATO, has its most developed
supplier“buyer relationships with India, China and Iran; the Shanghai
Co-Operation Organisation, a body that aims to monitor Islamic
groups and movements, includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan,
Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan; the ongoing, behind-the-scenes consulta-
tions and bargaining among the ˜big powers™ at the UN Security Council;
and the fact that the major global organ, the WTO, with the recent admis-
sion of China, now encompasses nearly all parts of the two inner zones
of the cosmocracy.
Moving further away from its core, a third zone (C) within the cosmoc-
racy is encountered: an agglomeration of interrelated, territorially bound
units. Some of them (like Brazil) are potentially powerful actors on
the global stage, but most of them “ Nigeria, Bahrein, the Philippines,
Thailand “ are less powerful small states, or proto-states. Although some
of these governments are beginning to cluster, in the form of regional
bodies like ASEAN and CARICOM and within recent agreements like
the Free Trade of the Americas, it is generally true that within this peri-
pheral zone the webs of governmental interdependence are thinnest and
most frayed. A few of them, like Zimbabwe and Pakistan, are failing states
that totter on the extreme outer margins of the cosmocracy, where world-
wide webs of governing institutions give way to no-go areas in which
cosmocratic power is unwelcome. Feelings are often mutual. Voices from
within the cosmocracy often denounce these no-go areas as a danger
to world order, thereby con¬rming the old rule that successful regime-
building requires identi¬cation and de¬nition of a threat. These outer
fringes of the cosmocracy tend to live up to the stereotype. They include
regimes that actively refuse what they call ˜Western imperialism™ or ˜neo-
colonialism™, and are hyper-jealous of their territorial integrity. Despite
some important connections with the rest of the world “ in matters of
drugs and guns, for instance “ their authorities avowedly turn their backs
on the whole rotten process of globalisation. Sometimes they are openly
hostile to cosmocracy, like the governments of Burma and North Korea.
Cosmocracy 101

Cosmocracy (2)

Figure 3.2

This outer zone, beyond the bounds of cosmocracy, also includes the
landscapes of war (Juan Goytisolo): blood-soaked, scorched-earth, land-
mined, ruined and rubbled territories, like Chechenya, Sierra Leone,
southern Sudan and the ill-named Democratic Republic of Congo, where
peaceful and effective structures of government hardly exist.
When viewed horizontally, the distinctiveness of the system of cosmoc-
racy is not fully apparent. Its peculiar features become much clearer when
viewed in pro¬le, from a horizontal perspective (see ¬gure 3.2). Cosmoc-
racy becomes understandable as a modularised system of government in
which decisionmaking power, especially in its core, is distributed among
three different “ but linked “ forms of governmental spaces. For the sake of
convenience, these can be described as micro-government, meso-government
and macro-government.
The ¬rst-mentioned term, micro-government, refers to sub-territorial
state institutions, like local and regional governing institutions, whose de-
cisionmaking powers, either on an ad hoc or more permanent basis, have
felt effects elsewhere in some or other corner of the globe. The strength-
ening tendency of local courts to examine and prosecute symbolically
˜foreign™ acts of wrongdoing is an example. Cosmocracy also comprises
meso-governments, whose immediate constituents number anything from a
few to many hundreds of millions. Meso-governments include territorially
de¬ned states and actual or proto-regional institutions, like the European
Union, CARICOM and the ASEAN pact. These too are interlinked and
have effects at a distance, an enduring symbol of which was the 1995
ruling of the South African Supreme Court “ which cross-referred to
102 Global Civil Society?

court decisions in Hungary, Tanzania, Canada, India, Germany and the
European Court of Human Rights “ that the death penalty was uncon-
stitutional. Then, ¬nally, cosmocracy is structured by macro-governments,
supranational institutions, whose power to make and enforce decisions is
directed at all or many of the peoples of the world. While macro-governing
bodies are often the product of bargaining and agreements among meso-
governments, experience shows that their global reach derives from their
strong tendency to develop their own ˜autonomous™ institutional logic.
They are not merely passive agents and footservants of territorial states.
They develop distinct organisational styles and ways of working; they de-
velop self-interests; and they can be creative, energetic catalysts of change.
More recent examples of macro-government include the 1999 OECD
Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Of¬cials in Inter-
national Business Transactions “ a convention that has been rati¬ed by
nearly thirty countries, including the world™s major exporters, and that
commits signatory countries to pass laws that criminalise the bribing of
of¬cials abroad18 “ and the International Criminal Tribunal for the
Former Yugoslavia, established in 1993 after a unanimous vote of the
UN Security Council.
Despite the geographic distance separating these differently sized and
territorially located governments, their institutions are more or less tightly
linked. The fashionable talk in international relations and elsewhere of
security communities, global governance, ˜spillover effects™, ˜arbitrage
pressures™, interdependence and the internationalisation of states is symp-
tomatic of this trend towards linkage. It is evident not only in the growth
of ˜joined-up™ local government under pressure from ˜spillover™ problems
and ˜arbitrage pressures™19 and in the globalisation of military power, but
also in matters as diverse as the harmonisation of immigration and extra-
dition laws, environmental protection and economic policy. Naturally, as
a new form of polity, cosmocracy is laced through with various modern
communications technologies, which have the combined effect of nur-
turing its operations by greatly reducing, sometimes nearly to zero, time
and space barriers.
Cosmocracy is a dynamic polity. It is a conglomeration of institutions
shaped by several structuring principles, whose resultant reminds its
subjects and observers alike, or at least gives them the impression, that

18 See Arnold Heidenheimer and Holger Moroff, ˜Controlling Business Payoffs to Foreign
Of¬cials: The 1998 OECD Anti-Bribery Convention™, in Arnold Heidenheimer and
Michael Johnston, Political Corruption: Concepts and Contexts (New Brunswick, NJ, 2001),
pp. 945“61.
19 See the various contributions to Robert J. Bennett (ed.), Local Government in the New
Europe (London and New York, 1993).
Cosmocracy 103

these institutions have one thing in common: their particular power to
shape and re-shape people™s lives has global effects. Sometimes this sense
is lost in immediacies, which is understandable considering that cosmoc-
racy is a polity of many sides in motion. Among the principal prob-
lems confronting a theory of cosmocracy is to choose appropriate similes
for picturing and interpreting its multi-structured dynamics. Consider
several possibilities. Cosmocracy may for instance be described as a
polymerous form of rule. Chemists are familiar with compounds whose
molecular structure is formed out of a large number and variety of lower-
order compounds. Analogously, cosmocracy has no single organising
principle, and for that reason it de¬es comparison with the standard
treatments of different regime types that have associated aristocracy with
virtue, oligarchy with wealth, tyranny with lawlessness, despotism with
fear. For that reason of hybridity “ to switch to a simile from genetics “
cosmocracy is a dynamic polity comprising ˜recombinant™ structures,
which are themselves products of a constantly changing, permanently
unfolding hybridisation of existing processes and decisions. The recom-
binant qualities of cosmocracy ensure that it is a polity on the move.
It produces, among subjects and observers alike, a persistent sense of
˜newness™ “ a sense that it is a moving target that produces unforeseen
consequences. Finally “ to switch to architectural analogies drawn from
research on European integration processes “ cosmocracy is sometimes
seen as a polity shaped by ˜multi-level governance™.20 Within its struc-
tures, power is not concentrated in any simple hierarchical way; it is
rather distributed and dispersed across the interlocking micro-, meso-
and macro-structures, and among the actors who operate within these
respective domains. These different ˜levels™ are not interrelated in
a simple zero-sum fashion. Micro-structures, like local governments
and courts, can and do thrive along with the ¬‚ourishing of macro-
level institutions; and within the system of cosmocracy, territorial
states and other meso-level institutions, far from either withering away
or stubbornly retaining their precious ˜sovereign™ powers, ¬nd them-
selves melded into a multi-level polity that is highly differentiated and

20 Some of the best literature on this subject includes Edgar Grande, ˜Multi-Level Gov-
ernance: Institutionelle Besonderheiten und Funktionsbedingungen des europ¨ ischen
Mehrebenensystem™, in Edgar Grande and Markus Jachtenfuchs (eds.), Wie prob-
leml¨ sungsf¨ hig ist die EU? Regieren im europ¨ ischen Mehrebenensystem (Baden-Baden,
o a a
2000), pp. 11“31; Beate Kohler-Koch and Rainer Eising (eds.), The Evolution and Trans-
formation of European Governance in the European Union (London, 1999); Gary Marks,
Liesbet Hooghe and Kermit Blank, ˜European Integration from the 1980s: State-Centric
v. Multi-Level Governance™, Journal of Common Market Studies, 34:3 (1996), pp. 341“78;
and Fritz Scharpf, ˜Introduction: The Problem-Solving Capacity of Multi-Level
Governance™, Journal of European Public Policy, 4 (1997), pp. 520“38.
104 Global Civil Society?

linked both horizontally and vertically, from the micro- to the macro-

Cosmocracy is a conglomeration of political power cemented together
with laws and legal procedures. Especially since 1950, there has been a
de¬nite trend towards not only the legalisation of governmental structures,
but also the development of new forms of multilateral legal networks that
highlight the passing away of the ¬ction of the legal sovereignty of territo-
rial states.21 Talk of sovereignty and claims that it remains at the core of
the world™s political system certainly survive in the era of cosmocracy. Its
protagonists point out that since the founding of the United Nations in
1948, the number of of¬cially recognised states has nearly quadrupled, a
state-centric trend that is reinforced by international law.22 Appearances
are however deceptive, or at least paradoxical. For in policy areas like the
management of the commons (outer space, Antarctica and the oceans,
for instance), or global crime, weapons systems and environmental pro-
tection, three highly complex, often overlapping forms of multilateral
legal regulation are now becoming standard.23 Some multilateral agree-
ments, such as the Antarctic Treaty and the Montreal Protocol on the
protection of the earth™s ozone layer,24 contain provisions that are aimed
not only at the contracting parties, but at third parties as well. Other
arrangements, exempli¬ed by the International Tribunal for the Former
Yugoslavia, the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in

21 The literature is vast, but see especially Yves Dezalay et al., ˜Global Restructuring and the
Law: Studies of the Internationalization of Legal Fields and the Creation of Transnational
Arenas™, Case Western Law Review, 9:44 (1994), pp. 407“98; and Wilhelm Grewe, The
Epochs of International Law (Berlin, 2000).
22 The famous ruling of the Permanent Court of International Justice in the case of the
SS Lotus is often cited: ˜International law governs relations between independent States.
The rules of law binding upon States therefore emanate from their own free will as
expressed in conventions or by usages generally accepted as expressing principles of law
and established in order to regulate the relations between these coexisting independent
communities or with a view to the achievement of common aims.™ See The Case of
the SS Lotus, in Permanent Council of International Justice, Series A, Number 10, at 18.
More generally on the life and times of the idea(l) of sovereignty, see Hendrik Spruyt,
The Sovereign State and its Competitors (Princeton, 1994); Jens Bartelson, A Genealogy of
Sovereignty (Stockholm, 1995); and Stephen D. Krasner, Sovereignty: Organised Hypocrisy
(Princeton, 1999).
23 Dinah Shelton, ˜The Nature and Role of International Law in a Globalised World™, paper
presented to the conference, Globalisation and Its Possibilities (University of Sydney, 12“14
December 2001).
24 Antarctic Treaty (Washington), 402 United Nations Treaty Series, 71, 12 UST 794, TIAS
4780; Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, 26 International Legal
Materials, 1541 (1987).
Cosmocracy 105

Al-Adsani v. the United Kingdom, and the well-known Pinochet case, are
guided by the doctrine of jus cogens, according to which there are de¬nable
global norms “ a ˜common interest of humanity™ “ from which no dissent
or derogation by governmental or non-governmental parties is justi¬ed.25
Still other agreements, such as the UN General Assembly resolutions to
ban driftnet ¬shing and the 1979 Bonn Convention on the Conservation
of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, take the form of agreed measures,
declarations, programmes, ¬nal acts and other types of non-legally bind-
ing ˜soft law™, whose purpose is to induce others to change or reinforce
their behaviour.26
These polycentric forms of legal regulation have sprung up in a
higgledy-piggledy or sector-by-sector fashion, in consequence of which
the legal norms and jurisdictional boundaries of the cosmocracy are in a
constant state of de¬nition and re-de¬nition, con¬‚ict and compromise.
Their principal trajectories are nevertheless clear. Most obvious is that
the various units of cosmocracy, including territorial states, are caught up
in thickening webs of sub-national and intergovernmental and global law.
There is also growing world-wide awareness that the whole process of or-
dering, enabling, restraining and legitimating the cosmocracy by means
of law is taking on a life of its own and, for that reason, that it stands
in need of more ¬‚exible procedures and rules. Rigid, dif¬cult-to-amend
treaty law tends to fall into disfavour, or to be supplemented with new
legal strategies, such as interim applications, ¬‚exible amendment pro-
cedures and the commitment of some courts to the principle that legal
obligations can and should be revised when norms change. There are calls
as well for tighter synchronisation of currently con¬‚icting laws and juris-
dictions, perhaps even their ˜harmonisation™ (through initiatives like the
Organization of the Supreme Courts of the Americas, rati¬ed in 1996) by
applying the principle of a hierarchy of global norms. This dynamism in
the ¬eld of law, and the ¬rst efforts to coordinate it, help to explain why
the nets of legal regulation are now beginning to be cast over various parts
of global civil society, so that matters once considered ˜private™ or subject
to territorial state prerogatives “ from the migration patterns of birds,
genocidal crimes and violence against women to corporate mergers and
acquisitions and corruption in the world™s diamond industry “ are now
subject to legal regulation.

25 See Le ius cogens international: sa gen`se, sa nature, ses functions, in Collected Courses of the
Hague Academy of International Law, 17, III (The Hague 1982).
26 Christine Chinkin, ˜Normative Development in the International Legal System™, in
Dinah Shelton (ed.), Commitment and Compliance: The Role of Non-Binding Norms in
the International Legal System (Oxford, 2000); and Wolfgang H. Reinecke, Global Public
Policy: Governing Without Government (Washington, DC, 1998).
106 Global Civil Society?

A pertinent example of this trend towards the ˜legalisation™ of global
civil society is the regulation of the Internet. The healthy mix of self-
regulation and no regulation that once characterised the medium is now
withering away. So too is the presumption that the Internet abolishes both
geographical boundaries and territorially based laws. In fact, a regulatory
net is being cast over the Internet by three intersecting types of political in-
stitutions. Territorial states like South Korea have outlawed gambling web-
sites; in Britain, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act has granted
the police broad powers of access to e-mail and other online communi-
cations; and a French court has banned the Internet portal ¬rm Yahoo!
from providing French users with images of Nazi memorabilia otherwise
posted on its American sites. Meanwhile, supranational institutions are also
experimenting with their regulatory powers. A new EU law drawn from
the Brussels Convention entitles consumers to sue EU-based Internet
sites in their own countries, so long as it can be proved that the site was
targeted at their countries; the Hague Convention aims to enforce foreign
judgements in matters such as contractual disputes, libel and intellectual
property claims; and the Council of Europe has drafted the world™s ¬rst
global treaty on cybercrime, which aims to harmonise laws against hack-
ing, child pornography and Internet fraud. Finally, the complex pattern
of multiple jurisdictions is reinforced by moves by e-commerce ¬rms to
claw back regulatory powers through so-called mechanisms of alterna-
tive dispute resolution: in effect, they are pushing for a new market-based
system of private laws, which would enable companies to operate out-
side of the courts, within a minimum framework of ˜safe-harbour™ rules
guaranteeing privacy and consumer protection.27
This trend towards the ˜legalisation™ of global civil society is by no
means a zero-sum relationship in favour of governmental power. More
legal attention is certainly being paid to non-state actors, coupled with ex-
pectations that their behaviour will be subject to norms and procedures
previously applied to governments and their agents. But developments
like the World Court Project (a coalition effort to obtain an opinion
from the ICJ on the legality of nuclear weapons) and the UN-sponsored
Indigenous Forum (comprising representatives of member states and of
indigenous groups) point to a different conclusion: by being drawn into
governmental affairs, parts of global civil society are now regularly exer-
cising in¬‚uence on the institutions of cosmocracy itself. This rule of effect
and counter-effect certainly applies to the slow erosion of both the im-
munity of sovereign states from suit and the presumption that statutes do
not extend to the territory of other states. There are many tendencies

27 ˜The Internet and the Law™, The Economist (13 January 2001), pp. 25“7.
Cosmocracy 107

in this direction. INGOs are licensed by bodies like the Council of
Europe and the United Nations. Non-governmental groups participate in
election monitoring and as amici curiae in the proceedings of such bodies
as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the Inter-American Court of
Human Rights. War crimes cases are given global publicity, thanks to new
bodies like the Hague Tribunal; an international criminal court has been
agreed, and awaits the breath of life; and local courts, under pressure from
citizens™ groups, show ever greater willingness to prosecute symbolically
˜foreign™ acts of wrongdoing.28 The empowerment of global civil society
is also evident in the ¬elds of power of the turbocapitalist economy. While
criticisms of the ˜anarchy™ of ˜unregulated™ global markets remain justi-
¬ed, the domination of turbocapitalist ¬rms is now routinely subject to
contestation and resistance. Not only are they subject to the ˜top-down™
rulings of governmental institutions like the WTO, a free-standing body
with legal personality (the same politico-legal status as that, say, of the
United Nations) and self-executing dispute mechanisms that are binding
on all its members. The turbocapitalist economy is subject as well to var-
ious legal pressures initiated ˜from below™, including plaintiffs™ efforts in
the United States to use the Alien Tort Claims Act to hold turbocapital-
ist ¬rms liable for environmental damage and human rights violations in
far-away countries like Nigeria, India, Burma and South Africa.

Clumsy government
As a compound form of government wrapped in law, cosmocracy has a
de¬nite durability. Especially within its heartlands, there is a strong ten-
dency towards a stable and non-violent, if dynamic equilibrium. This sta-
bility is paradoxical, especially because, throughout the system, from the
macro- to the micro-domains, there is a heavy preponderance, and some-
times deliberate reliance upon, decisionmaking procedures that involve
˜muddling through™ and ˜clumsiness™. Cosmocracy might be described as
a dynamic system of clumsy institutions.29 Indeed, from either a strategic or
a normative standpoint “ the idealtyp of cosmocracy is used in this context
primarily for the purpose of descriptive interpretation “ much can be said
in its favour. Clumsy government has all sorts of desirable features “ like

28 From the Los Angeles Times (August 11, 2000, p. A11) comes a random example: the
order, applied during early August 2000 by a US District Court in Manhattan, requir-
ing Radovan Karadzi´ to pay $745 million to a group of 12 women who ¬led a civil
suit, accusing him of responsibility for killings, rapes, kidnappings, torture and other
29 Among the ¬rst usages of this term is Michael Schapiro, ˜Judicial Selection and the
Design of Clumsy Institutions™, Southern California Law Review, 61 (1988), pp. 1555“69.
108 Global Civil Society?

the power-sharing that comes with a plurality of institutions marked by
˜useful inef¬ciencies™ “ certainly when compared with the unworkable
normative ideal of designing institutions that are rigidly geometric in style
and strategy.30 There are certainly many policy areas in which clumsy gov-
erning structures enable civil society organisations and actors to practise
the arts of divide et impera from below, so ensuring positive-sum effects.
Working in the interstices of government, non-governmental bodies take
advantage of its resources by ¬nding ways of bending and manipulating
that system for the purposes of strengthening the hand of global civil
society itself.31
The processes through which this happens are highly complex. Many
different governmental forms function as catalysts of global civil society.
This consequently results in a wide continuum of different relations en-
joyed by non-governmental bodies with their governmental counterparts.
Hence, an important rule: that global civil society should not be thought
of as the natural enemy of political institutions. The vast mosaic of groups,
organisations and initiatives that comprise global civil society are vari-
ously related to governmental structures at the local, national, regional
and supranational levels. Some sectors of social activity, the so-called anti-
government organisations (AGOs), are openly hostile to the funding and
regulatory powers of state institutions. In certain contexts, this resistance
or cantankerousness of social organisations is important in loosening up
and humbling governmental structures. Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia
and KOR in Poland and similar bodies certainly had this effect during
the last years of the Soviet empire, especially on its western fringes. Else-
where, the gradual strengthening of NGOs, some of them directly linked
to global civil society, has had the effect of questioning arbitrary and/or
pompous exercises of governmental power “ as in Japan, a country in
which the old word for public (¯ yake, literally the house of the emperor)
and terms like okami (the government or the authorities, literally ˜those

30 The advantages of clumsy government and the need for constant institutional re-jigging
in efforts to cope with environmental damage and clean-up are helpfully discussed in M.
Verweij, Transboundary Environmental Problems and Cultural Theory: The Protection of the
Rhine and the Great Lakes (London, 2000); F. Hendriks, ˜Cars and Culture in Munich
and Berlin™, in D. J. Coyle and R. J. Ellis (eds.), Politics, Policy and Culture (Boulder, 1994);
and Michael Thompson, ˜Style and Scale: Two Sources of Institutional Inappropriate-
ness™, in M. Goldman (ed.), Privatizing Nature: Political Struggles for the Global Commons
(London, 1998), pp. 198“228. See also C. Engel and K. H. Keller (eds.), Understanding
the Impact of Global Networks on Local Social, Political and Cultural Values (Baden-Baden,
2000), and Michael Thompson et al., ˜Risk and Governance Part 2: Policy in a Complex
and Plurally Perceived World™, Government and Opposition, 33:3 (1998), pp. 139“66.
31 Robert Wapner, ˜The Normative Promise of Nonstate Actors: A Theoretical Account
of Global Civil Society™, in Robert Wapner and Lester Edwin J. Ruiz (eds.), Principled
World Politics. The Challenge of Normative International Relations (Lanham, MD), p. 271.
Cosmocracy 109

above™) and familiar proverbs like ˜the nail that sticks out gets hammered™
(Deru kugi wa utareru) once sat comfortably alongside popular maxims
such as ˜respect for authorities, contempt for the people™ (kanson minpi).32
In other sectors of global civil society, for instance those in which the
acronym NGO means rather (according to the South African joke) ˜next
government of¬cial™, relations between social organisations and political
power are openly collaborative. Civil society organisations either serve as
willing contractors for governments or bodies like the World Bank, or aim
at dissolving themselves into governmental structures.33 Still other NGOs
(so-called GRINGOs or GONGOs, like the International Air Transport
Association and the World Conservation Union) are the dependent cre-
ations of state authorities. In between these two extremes stand those
social actors (e.g. M´ decins Sans Fronti` res, Oxfam, Greenpeace) who
e e
slalom between self-reliance and legal and political dependency. They
form ad hoc partnerships with governments; lobby donor intergovern-
mental bodies like the World Bank to change their policies; and work with
other NGOs in rich and poor countries, zones of peace and war alike.
Public“private partnerships between sectors of global civil society and
governing institutions are strongly evident in one of the major supra-
national political developments of the twentieth century: the formation
of the United Nations. Its history is often told from above, from the
standpoint of the behaviour of governments and their diplomats. This
is unfortunate because, during its gestation period, civic organisations
took advantage of its arrival by playing a small but vital role in shaping its
future identity. In the spring of 1945, for instance, the Roosevelt adminis-
tration included some forty NGOs as ˜consultants™ within the American
delegation to the UN Conference on International Organisation.
Although the aim was to use these civil society groups to win public sup-
port for the UN Charter to be agreed in San Francisco, they were joined
by others “ an estimated 1,200 of them, from all around the world “ who
together went on to contribute to the drafting process itself. Meanwhile,
inside the newly established Human Rights Commission, a small group
of legal experts and diplomats led by Eleanor Roosevelt hammered out
the world™s ¬rst international bill of rights. As the major powers squab-
bled and concentrated on political methods of war prevention through
new territorial guarantees and collective security arrangements, the
declaration “ written in a language that could not be dismissed as simply

32 Masayuki Deguchi, ˜A Comparative View of Civil Society™, Washington“Japan Journal
(Spring 1999), pp. 11“20.
33 Judith Tendler, Turning Private Voluntary Organizations into Developmental Agencies: Ques-
tions for Evaluation, USAID Program Evaluation Discussion Paper, 12 (Washington, DC,
110 Global Civil Society?

˜Western™ “ won the necessary backing of religious and peace groups,
legal activists, and political ¬gures from smaller countries, all of whom
were convinced that the disregard of civil and political freedoms and
social justice had produced the barbarities of the Second World War.34
Considering that key powers, including the United States, were op-
posed to UN entanglements in the domestic affairs of states implied by
NGO activity, the power of the supposedly powerless civil society actors
was considerable. They were not merely an inspiration for a generation to
come. Their immediate in¬‚uence was evident in the inclusion of human
rights provisions in the Charter: article 55(c) con¬rms, for example, that
the UN will promote ˜universal respect for, and observance of, human
rights and fundamental freedoms for all™. Article 71 of the Charter af-
¬rms that the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) ˜may make
suitable arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organi-
zations which are concerned with matters within its competence™. While
such arrangements were subject to the approval of the member states and
intergovernmental organisations, the formal legitimation of civil society
involvement “ note the striking contrast with the League of Nations,
which lacked such a provision “ was to set the rules for the subsequent
growth of governmentally framed, cross-border civil initiatives. So article
71 served as the parent of the formation of the World Health Organisation
(WHO), whose constitution and conduct fostered the involvement
of civic organisations, and of UNESCO, under whose activist Director-
General Julian Huxley provision was made for the ˜consultation and
co-operation™ of INGOs and, in cases where they did not exist, time and
money were invested to nurture new NGOs. Soon after its formation,
UNESCO also convened a path-breaking conference on the protection of
nature, at which global NGOs like the International Committee for Bird
Preservation recommended that the problem of pesticides be tackled by
calling upon the United Nations to establish a joint commission of its
relevant agencies.
The catalytic effects of the United Nations during its earliest years
should not be exaggerated. It certainly recognised the existence and in-
formation and nuisance values of NGOs, but little positive recognition
was initially given to their potential role in structuring the post-war global
34 See Dorothy B. Robins, Experiment in Democracy: The Story of US Citizen Organizations
in Forging the Charter of the United Nations (New York, 1971), pp. 88“9, 102“6; Ruth
Russell, A History of the United Nations Charter (Washington, DC, 1958), pp. 594“5,
800“1; Peter Willetts, ˜Pressure Groups as Transnational Actors™, in Peter Willetts (ed.),
Pressure Groups in the Global System (London, 1982), p. 11; Rainer Lagoni, ˜Article 71™,
in Bruno Simma (ed.), The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary (New York and
London, 1994), p. 904; and Mary Ann Glendon, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt
and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (New York, 2001).
Cosmocracy 111

environment along the lines of a global civil society. The birth of the
United Nations was nevertheless a symbol of hope for a more civilised
world “ a world that lay beyond the textbook descriptions of territorial
state politics. In its early years, the United Nations was also a vital train-
ing ground for civil society organisations, many of which came to learn
that political/legal regulation is often a vital precondition of their survival
and effectiveness. The latter-day complexity within the patterns of regu-
lation is staggering. Many thousands of civil society organisations are now
of¬cially recognised by the United Nations, and by supranational govern-
ing bodies, like the Antarctica Treaty System.35 Political institutions and
agreements meanwhile play a vital role in fostering the growth of turbo-
capitalism, for instance the ˜Final Act™ of the Uruguay Round of trade
negotiations, a 1994 agreement that had the backing of 145 states and
that led to the establishment of both the WTO and the extension of the
principle of freer trade into such areas as copyrights, patents and services.
Governmental institutions also sometimes operate as important catalysts
of non-pro¬t activity within global civil society. This logic of catalysis
was famously evident in the proliferation of human rights groups like
Charter 77 after the 1975 signing of the Helsinki Accords, one of whose
˜baskets™ required signatories to guarantee the civil and political rights of
their citizens. Similar catalytic effects resulted from the much-publicised
1992 Global Forum and Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, and the
follow-up women™s and population conferences in Beijing and Cairo; and
the 1993 Vienna Conference on Human Rights, where 171 states reaf-
¬rmed their commitment to the principle of the ˜universal nature of the
rights and freedoms™ speci¬ed in the International Bill of Human Rights.

There are rare times, in response to major global crises, like that of 11
September 2001, when the whole system of cosmocracy “ resembling
what is called in physics the Bose“Einstein condensate “ is so chilled
down with concern that its different components momentarily sing to-
gether in unison.36 Under more normal conditions, however, the com-
plex, multi-layered, dynamic and open-ended totality called cosmocracy
35 Anne-Marie Clark et al., ˜The Sovereign Limits of Global Civil Society: A Comparison
of NGO Participation in UN World Conferences on the Environment, Human Rights,
and Women™, World Politics, 51:1 (October 1998), pp. 1“35; Roger A. Coate et al., ˜The
United Nations and Civil Society: Creative Partnerships for Sustainable Development™,
Alternatives, 21 (1996), pp. 93“122; and John Boli and G. M. Thomas (eds.), Constructing
World Culture: International Nongovernmental Organizations Since 1875 (Stanford, 1999).
36 Bose“Einstein condensates, so named and predicted to exist by Satyendra Nath Bose and
Albert Einstein some seventy years before their actual laboratory creation, are bundles
112 Global Civil Society?

displays several fault-lines. These zones of tension and slippage periodi-
cally produce shock-effects on the whole system, especially when they are
highlighted as such by collective actors and journalists operating through
communications media. Such instabilities strongly suggest that cosmoc-
racy™s description as a multi-level governance system or system of ˜trans-
governmentalism™ is inappropriate. Theorists of multi-level governance
and transgovernmentalism concede that complexity “ multiple actors,
variable patterns, unpredictability “ are among its leading qualities, yet
they tend to downplay or neglect the idea that a system of multi-level
governance or transgovernmentalism can suffer destabilising contradic-
tions. This idea is profoundly relevant for any examination of cosmocracy,
which is currently marked by patterns of danger and deep incoherence
that highlight the ways in which it is an inadequate form of government.
The governing institutions of cosmocracy (as we have seen in the case
of the United Nations) certainly have positive enabling effects, upon
global civil society. But cosmocracy also chronically lets global civil so-
ciety down. It does not bring peace and harmony and good government
to the world, let alone usher in calm order. Its hotch-potch of rules and
institutions produce negative “ disabling and destabilising “ effects.
What are these contradictions or structural problems of cosmocracy?
What are their symptoms? To what extent do they have paralysing ef-
fects on the whole system? To answer these questions, we need to look
carefully at the principal overlapping, but identi¬ably different, structural
problems lodged within the structures of cosmocracy. A sample of four “
they are among the most pertinent “ are outlined below.

Political entropy
In affairs of government, as in physics, confusion and ineffectiveness are
the offspring of entropy, the condition of inertness and self-degradation
that results from formlessness. Whatever advantages bless its clumsy
structures, the system of cosmocracy displays de¬nite signs of entropy. In
this sense it poses challenges that are the opposite of those confronted dur-
ing recent centuries by the in¬‚uential separation of powers doctrine. That
doctrine, famously associated with Bolingbroke and Montesquieu, pro-
posed solutions to the overconcentration of power that typically plagued
the absolutist states of early modern Europe. Bolingbroke remarked: ˜The
love of power is natural; it is insatiable; almost constantly whetted; and
never cloyed by possession.™37 Montesquieu, marked by his training as a
of atoms that sing in unison, in that they lose their individual identities and join together
in a single energy state after being cooled down to just a few billionths of a degree above
absolute zero.
37 Henry St John Bolingbroke, in Craftsman, 13 June 1730.
Cosmocracy 113

magistrate of a provincial parlement, added the prescription that power
should be used to tame power.38
This kind of language may in future come to be strikingly relevant for
the system of cosmocracy, but for the moment, and for the foreseeable
future, this system is hampered by the underconcentration of powers. The
serious lack of driving seats and steering mechanisms, and the ineffective-
ness of many that currently do exist “ note that no unfavourable compari-
son with an imaginary perfect form of state is here being secretly made “ is
one of cosmocracy™s striking weaknesses. Cosmocracy has no proper
functioning parliament or network of parliaments or regular forum “ like
a Civil Society Forum “ through which the various and con¬‚icting
demands from global civil society could be peacefully channelled. There
exists no executive power, for instance an elected, ¬xed-term and
impeachable president of the world. There are no governing agencies ca-
pable of effectively negotiating and enforcing controls on either the global
laundering of dirty money, or corporate accounting fraud, or hot money
¬‚ows. The United Nations Security Council, once the hope of the world,
is comprised of ¬ve permanent members who are together responsible
for nearly nine-tenths of the world™s arms exports. There are no political
parties that campaign globally, on a regular basis, trying to gather sup-
port for certain policies among business and non-business NGOs and
receptive governments.39 There are still no well-publicised, global opin-
ion polls. There is no global army or police force that could act decisively
to bring about just order and maintain peace within and across the terri-
torial boundaries of states and regions. There is not yet a global criminal
justice system “ with sharp teeth.40 And there are still no global govern-
mental agencies with a bark loud enough to prevent the destruction by
repressive governments of whole ways of life “ as in the Tibetan capital
Lhasa, which is slowly being destroyed by an iron ring of Chinese mil-
itary compounds, the demolition of historic buildings, both secular and
Buddhist, and Beijing-backed occupation by the kind of Han Chinese
who disdainfully walk counter-clockwise along Lhasa™s sacred ways.

38 Montesquieu, De l™esprit des lois (1748), ed. Victor Goldschmidt (Paris, 1979), book XI,
chapter 4 [˜Pour qu™on ne puisse abuser du pouvoir, il faut que, par la disposition des
choses, le pouvoir arrˆ te le pouvoir™].
39 W. Kreml and Charles W. Kegley, Jr., ˜A Global Political Party: The Next Step™, Alterna-
tives, 21 (1996), pp. 123“34; Richard Falk and Andrew Strauss, ˜Bridging the Glob-
alization Gap: Toward Global Parliament™, www.globalpolicy.org/ngos/role/globdem/
40 The ¬‚ourishing of a global (war) crime industry highlights the paucity of institutions
designed to monitor, police and convict its criminals. Here the work of the great (but
mainly forgotten) Dutch jurist Cornelis van Vollenhoven is relevant. He showed how
the historical development of modern forms of supranational law had deep roots in the
medieval world; how, after about 1500, the break-up of the medieval Christian world and
114 Global Civil Society?

Where global steering mechanisms do exist within the cosmocracy, they
are often hampered by four related impediments “ which highlight their
serious need of overhaul. First, they are often marked by impotence
caused by funding shortages, understaf¬ng, jurisdictional disputes, ineffective
sanctions and consequent lack of reputation. A case in point is the ILO, which
sets important employment standards but often lacks the sharp teeth
required to enforce them. Another example is the main global agency
for monitoring and preventing world-wide money laundering, the Paris-
based Financial Action Task Force (FATF).41 Set up by the Group of
Seven governments in 1989, mainly to counter money laundering by
global drug cartels, it operated (in 2001) with a staff of only ¬ve and a
budget of only FFr 5.8 million (US$810,000). FATF provides no well-
publicised white lists or black lists that rank leading global bodies for
the least or greatest dirty money laundering. It has no effective carrots
or sticks, and in practice it defers to the weak and corrupting principle
of ˜consolidated supervision™, according to which each home country
regulator of a turbocapitalist ¬nancial institution is solely responsible for
exercising oversight on its global operations, despite its obvious strategic
importance for turbocapitalism and cosmocracy, and despite its formal
backing by the European Commission, the Gulf Co-Operation Council,
and twenty-nine states (but not including important countries like Russia,
Indonesia and Egypt).
Political entropy also results from bureaucratic sclerosis caused by demar-
cation disputes and the opacity that results from the tangled, rhizomatous
(or rootstalk-like) structures of decisionmaking. Parts of the adminis-
trative organisation of the United Nations have a wide reputation for
well-intentioned self-paralysis and a seasoned culture of doing nothing;
wags have understandably de¬ned the United Nations as an organisation
that makes mission possible impossible. The documented examples

the rise of territorial states with unrestricted sovereignty as their ideal gave prominence
to talk of the ius belli; and how, after three centuries, the re-birth of what Jeremy Bentham
¬rst called ˜international law™ led ¬rst to talk of a ius belli ac pacis, then to talk of a ius
pacis ac belli. Van Vollenhoven was adamant that a subsequent phase “ an age of ius
pacis “ was thinkable, but he was equally clear that it would be possible only if a global
police force could be invented and deployed. He favoured keeping separate the right
of military intervention from legal judgements and punishments of the crimes of the
violent. What are peoples of the world to do in the event of an eruption of ¬ghting? No
need for a long dispute to ¬nd out who is right, or who is ready to give due assistance
to those who are in need of protection, he thought. That should come at a later stage,
van Vollenhoven argued. The ¬rst priority is to issue the threatening warning of the
police order: stop ¬ghting. If this order is not obeyed, the police itself must intervene,
to separate the opponents, to put an end to the ¬ghting of its own accord. Then comes
the trial and punishment of the guilty, the attempted righting of wrongs, the provision
of compensation for suffered losses.
41 Financial Times (London), 3 October 2001.
Cosmocracy 115

readily spring to mind, including the UN freeze while 800,000 Tutsis
and Hutu moderates were hacked to death in Rwanda, and the trans-
formation of the United Nations into the administrator of the Serbian
siege of Sarajevo. The slow-witted and negligent UN reactions during
and after the brave efforts of the East Timorese to shield themselves
against the genocidal attacks of the Indonesian army following the 1999
independence referendum counts as another “ sad and drawn-out “
example: the absence of a military plan for protecting the Timorese, de-
spite foreknowledge of Indonesian army intentions to rip the local social
fabric to shreds; frequent and often bumbling disregard for the physical
safety of the UN™s own staff; the senior staff habit of rejecting or ignoring
bad news; examples of staff arrogance at all levels, laced with symptoms
of laziness and incompetence; departmental run-arounds and pass-the-
buck bureaucracy; insensitivity to environmental hazards; contracts for
supplies and materials (like unreliable TATA vehicles) arranged through
nepotism, without regard for local needs or conditions; and, at one point,
instructions to starving villagers that they would be denied emergency
food unless they agreed to end a rat plague “ presumably, either by pur-
chasing poison with non-existent cash, or by using their bare hands in the
Other examples of UN entropy are downright farcical, as in the dif¬cult
business of setting up the International Criminal Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia (ICTY). The establishment of the world™s ¬rst-ever global war
crimes tribunal (in May 1993) was delayed for ¬fteen months because of
wrangling within the UN Security Council. When the Chief Prosecutor
was eventually appointed, he had to pay out of his own pocket his ¬rst
airfare to New York and the Hague. He was also soon informed that there
was no budget for the tribunal, and that it would have to be approved by
the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions
(ACABQ), who insisted that at least one indictment would have to be
issued before funding could be approved. That forced on the ¬‚edgling
tribunal a safe, but symbolically low-level indictment, Dragan Nicoli´ . c
It also necessitated many irritating and time-consuming meetings about
organisational “ budgetary and evidential “ matters with UN of¬cials, and
with Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali, who expressed deep suspicions
of the original decision of the Security Council to establish the Of¬ce
of the Chief Prosecutor as an independent unit. Mechanisms were not
put in place to arrest Radovan Karadzi´ and General Ratko Mladi´ , and
c c
42 See Michael Barnett, Eyewitness to a Genocide. The United Nations and Rwanda (Ithaca,
2002); correspondence with an anonymous UNTAET of¬cer formerly stationed in East
Timor (Sydney, 10 and 25 February 2002); and Michael Ignatieff, The Warrior™s Honor.
Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience (London, 1998), pp. 102“8.
116 Global Civil Society?

indeed Admiral Leighton Smith, then commander of the United Nations
Implementing Force (IFOR), adamantly opposed despatching troops to
catch indicted war criminals. Even in the nasty business of suspected
or con¬rmed mass graves, UN forces refused to get involved in search
or night-watch duties; at one point, the tribunal engaged the services of
a willing Norwegian NGO and their sniffer dogs to do that necessary

Unaccountability problems
Quite a few of the institutions that comprise the system of cosmocracy are
publicly unaccountable. Cosmocracy is not quite a species of absolutism,
since its core contains rich networks of democratic procedures designed to
expose and oppose hubris. Yet when considered overall, as an integrated
polity, cosmocracy de¬nitely has an af¬nity with authoritarian, rather
than representative-democratic procedures. It is full of what the English
call ˜rotten boroughs™, whose political processes are invisible to many
millions of eyes.
The ingredients of representative democracy are in short supply, and
often entirely absent. Time-limited power granted on the basis of open
and equal electoral competitions, effective complaints and evaluation
procedures, the obligation of power-wielders to solicit different, openly
expressed opinions and to explain and justify their actions publicly to
stakeholders (wherever they are on the face of the earth), and to re-
sign in cases of gross mismanagement or misconduct “ these vital rules,
well outlined in initiatives like the Global Accountability Project and the
Campaign for a More Democratic United Nations (CAMDUN),44 are
often ¬‚outed by the structures of cosmocracy, many of which are ob-
scure and secretive. Its organisations tend to be dominated by cliques
and clubs and networks of professionals whose power to decide the shape
of the world is often wholly unresponsive to outsiders™ perceptions and
demands. Whether in Beijing or Berlin, those who wield power within
these structures “ like all exercises of power “ tend to feed upon the two
standard justi¬cations for concealing its motives and moves. They say
that it is foolhardy to reveal one™s hand to one™s opponents and enemies
(let us call this the Rumsfeld Rule: ˜In dif¬cult situations, governments
do not discuss pressing matters™45 ). They repeat as well some version

43 Richard Goldstone, ˜Crimes Against Humanity: Forgetting the Victims™, The Ernest
Jones Lecture (London), 25 September 2001; and his For Humanity: Re¬‚ections of a War
Crimes Investigator (New Haven and London, 2000), esp. chapters 4 and 5.
44 www.charter 99. org/accountability; www.oneworld.org/camdun.
45 From a press conference featuring Donald Rumsfeld, United States Defense Secretary,
CNN (7 October 2001).
Cosmocracy 117

of Plato™s Rule that ef¬cacious government requires commoners to keep
their snouts out of the troughs of politics. They say that affairs of gov-
ernment are too complex and dif¬cult to explain to publics, who would
not in any case understand what is at stake. Sometimes these two alibis
converge, as when the institutions of cosmocracy deliberately shield them-
selves from public scrutiny because their aim is openly to favour a certain
power group within the global civil society, using such techniques as
secrecy, spin and legal coercion.
There are unfortunately plenty of examples where, for instance, cosmo-
cratic institutions resemble management boards for turbocapitalism.
The tribunals set up under NAFTA “ sarcastically condemned by the
Canadian trade lawyer Steven Shrybman as a ˜revolutionary development
in international law™ “ enable corporations to veto governmental restric-
tions upon corporate power by bringing a case before a tribunal that op-
erates in camera. If a company considers that its commercial rights have
been violated, and if the tribunal ¬nds in favour of the company and its
complaint, then a government is legally obliged to make a pay-out to the
corporation.46 Such authoritarian arrangements give a bad name to global
governance. They fuel the suspicion that turbocapitalist ¬rms, and the
global economy in general, have been unfairly granted unlimited grazing
rights that threaten the authority of democratically elected governments.
The power of property feels unchecked; it seems that the global economy
has become master to none, that hard-won citizens™ rights at home are
being gobbled up by unchecked world-wide ˜market forces™. This con-
clusion easily fuels fatalism: as John Ralston Saul has pointed out, the
ad hoc alliance between turbocapitalism and the enabling and compliant
power of cosmocratic institutions potentially destroys the one institution
that citizens can identify with as their own: representative government.47
A sense spreads that governments are powerless in the face of mysterious
forces operating ˜out there™, in the buccaneering, nineteenth-century-
style global economy.
Within the system of cosmocracy, these familiar alibis of unaccountable
power are regularly supplemented by two less familiar dynamics. One of
them is related to the issue of complexity: the fragmentation of political
authority, combined with a technocratic mind-set among of¬cials and
46 The suit brought by the Canadian company Methanex before a NAFTA tribunal during
2001 is an example. Methanex produces a gasoline additive that accidentally leeched
into the municipal water supply of the city of Santa Monica. Most of its wells had to
be shut down. The state of California reacted by imposing a ban on the additive, which
prompted Methanex in turn to take its case to NAFTA, claiming almost a billion dollars™
compensation from the US government. The case is detailed in Linda McQuaig, All You
Can Eat: Greed, Lust and the Triumph of the New Capitalism (Toronto, 2001).
47 John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization (Concord, 1995).
118 Global Civil Society?

a lack of public-friendly, well-trained administrative staff, ensures that
many parts of the cosmocracy are closed off from either mutual or public
scrutiny of any kind. They come to feel like an impenetrable jungle of
acronyms. Matters are worsened by the tyranny of distance: despite the
noblest of public-spirited motives, decisionmakers tend to lose track of
their decisions, which are whizzed around in a cyclotron of global struc-
tures and events, with many different and unpredictable effects. Govern-
ing at a distance tends to ˜disjoin remorse from power™ (Shakespeare).
Responsibility is overpowered. It becomes just a word.

A dominant power
The body politic of cosmocracy contains a destabilising anti-body: a
dominant power, the United States. Like all previous modern dominant
powers “ from Habsburg Spain to the Pax Britannica of the nineteenth
century “ this one seeks mastery over the whole system. Yet the United
States differs from these previous dominant powers in two fundamental
ways. It is the ¬rst such power in human history that ¬nds itself in a
position, partly thanks to a measure of historical luck, of being in the
position to lay claim to world hegemony. It is also unusual because it is
a dominant power equipped with a revolutionary world-view: a vision of
itself, and the whole world, as a unique constitutional order based upon
the republican, federal, democratic principles ¬rst crafted in the 1776
revolution. In its embrace of the Philadelphia model, America differs,
say, from the House of Habsburg, which was a dynastic confederation
of states (stretching from Portugal and the Netherlands to Naples and
Milan through to Bohemia and Hungary) that gathered at the altar of
international Catholicism. The new dominant power also differs from
nineteenth-century Britain, the driving force behind the previous phase of
globalisation. Even at the height of its power, those who governed Britain
sensed the folly of risking everything, including its ¬‚eet, to conquer the
world. Where they perceived that they could not intervene successfully,
in continental Europe or South America, they refrained from doing so.48
The United States shows few signs of acting in this way. Like revolution-
ary France and Soviet Russia before it, the United States is a territorial


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