. 5
( 8)


power dedicated to transforming the whole world in its favour. True, its
political leaders and diplomats are often embarrassed by talk of ˜empire™;
they speak and act as if the United States were only one state among
others. Such efforts of an empire to masquerade as a state are never-
theless wearing thin: the days when it could be said (by Gore Vidal and

48 Hobsbawm, On The Edge of the New Century, pp. 46“57.
Cosmocracy 119

others) that the success of the American empire depends in part upon
keeping it a secret are coming to an end. Its leaders now see themselves
more and more as the world™s ¬rst unchallenged global imperial power,
as a sequel and effective replacement of the old system of nineteenth- and
twentieth-century imperial powers that once ruled the world, and have
now collapsed.
The United States tends to behave in this way, despite historical evi-
dence that all previous dominant powers produce geopolitical instability,
and despite growing evidence, reinforced by the theory of global civil
society, that the world has become too large and complicated to be gov-
erned by a single power. The dominant power often operates bullishly,49
and it does so because its governing class perceive strength as the princi-
pal way in which it can secure its ¬‚anks and protect its dominant power
privileges, if need be by exercising the right of direct intervention into
others™ affairs.50 This perception is not inaccurate. Considered as a po-
litical sub-system of cosmocracy, the dominant power is the engine and
de¬cit-of-last-resort of the turbocapitalist economy (despite the fact that
its share of world production has fallen from one-third to one-¬fth since
1950); the driving force of the global telecommunications and entertain-
ment industries; and the homeland of the mightiest army in the world.
During the Clinton presidencies, it completed the transformation of its
strategy of global containment into the capacity ˜nearly simultaneously™
to ¬ght two major regional wars.51 The Gulf War of 1991, the Bosnian
paci¬cation of 1995, and the overthrow and arrest of Milosevi´ after the
war in Kosovo all showed that decisive military action at the global level
depended on the United States. So too did the 2001 war against the
government of Afghanistan, which collapsed quickly under the impact of
the most advanced military technology known to humanity: state-of-the
art bombing, missiles ¬red through doorways by unmanned Predator
aircraft, interception of the enemy™s every telephone call and radio

49 One example: during the ¬rst eight months of 2002, the Bush Administration publicly
rejected the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, the Rome Statute of the
International Criminal Court, a convention on the sale and transfer of small arms, and
a protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention.
50 In 1986, after a terrorist bombing of a Berlin discoth` que frequented by American
servicemen, Secretary of State George Schultz explained that it was ˜absurd to argue
that international law prohibits us from capturing terrorists in international waters or
airspace; from attacking them on the soil of other nations, even for the purpose of rescuing
hostages; or from using force against states that support, train and harbour terrorist
or guerrillas™. See his ˜Low-Intensity Warfare: The Challenge of Ambiguity™, Address
to the National Defense University (Washington, DC, 15 January 1986), reprinted in
International Legal Materials 25 (1986), 204 at 206.
51 Department of Defense, Annual Report to the President and Congress, 1994 (Washington,
DC, 1994), p. 16.
120 Global Civil Society?

transmission, bombs that bust open the deepest bunkers. The dominant
power™s war-¬ghting budget for 1999 was only two-thirds of what it was
in 1989, but still it accounts for 35 per cent of the world™s total military
spending (Russia™s share was ten times less); expenditure on the armed
forces is equal to the sum total of the next largest eight states in the world.
The United States has meanwhile consolidated its role as the biggest arms
dealer, with sales in the year 2000 worth US$18.6 billion, more than half
the US$36.9 billion global arms trade ¬gure.52
The dominant power can and does throw its weight around “ most
recently, in Serbia and Afghanistan. Its leaders know that money, infor-
mation, kilobytes, blood and iron count in world affairs. Its politicians
are tempted, like every previous dominant power of the modern era, to
act as a vigilante power, to see their power as the ability, especially when
push comes to shove, to measure their strength against all of their rivals
combined.53 They do so partly through arrogant presumptions “
summarised in the closing words of presidential speeches, ˜May God bless
the United States of America™ “ and straightforward designs of aggrandis-
ement and neglecting or cherrypicking international agencies and agree-
ments at their own convenience; and partly through the quite different
insistence that everybody has an ˜urgent and binding obligation™ to
˜answer history™s call™, to gather beneath the stars and stripes, and to
march forwards with America in its world-wide struggle for democratic

Cosmopolitan democracy?
When comparing monarchies and republics, the great Dutch politi-
cal commentator, Jan de Witt, claimed that the former (in line with
Machiavelli™s Il principe) encouraged princes to act using the force of
lions and the cunning of foxes. By contrast, de Witt said, those who are
elected and in charge of republics are encouraged to act with stealth, like

52 New York Times, August 21, 2001; The Economist, 20 June 1998; Washington Post, August
13, 1998.
53 Martin Wight, Power Politics, eds. Hedley Bull and Carsten Holbraad (Leicester, 1978),
pp. 30“40. A small example that summarises this attitude: On 11 October 2001, in a
widely reported television interview, Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state in
the Bush Administration, when asked about Osama bin Laden™s repeated insistence that
US troops should be nowhere near Muslim holy places, ignored the question. He went
on to say that the troops were there to protect Persian Gulf oil sites, and that anyone
who asked this kind of question was playing bin Laden™s ballgame.
54 From the speeches of President George Bush, Jr. at the United Nations, as reported
in Financial Times (London), 23 November 2001, p. 13, and Guardian (London), 12
September 2002, p. 1.
Cosmocracy 121

cats, which are both ˜agile and prudent™.55 De Witt™s rule-of-thumb today
retains its heuristic value. For whether the United States will succumb
to the temptation of lion-and-fox world aggrandisement, or whether, like
the British before them, it will instead take measures to behave care-
fully, like a cat, and to avoid hubris, for instance by playing the role
of catalyst of a more effective and democratic form of cosmocracy, is
among the great, if dangerous political issues of our time. Its resolution
will help to determine the life-span of global civil society. If the hege-
monic power turns out (unusually) to be a self-limiting global force for
˜constitutional order™ guided by principles like power-sharing, multilat-
eralism and the rule of law, then global civil society could well thrive
during the coming years.56 If, on the other hand, the American empire
consistently behaves as if it is morally entitled to run the whole world,
and to act on its behalf, then almost certainly that roguery would have
the effect of stirring up geopolitical troubles. That roguery would in turn
work against global civil society, perhaps even wrecking the chances of its
The problem of whether (or how) the dominant power can be tamed
is compounded by the pressing need to develop a more effective and le-
gitimate form of cosmocracy. What can be done to tame and control the
zones of unaccountable power within the actually existing cosmocracy?
Following the world™s largest death squad atrocity directed at two key
symbols of the emerging global civil society and cosmocracy, it is to be
hoped “ forlornly, in all probability “ that the classical tactic of tyrant-
killing by monarchomachs, as the Scot Barclay famously called it, has lost
all legitimacy.57 Whatever transpires, the search for solutions to the prob-
lem of unaccountable power on a global scale will continue; the members
of global civil society cannot expect the perpetrators of incompetence and
hubris to be destroyed automatically by the angry gods. Other, human,
all-too-human remedies will be needed.58

55 Cited in Franco Venturi, Utopia e riforma nell™illuminisimo (Turin, 1970), pp. 35“6.
56 This is the expectation of G. John Ikenberry, After Victory (Princeton, 2001), and his
˜Getting Hegemony Right™, The National Interest, 63 (Spring 2001), pp. 17“24. See also
Joseph S. Nye, The Paradox of American Power: Why the World™s Only Superpower Can™t
Go It Alone (Oxford and New York, 2002), and the thesis that governments that are in
highly interdependent relations with others are less likely to resort to violence, presented
in Bruce M. Russett and John R. Oneal, Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence
and International Organizations (New York, 2001).
57 A rather pessimistic view of the rise and proliferation of death squads under modern
conditions is presented in Bruce B. Campbell and Arthur Brenner (eds.), Death Squads
in Global Perspective. Murder with Deniability (New York and Basingstoke, 2000).
58 See Ernst-Otto Czempiel, ˜Governance and Democratization™, in James N. Rosenau and
Ernst-Otto Czempiel (eds.), Governance Without Government: Order and Change in World
Politics (Cambridge and New York, 1992), pp. 250“71.
122 Global Civil Society?

It is obvious to many that a pressing constitutional agenda confronts
both the actually existing cosmocracy and global civil society: the need
to ¬nd the appropriate methods for enabling something like effective,
publicly accountable government to develop on a global scale. Alas,
there is currently no consensus about what form this agenda might take.
This is partly because of the inordinate strength of the neo-liberal forces
that champion free market turbocapitalism uber alles. It is also partly
because some of their opponents slam ˜globalisation™ in the name of
stronger and more nationalist territorial states, or by means of vague
notions of ˜de-globalisation™ and the ˜deconcentration and decentraliza-
tion of institutional power™ through ˜the re-empowerment of the local
and the national™.59 Matters are not helped by the far-fetched thinking
that foolishly turns its back on the actually existing system of cosmoc-
racy, in order to predict (and in the process recommend) the arrival of
˜world government™.60 Meanwhile, political thinkers are divided about
what should or could be done. Some defend the principle of a trans-
national democratic legal order, a community of all democratic commu-
nities, something resembling a global Rechtstaat, of the kind implied in
article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ˜Everyone is
entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and free-
doms set forth in the Declaration can be fully realised.™ Others anticipate
a second-best scenario that owes everything to Emmerich de Vattel: a
complex international system of nominally sovereign, democratic states
that are the voting members in a variety of international fora. Still others
foresee a new compromise between these two options: a cosmopolitan
process of democratisation, through which citizens gain a voice within
their own states and in sites of power among their states.
This latter approach “ the neo-Kantian appeal to ˜cosmopolitan
democracy™ “ currently enjoys some popularity in academic circles.61
Its early exponents (Archibugi, Held and others) imagined a ˜system
of geo-governance unlike any other proposed to date™. The approach
(without considering the archaeology of its concepts) tried to bring a
rather unconventional meaning to the word ˜cosmopolitan™, to indicate
˜a model of political organization in which citizens, wherever they are
located in the world, have a voice, input and political representation

59 Walden Bello, ˜The Struggle for a Deglobalized World™, www.igc.org/trac/feature/wto/8-
bello.html (September 2000).
60 During the early 1970s, this prediction was at the centre of the World Order Models
Project, as Saul Mendlovitz explains in the ˜Introduction™ to Johan Galtung, The True
Worlds (New York, 1980), p. xxi.
61 See especially the Introduction (from which all the following quotations are drawn) to
Archibugi and Held (eds.), Cosmopolitan Democracy, pp. 1“16.
Cosmocracy 123

in international affairs, in parallel with and independently of their own
governments™. This cosmopolitanism measured itself against historical
examples. It aimed to steer a course between and beyond, on the one
hand, NATO-style arrangements, whose trans-national power structures
are a law unto themselves, and at odds with the mainly democratic
structures of their member states; and, on the other hand, Congress of
Vienna-style arrangements, which displayed the inverse mismatch: gen-
erous interstate consultative mechanisms among states that were mostly
autocratic. Cosmopolitan democracy looked forward instead to ˜the par-
allel development of democracy both within states and among states™. It
noted that this double democratisation required the building of ˜author-
itative global institutions™, like the reform of the Security Council, the
creation of a second chamber in the United Nations, the strengthening of
international law, even the creation of ˜a small but effective, accountable,
international military force™.
The early version of the theory of cosmopolitan democracy was stim-
ulating, but unconvincing. Its de¬nition of democracy was vague and
tautologous (˜the distinctive feature of democracy is . . . not only a partic-
ular set of procedures [important though this is], but also the pursuit of
democratic values involving the extension of popular participation in the
political process™) and it rested ultimately on the questionable, arguably
out-dated principle that democracy equals ˜popular participation™.62 And
note, above all, its not-so-secret attachment to an originally Kantian,
two-level or ˜double democratisation™ schema. ˜What is necessary™, it was
argued, ˜is to deprive states of some of their more coercive and restric-
tive powers: in the former case, those powers which are deployed against
the welfare and safety of citizens; in the latter case, those powers which
are deployed to forestall or inhibit collaborative relations among states
on pressing transnational questions™. Then came a revealing conclusion:
˜Cosmopolitan institutions must come to coexist with the established
powers of states, overriding them only in certain, well-de¬ned spheres of
The implied goal of peaceful co-existence between two levels of gov-
ernment is problematic, if only because, empirically speaking, the com-
plex and contradictory structures of cosmocracy are against it. The early
model of cosmopolitan democracy supposed that we are still living
in the age of Kant “ or the age that spawned Tennyson™s vision of ˜the
Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World™, a vision that has since
resurfaced in John Rawls™ image of ˜representatives of liberal peoples™

62 See my Whatever Happened to Democracy? (London, 2002) and A History of Democracy,
124 Global Civil Society?

making ˜an agreement with other liberal peoples™.63 The early vision of
cosmopolitan democracy rested, unfortunately, upon what can be called
the Law of the Excluded Middle: an object of theoretical re¬‚ection, it is
supposed, can or may be here or there, but not in both places in once. It
can be A or not-A, but not both, or not somewhere in between. Things,
events, people have their place: they belong to separate and pure realms.
Such dualistic thinking is unhelpful in the task of theoretically under-
standing how substantially to increase the level of public accountability of
governmental institutions on a global scale. Such a theory not only needs
to be much clearer and more persuasive about the normative meanings of
democracy and how strategically it can be built; on descriptive grounds,
it also needs to be much more sensitive to the ˜messy™, self-contradictory,
criss-crossing, dynamic networks of mediated power that are a basic
feature of cosmocracy.
The failure of the early cosmopolitan approach to deal with such prob-
lems provides a clue for understanding its subsequent ¬‚ights of ethical
fancy.64 Its more recent formulations rely upon arbitrarily chosen regula-
tive principles that are claimed to be universal (or could become universal,
through ˜open-ended interaction, uncoerced agreement and impartial
judgement™ guided by the ˜force of the better argument™): core princi-
ples that oblige the reciprocal recognition by free and equal individuals
that each person ˜should enjoy the impartial treatment of their claims™.
The starting point of this revised cosmopolitanism, as it might be called,
is to insist that ethical principles that cannot serve as guides for a plu-
rality of different actors should be rejected; and, conversely, that ethical
principles must be universally applicable. This categorical imperative or
Cosmopolitan Moral Law runs something like: ˜Act in all situations and
at all times only in accordance with the maxim that all human beings
enjoy the status of equal moral value, reciprocal recognition, and an equal
chance to have their claims impartially considered.™ Note the guileless
thinking: the ethical worthiness that is supposed to be measured by a
process of ˜reasonable rejectability™ and by acting ˜out of duty™ to uni-
versalisable principles in fact looks suspiciously like a species of liberal
humanism born of the Atlantic region. Daoist celebrations of natural, vir-
tually anarchistic spontaneity and Legalist defences of centralised political
order through carefully controlled punishments and rewards “ to men-
tion two randomly chosen but important Chinese intellectual traditions “
do not see eye to eye with such ˜cosmopolitan™ regulative principles. Why
63 John Rawls, The Law of Peoples (Cambridge, MA and London, 1999), part 1.
64 See, for example, David Held, ˜Globalization, Corporate Practice and Cosmopolitan
Social Standards™, Contemporary Political Theory, 1 (2002), pp. 64, 65“6, 67, 74; and his
Cosmopolitanism (Cambridge, 2002).
Cosmocracy 125

should they? Why should they or the rest of the world even engage in a
reasoned public debate with cosmopolitans, whom they might (under-
standably) dismiss out of hand or instead suppose, wielding their own
plausible reasons, to be wrong-headed, or utterly mistaken? Cosmopoli-
tanism is ill-equipped to handle such retorts, which not only expose
(as the ¬nal section of this book shows) the historical particularity of its
norms. Revised cosmopolitanism™s ¬‚ight of fancy rests upon bad politi-
cal sociology and poor history. Empirical applications of the concept of
global civil society “ a concept whose emphasis upon pluralism sticks a
pin in the bottom of cosmopolitan universalism “ are virtually absent.
The whole approach presupposes that once upon a time there was a
nation-state system but that ˜national states and national governments are
now embedded in complex networks of political power at regional and
global levels™. It also ignores the structural problems that currently dog
the system of cosmocracy. Revised cosmopolitanism supposes, secretly
but implausibly, that the world is in the tightening grip of something like
a teleology of normative progress. So it draws a happy conclusion: ˜a cos-
mopolitan covenant is already in the making as political authority and
new forms of governance are diffused “below”, “above” and “alongside”
the nation-state, and as new forms of international law, from the law of
war to human rights law and environmental regimes, begin to set down
universal standards.™

Cosmocracy is a much more complex and self-contradictory polity than
revised cosmopolitanism supposes. Cosmocracy is an intricate system
of power that cannot be understood by means of empty moralising or
metaphors like ˜levels™ or emergent cosmopolitan covenants, or the like.
Its multiple sites of decisionmaking, on the contrary, are better under-
stood by the political interpreter as cross-roads, as ˜quasi-objects™ situ-
ated at the intersection of an ensemble of other ˜quasi-objects™.65 One
could say, to put the point pithily, that for this reason a theory of global
civil society needs less Kant and more Althusius. The work of Johannes
Althusius (1557“1638), especially his Politica (1614), is today deserv-
ing of a revival. His writings belong to those of which Bacon once said:
˜They are to be chewed and digested.™ This is because, despite various
weaknesses and anachronisms, Althusius has much to say to us about the
need to think normatively and strategically, in more nuanced ways, about
complex systems of power. Cosmocracy resembles a thoroughly modern

65 See Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern (Cambridge, MA, 1993).
126 Global Civil Society?

version of the political world pondered by Althusius, a strangely ˜neo-
medieval™ m´ lange of overlapping legal structures and political bodies
that come in all shapes and sizes “ a many-sided world of overlapping and
potentially con¬‚icting political structures, primordial groups, differently
sized political associations, and federalist strivings for both particularism
and universalism, ecumene and community.66
It may be that our latter-day Althusian world of cosmocratic structures
will facilitate a Global New Deal: a multi-layered global political settle-
ment de¬ned by a core of governing institutions designed to rein in the
most destructive behaviours, and a periphery of governing institutions
based on more voluntary and non-coercive regulations.67 This is the un-
decided future. Whatever comes to pass, it is safe to say that the global
polity of the future will defy the simpli¬cations and confusions of pre-
vailing theories of globalisation that think in the old-fashioned terms of
(potentially) ˜sovereign™ territorial states, or of ˜multi-level governance™
or ˜cosmopolitan democracy™. Beyond that probability, nothing is cer-
tain, which is why it should not be supposed that long-lasting remedies
for the weaknesses of cosmocracy can be found within the cupboards of
contemporary political acceptability. Brand new democratic thinking “
implicit in the theory of global civil society “ is required, even if there are
no guarantees of success. That lugubrious thought prompts a ¬nal few
words about historical analogies and the pitfalls of fatalism in any theory
of global civil society.
It is common in discussions of the system of global governance, or
cosmocracy as I have called it here, that the word ˜system™ frequently
comes in for a battering. It is often greeted with puzzlement, or outright
derision, mainly because prima facie the tangled mess of governmental and
para-governmental institutions that have global effects seem to defy both
systematic description and normative judgement. This so-called global
system of governance seems to be a global system of anarchy: it seems that
no institution or body regularly occupies the seat of power. Its complex
and contradictory logic seems to be: sauve qui peut. There seem to be no
secure rules or regulations; nobody seems to be in charge. Little wonder,
then, that most languish in its presence. It seems to defy description, and
so to induce a faint feeling “ even a feeling of fatalism before the powers
that be.

66 See Johannes Althusius, Politica Methodic` digesta atque exemplis sacris & profanis illustrata
(Herborn, 1614), and the classic commentary of Otto von Gierke, The Development of
Political Theory (New York, 1966 [1880]).
67 Michael Edwards, Future Positive. International Co-Operation in the 21st Century (London,
2000), chapter 9.
Cosmocracy 127

This fatalism is an enemy of both global civil society and of the goal of
injecting positive-sum powers and public accountability into the system
of cosmocracy that frames it. The fatalist, who comes in two types, is
generally someone who feels overwhelmed or overpowered by the world.
One of them, the ignoramus, is simply ignorant, and con¬dent in that
ignorance, often supremely so in the straightforward conclusions that are
drawn. They know who rules the world: it is the rich and powerful, or
the big multinational corporations, or the United States of America, for
instance. And that™s that. Nothing more to be said “ and nothing more can
be done, at least for the time being. There is another species of fatalist:
the more cautious type. They haven™t a clue about who runs the world,
and they aren™t much troubled or intrigued by their ignorance. This blas´ e
fatalist does not know who rules the world; when asked, they readily admit
to their ignorance, and quickly add, with a sigh, that they don™t much care.
They divine from their ignorance the conclusion that the effort to de¬ne
who holds the reins of power is a waste of time. For “ here the two species
of fatalists join forces “ it is said that there™s no point in wasting words
on the subject, for no matter what is said and attempted the governing
forces always get their way. Here the two types of fatalists spread their
sails and drift together in the ancient waters of Greek mythology, where
fatalism appears in the shape of old women who sit patiently spinning
the threads and ropes of worldly events that are bound to happen. Fate
was represented as both external and internal to the individual. One™s
fate was ˜spun™, and so given, from the outside; but fate was at the same
time intensely personal, something experienced from the inside. It left
the individual no other option but to yield to what was felt outside and
inside. The Romans called this inner and outer experience of necessity
fatum. It literally meant ˜a thing said™, something that is reported before
it actually happened. Fate is a forewarning of an event or chain of events
that cannot not happen. The fatum is irreversible. It cannot be changed
by a millimetre or a gramme. Fatalists are those who believe or accept
this. They embrace fate “ their unfreedom “ as theirs. Fate is their fate.
The contemporary sense that fate has power over our lives is under-
standable. A moment™s re¬‚ection reveals that human beings are never to-
tally in control of everything that happens to their lives. They chronically
feel forced to go along with things, to accept or to do things against their
will. The compulsion, complexity and contradictoriness of the system of
cosmocracy arguably reinforces this feeling. All this is understandable.
But when the recognition and acceptance of fate hardens into dogma, fa-
talism takes hold of the individual, or group, cruelly and without mercy.
Fatalism distorts and paralyses visions and actions: it makes it seem that
128 Global Civil Society?

nothing can be done, that everything is foreordained. That is why fa-
talism is a principal curse of the twin projects of nurturing global civil
society and democratising the system of cosmocracy. Fatalism produces
inattention towards the framework of governance within which this so-
ciety has sprung up, and today ¬‚ourishes. Fatalism is the silent enemy
of political thinking about global civil society. It conjures necessity from
contingency. Fatalism feeds wistfulness. It turns its back on the job of
naming and mapping these governing institutions, in order that they may
better be judged, defended, reformed, or fundamentally transformed.
We know from historians that among the principal reasons why the
last major growth spurt of ˜globalisation™ failed was because no effec-
tive or ef¬cient or legitimate structures of global government were put in
place.68 By the 1930s, people and political institutions like the League of
Nations, its Economic and Financial Organisation, the ILO, and the
Bank for International Settlements were overwhelmed by the intense
contradictory pressures of a globalised world. Governing institutions
were overburdened by economic crises and long-standing political resent-
ments, including the bitter politics of reparations and war debts. Luckily,
the essential ingredients of a 1920s-style endogenous revolt against demo-
cratic forms of globalisation are today missing. There are today no
Soviet Unions or Third Reichs on the horizon. The thought that defend-
ers of souverainisme (the term used by French protesters in Seattle for
the defence of the territorial state), or the Taliban or the Burmese junta
or Chinese-style capitalism in post-totalitarian form serve as universal
counter-models to cosmocracy in more democratic form is laughable.
Fatalism, however, is no laughing matter. It is the favourite liquor of
idiots, and kicking its habits is for that reason “ as de Gaulle reportedly
commented after spotting a Free French tank daubed with the words
˜Death to Idiots!™ “ a vast task. Fatalism is our principal threat. That is
why its refusal initially requires a strong dose of clear thinking about the
web of governing institutions that presently cover the earth. This is what
the theory of cosmocracy seeks to do. Whether and to what extent it can
or does succeed is for others to decide.

68 Harold James, The End of Globalization: Lessons from the Great Depression (Cambridge,
MA, 2001); see also Andrew Gamble, Politics and Fate (Oxford, 2000).
Paradise on earth?

Higher education
Exactly because global civil society consists of a vast mosaic of socio-
economic groups, organisations and initiatives that are variously related
to governmental structures at the local, national, regional and suprana-
tional levels, its organisations and actors are pushed and pulled in various
and often contradictory directions: not only towards and away from busi-
nesses and non-pro¬t civic organisations, but also towards and away from
governmental institutions. Government-funded systems of mass higher
education “ now linked together across borders by shared languages,
common teaching and research methods, staff and student exchanges,
and compatible hardware “ illustrate well these messy, sometimes pro-
ductive tensions built into government-enabled civil organisations.
During the past half-century, the role of governing institutions in fos-
tering higher education has had spectacular effects. Driven by a variety
of policy objectives and hunches “ military capability, national pride,
liberal beliefs in the importance of education, but above all by expec-
tations that during coming decades perhaps half of all jobs in the post-
industrial turbocapitalist economies will require a minimum of sixteen
years™ schooling and training “ governments of all kinds in all continents
have invested heavily in the business of higher education. The huge in-
crease in the numbers of state-funded students on various patches of the
earth has de¬nitely helped to create an impression that higher education
is a world-wide development. It is easy to see why. The total numbers of
higher education students world-wide have grown exponentially in recent
decades “ from 51 million in 1980 to 82 million in 1995, an increase of
61 per cent. The numbers now top 90 million. A majority of these stu-
dents is concentrated in the richer OECD countries, where around half
of the 18“23 age group is now enrolled in some form of higher education.
In some OECD countries, change has been especially rapid. German stu-
dent numbers have increased by 80 per cent since 1977; a similar pattern
of expansion has been evident in France, where the number of higher

130 Global Civil Society?

education students jumped from less than 150,000 in 1955 to a record
2.2 million in 2002. Outside the bloc of wealthy OECD states, similar
trends, although patchy and in a state of ¬‚ux, are evident. During the
past twenty-¬ve years, the number of higher education students in Saudi
Arabia increased more than twenty times; there has been a tripling of the
number of university students in Iran since the overthrow of the Shah;
many states in the South East Asia region have embarked on vigorous
programmes of expansion; while some twenty states, half of them in so-
called developing countries, now boast at least a million higher education
The image of higher education as an important ˜global™ phenomenon
is reinforced by another, more striking and consequential development:
the qualitative growth of cross-border chains and loops in the ¬eld of
higher education, whose institutions arguably are now far more ˜worldly™
than any other institution, including turbocapitalist ¬rms themselves.2
The outward-looking university is of course not new. Thomas Jefferson™s
decision in 1824 to recruit faculty members from Germany to teach at
the University of Virginia serves as a reminder that the trend has a long
and respected history. Yet we are living in a time of the unprecedented
globalisation of higher education. Everywhere there are signs that teach-
ing and administrative staff and students themselves accept that in the
¬eld of higher education inward-looking strategies are unproductive, that
they may even lead to organisational stagnation, or decline. What are the
main indicators of this trend? Cheer-leading for the cause of higher edu-
cation, for learning that is more universally accessible on a global scale,
is championed by bodies like UNESCO.3 The higher education industry
plays the role of host at thousands of annual conferences, research insti-
tutes and teaching and publishing programmes “ to the point where it
should not be surprising that the institutions of higher education are the
epicentre of a vigorous global debate about ˜globalisation™ itself. Then
there are various policies and strategies designed for winning contracts,
students and prestige within global civil society. There are schemes that
aim to nurture scienti¬c knowledge, languages, technologies, business
methods, teaching skills and personal and professional contacts across
borders. A prominent example is Universitas 21: it has announced plans
to set up a global online university in partnership with Thomson, the

1 Jan Sadlak, ˜Globalization and Concurrent Challenges for Higher Education™, in Peter
Scott (ed.), The Globalization of Higher Education (Buckingham and Philadelphia, 1998),
p. 101.
2 See J. Currie and J. Newson (eds.), Universities and Globalization: Critical Perspectives
(London, 1998).
3 UNESCO, Policy Paper for Change and Development in Higher Education (Paris, 1995).
Paradise on earth? 131

Canadian electronic publishing group, to be run by the University of
Melbourne, to operate accreditation schemes and to share external ex-
aminers among a network of large, similar-pro¬le public universities else-
where in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Singapore
and the United Kingdom.4 Other notable examples include the student
mobility schemes ERASMUS and SOCRATES, which have so far as-
sisted more than half a million European Union students to spend a
meaningful period of their studies in another member state. Meanwhile,
franchising deals a la McDonald™s ¬‚ourish.5 Efforts are made to interna-
tionalise quali¬cations. Joint courses are pioneered. Course credits are
accumulated and transferred across borders.
Needless to say, these and other schemes have been enabled by revo-
lutionary developments in communications, most notably the Internet,
which is the propolis of higher education. High-tech reality has descended
on higher education, and the virtual university is its interim masterpiece.
There is a steady increase in the number of institutions offering virtual
degrees: in the United States, in 1998, more than 300 colleges and univer-
sities offered online courses to over 700,000 cyberstudents. Three years
later, fuelled by companies like Blackboard.com, Campuspipeline.com
and the Global Knowledge Network, the numbers of tertiary students
enrolled in e-Ed courses was 2.3 million. Future growth seems probable,
especially because the professoriate can bene¬t “ companies like UNext,
Harcourt-Brace and Thinkwell offer academic staff attractive ¬nancial
deals “ and because distance learning is an effective “ and potentially
pro¬table “ means of providing retraining and upgrading courses that do
not involve time-consuming travel and severe disruption of professional
Finally “ this is perhaps the most eye-catching and consequential devel-
opment “ there is a vast increase in the numbers of students who now pack
their bags in search of improved quali¬cations in foreign lands. By the
mid-1990s, more than 1.5 million foreign students, half of them from less
developed regions, were enrolled in higher education in some ¬fty host
states. During the past twenty-¬ve years, student mobility across borders
has grown by over 300 per cent, and some observers predict a continuing

4 ˜A World Wide Web of Elite Universities™, Times Higher Education Supplement, 13 March
5 ˜It™s a big world. Somebody has to run it™, says the advertisement for TRIUM, the ˜only
truly integrated, truly global™ executive MBA offered by New York University™s Stern
School of Business, the London School of Economics and Political Science and the
Parisian HEC School of Management. Participants earn a joint degree in sixteen months
by attending concentrated two-week study modules at the ¬‚agship schools, plus one week
each in S˜ o Paulo and Hong Kong. Distance learning and team projects continue between
class sessions.
132 Global Civil Society?

massive increase during the next twenty-¬ve years.6 The patterns are of
course distributionally skewed, so that more than three-quarters of study
abroad takes place within ten host states, led by the United States (more
than 30 per cent of all foreign students), France (more than 11 per cent)
and Germany (about 10 per cent) and including Canada and Belgium
(less than 2.5 per cent each), and Switzerland (about 2 per cent). Yet the
aggregate trends are impressive, as are new initiatives, like those of the
People™s Republic of China, where in recent years the number of foreign
students has grown most dramatically.

The ivory tower?
For some observers, all these trends, especially the globalisation of stu-
dent mobility, represents an important renewal and universalisation of
the original mission of the universitas. This founding mission of higher
education, they point out, was expressed in the medieval European prac-
tice of the studia generalia “ students wandering from Bologna to Paris
to Salerno (perhaps the ¬rst European university, founded in the ninth
century AD) to Edinburgh and to Oxford, in search of knowledge “ and
in the much earlier Islamic madrasah colleges “ like those in Bukhˆ rˆ ,aa
Cairo, Damascus, Hillah and Timbuktu “ that attracted students from
far and wide.7 In Europe, in its earliest stage of development, the univer-
sity was a scholastic guild, formed on the analogy of the trades guilds and
the guilds of aliens in foreign cities.8 Composed to a great extent of stu-
dents from foreign countries, the universitas was a combination formed
for the protection of its members from civil and papal authority, from
the extortion of townsmen and from other annoyances linked to being
resident in a foreign country and studying subjects beyond those offered
by the monastic and cathedral schools. Seeing the hand of the past in the
present, these same observers praise the growth of student mobility for
offering large numbers of young students a taste of what in former times
only a privileged elite handful tasted: the experience of higher education
as an ˜ivory tower™, a modern-day equivalent of the Roman eboreum, an
exotic place of temporary seclusion, or withdrawal from the harsh realities
of the world.

6 See the ¬gures and predictions cited in D. Blight, International Education: Australia™s
Potential Demand and Supply (Canberra, 1995) and UNESCO, Policy Paper for Change
and Development in Higher Education. The latest tables on higher education foreign student
numbers are available at http://unescostat.unesco.org/yearbook/ybframe.htm.
7 J. M. Cameron, On the Idea of a University (London, 1978); Marshall G. S. Hodgson,
The Venture of Islam, vol. 2 (Chicago and London, 1977), pp. 438“45, 555.
8 H. S. Deni¬‚e, Die Universit¨ ten des Mittelalters bis 1400 (Berlin, 1885), i, pp. 1“29.
Paradise on earth? 133

There is admittedly much seductive charm left in the image of the
cosmopolitan ivory tower. Observe a moment™s silence for the Kaiser
Friedrich Wilhelm Universit¨ t, founded in Berlin in 1809 under the rec-
torship of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, a seat of learning that helped regenerate
German cultural life during the nineteenth century. Admire the boldness
of Kant™s Der Streit der Fakult¨ ten (1798), with its plea for a philosophy
faculty ˜that is independent of the government™s command with regard
to its teachings; one that, having no commands to give, is free to evalu-
ate everything, and concerns itself with the interests of the sciences, that
is, with truth: one in which reason is authorised to speak out publicly™.9
Stroll through the quadrangle and across the Backs of King™s College,
Cambridge. Enter the mirror-lined, space-age library of the beautiful
ocean-side, eucalyptus-dotted campus of the University of California
at San Diego. Sit peacefully in the frescoed library of Bologna™s oldest
university. Surely these are places of Universal Knowledge? Spaces of
personal self-discovery emancipated from the burdens of Brotstudium “
studying for the sake of a career “ and thus open to the disinterested
pursuit of truth? Settings in which (as Karl Jaspers said) people ˜do not
have to bear responsibility for current politics, precisely because they
alone bear unlimited responsibility for the development of truth™?10 They
are not. The classical ideal of the universitas “ an ideal of a disinterested
body of scholars devoted to learning and teaching defended a genera-
tion ago by such prominent scholars as Ortega Y Gasset, Karl Jaspers
and Sir Walter Moberly11 “ is obsolete because its natural habitat “
a setting freed from the pressures of the market and the state “ has been
Pressured by various domestic and globalising forces, described above,
colleges and universities everywhere suffer metamorphosis through frag-
mentation. The boundaries of the late medieval university were clearly
demarcated; its walls and quadrangles looked inwards, as if to encour-
age students and teachers to turn their backs on the world. By contrast,
institutions of higher education today are outward-looking, ulti-
mately ˜global™. Little wonder, for they are pushed and pulled in many

9 Immanuel Kant, Der Sreit der Fakult¨ ten (Berlin, 1798), pp. 26“8. Kant here distin-
guished between the university™s ˜lower™ faculties, areas of scholarship unencumbered
by state censorship, such as ˜historical knowledge™ and ˜pure rational knowledge™ (history,
geography, philology, the empirical knowledge of the natural sciences, the humanities,
pure mathematics and pure philosophy), and the ˜higher™ faculties, such as theology,
law and medicine, in which scholars are instruments of government policy and therefore
˜not free to make public use of their learning as they see ¬t™.
10 Karl Jaspers, The Idea of the University (London, 1960), p. 132.
11 Jos´ Ortega Y Gasset, Mission of the University (Princeton, 1944); Jaspers, The Idea of the
University; and Walter Hamilton Moberly, The Crisis in the University (London, 1949).
134 Global Civil Society?

contradictory directions, to the point where talk of ˜the university™ or ˜the
college™ is both inappropriate, even obfuscatory. This development is not
at all describable as the growth of either an ˜attenuated university™ or a
multi-purpose ˜multiversity™.12 It is far more complicated, and destruc-
tive than that. Thanks to domestic and global pressures, and in no small
measure because of its contributions to the globalisation of civil society,
higher education is torn apart. Its ideals and institutions suffer disper-
sal. It becomes, at one and the same time, an apparatus of nation-state,
regional and transnational power; a pro¬t-seeking market corporation; a
self-monitoring, self-administering body; a public space of open debate
and independent enquiry; and a force for cosmopolitan institutions and
So, for example, territorial states now vie with local and regional gov-
ernments for greater policy and managerial control over the internal work-
ings of institutions of higher education; boxed in by quality assessment
exercises, monitoring, and ¬nancial inspections, one could be forgiven
for thinking of universities and colleges as integral components of gov-
ernment apparatuses. They are no longer places where only scholars pass
judgement on scholars (Kant). An audit culture spreads: in the name of
quality, everything seems subject to external political scrutiny and eval-
uation. In practice, the audit culture is fed not only by ¬scal constraints,
but also by competitive market pressures. The truth is that higher ed-
ucation is pushed one way by governmental power, and pulled in the
opposite direction, towards civil society, by the market-driven forces of
turbocapitalism. Gone forever are the days when (as the old joke had it)
academics were voted into chairs only at the age at which they had forgot-
ten the meaning of the word ˜irrelevant™. Gone too is the once-common
feeling among academic staff that they could have done better outside
education, in the real world of ˜business™. Higher education becomes big
business, or the tool of business. Institutions are expected to become
24/7 enterprises that pay their way: they must balance their books, or
even make a surplus. Press of¬cers work overtime to market their ˜brand™
of higher education on the global market. Students ¬nd that they have
to pay (more) for their degrees. Research designed to yield technology
transfers and patents (˜patents, not papers™) is privileged. Encouragement
from the top is given to start up enterprises that are capable of commer-
cially exploiting the institution™s stocks of knowledge in, say, informatics

12 The notion of an ˜attenuated™ university is developed in R. Cowen, ˜Performativity, Post-
Modernity and the University™, Comparative Education, 32:2 (1996), pp. 245“58. The
once-popular idea of the ˜multiversity™ is traceable to the Godkin lectures delivered at
Harvard University in 1963 by Clark Kerr, and later published as Clark Kerr, The Uses
of the University (Cambridge, MA, 1972).
Paradise on earth? 135

and biotechnology. Academics market themselves as consultants. Teach-
ing becomes a saleable commodity, packaged for students in bite-sized
learning packs and easy-to-open handouts.
Many higher education institutions try to stake out still different op-
tions. Some try to protect themselves against the contradictory forces of
government and the market by reacting strategically, or defensively; they
tighten their internal controls, pinch and squeeze themselves from within
through successive rounds of re-organisation, hoping that experiments
in self-regulation and the adaptation of the latest techniques of the ˜new
public management™ will improve their administrative ef¬ciency and ¬s-
cal position. Such moves towards self-regulation often produces internal
misery “ endless meetings, hundreds of emails, peer group assessments,
and in general the loss of professional freedoms of academics.13 Then
there are those areas of higher education which commit themselves to
neither governments, nor markets, but to the principle of civic engage-
ment with the less powerful groups and communities of civil society.
In the United States, there is a long and rich tradition of these institu-
tions with their sleeves rolled up (as they are called), dating from the
1862 Morrill Act, which ushered in land grant colleges, and including
more recent initiatives like agricultural extension services, the GI Bill,
the Campus Compact (endorsed by more than 600 university and col-
lege presidents), and schemes, such as the Democracy Collaborative at
the University of Maryland at College Park, that are publicly committed
to ˜building democracy and strengthening community™.14
These cross-cutting trends within higher education naturally diversify,
in some cases to the point of incoherence, the roles of students and staff
alike. Four decades ago, being a university student meant sex, drugs, rock
™n™roll, rioting, a bit of reading if time permitted: we called it learning. In
the Atlantic region, today™s students are more socially diverse and they do
many and more varied things: they still like to consume pills and spend
their time between sheets, or at their favourite clubs, but most feel cut
off from governments and party politics and consequently worry more
about the meaning of life, or about doing something socially useful in an
NGO, or ¬nding a part-time or full-time job that pays enough for them to
survive, or in future thrive. As for managerial staff, a similar diversi¬ca-
tion of roles is obvious. ˜The university has become the multiversity and

13 M. Bottery, ˜The Challenge to Professionals from the New Public Management: Impli-
cations for the Teaching Profession™, Oxford Review of Education, 22:2, 1996, pp. 179“97.
14 See The Democracy Collaborative: Engaged Scholarship and Informed Practice for a Demo-
cratic World. Progress Report (The University of Maryland, College Park, 2001); and
Diane Ravitch and Joseph P. Viteritti (eds.), Making Good Citizens. Education and Civil
Society (New Haven, 2002).
136 Global Civil Society?

the nature of the presidency has followed this change™, commented Clark
Kerr. ˜The president of the multiversity is leader, educator, wielder of
power, pump; he is also of¬ceholder, caretaker, inheritor, consensus
seeker, persuader, bottleneck. But he is mostly a mediator.™ In the new
era of higher education, the president of the institution is all these, and
more: s/he is as well government agent, corporate executive, salesman,
politician, citizen, media star, spin doctor, humanist, realist, labour rela-
tions expert, psychologist, lawyer, local patriot, travelling cosmopolitan,
All these trends are dif¬cult to summarise, so puzzlingly dif¬cult in
fact that they prompt some observers to conclude that higher education
is now a ˜ruined institution™.15 Like Edward Gibbon, sitting amidst the
crumbling stone columns of the once-great Roman Empire, some even
ask whether it is possible to dwell in the ruins without lapsing into ro-
mantic nostalgia. There is a growing consensus that the possibility is slim.
Many feel that paradise has been lost, that higher education, despite its
unprecedented resources and growth, is directionless, and certainly that
it is incapable of inspiring itself and others with clearly enunciated goals,
like those of ˜reason™, ˜knowledge™ and ˜universalism™. There are de¬-
nite signs of listlessness and melancholia, even ¬‚ights of fancy, evident
for instance in the self-reassuringly long acknowledgements sections of
many scholarly works. Then there are those who dig in their heels, turn
away from the world, almost as if they treat worldly failure as the mark
of success and worldly success the sign of failure. They deny tenure to
those who concentrate upon teaching or write textbooks; spread whispers
about academic authors of commercially successful ˜pop-books™; and rail
against ˜distance learning™ in defence of ˜real learning™ based on proxim-
ity and presence. All these reactions are questionable. They ignore the
positive implications of the fragmentation of higher education: that it can-
not any longer pretend to speak through the grand narratives of Truth
and Knowledge, but is instead confronted with the fact that it is a di-
vided community that both contains rival conceptions of what constitutes
success and competitor institutions “ think tanks, research laboratories,
educational TV channels, corporate campuses, e-learning or webucation
providers16 and other ˜knowledge societies™17 “ that challenge its intel-
lectual authority from outside. (So too do government initiatives, like
15 B. Readings, The University in Ruins (Cambridge, MA, 1996), p. 169.
16 The global e-learning market is expected to exceed $23 billion by 2004, up from
$1.7 billion in 1999. There are an estimated 2,000 corporate universities “ most are
American suppliers with names like SmartForce, Click2Learn, DigitalThink, Global
Knowledge Network, NETg, and Saba “ and the numbers are expected to grow to some
3,700 by the end of the decade; see ˜E-learning On Course for Strong Growth™, Financial
Times (London), 6 June 2001.
17 Nico Stehr, Knowledge Societies (London, 1994).
Paradise on earth? 137

the UK government™s University for Industry, which has signed contracts
with BT, The Royal Air Force, Sainsbury, the TUC, and its recently
announced University for the National Health Service.) The ¬eld of
higher education is ¬‚ung into a cyclotron of con¬‚icting aspirations and
meanings and achievements “ and even forced to come to terms with
the political problem of how to handle multiplying and often con¬‚icting
perceptions of ˜reality™.
Jean-Fran¸ ois Lyotard, when invited by the Conseil des Universit´ s of
c e
the province of Qu´ bec to report on the state of knowledge in the Western
world, drew similar conclusions in his La condition postmoderne: rapport sur
le savoir (1979). Yet Lyotard, suffering from political wistfulness, could
draw only obscure conclusions. ˜Let us wage a war on totality™, he wrote,
˜let us be witnesses to the unpresentable; let us activate the differences
and save the honour of the name™. He did not see just how helpful
and necessary the perspective of global civil society is in rescuing higher
education from its own ruination. Higher education is no longer ex-
clusively a place for the formation of the self-conscious middle classes,
symbolised by the independent teacher/scholar/intellectual motivated by
an inner calling to query everything related to commonplace worldli-
ness and (Hegel™s early critique of the unreason of b¨ rgerliche Gesellschaft
is an example ) the vulgarities and confusions of civil society. Higher
education instead becomes potentially a friend and supporter of global
civil society, principally because both have an intrinsic interest in the
nurturing and extension of the structures and ideals of non-violent plu-
ralism. The point could be sharpened, to say that higher education is
potentially a principal catalyst and defender of global civil society and its
ethos. As we shall see in the concluding section of this book, among the
appropriate norms of global civil society are ¬‚exibility and openness, the
willingness to be humble and to respect others, self-organisation, curiosity
and experimentation, non-violence, peaceful networking across borders,
a strong sense of responsibility for the fate of others, even long-distance
responsibility for the fragile biosphere in which we and our offspring are
condemned to dwell.
Research and teaching in most institutions of higher education cur-
rently do not measure up to these norms of self-scrutiny and scrutiny of
the wider world, of course. There is cynicism and demoralisation. And,
alas, there is still plenty of old university arrogance, of the kind revealed
in the well-known story about the group of Englishwomen going about
the countryside recruiting soldiers at the outbreak of the First World

18 G. W. F. Hegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (Berlin, 1821). Compare the dif-
ferent understanding of universities within civil society settings in Emil Brix and Jurgen
Nautz (eds.), Universit¨ ten in der Zivilgesellschaft (Wien, 2002).
138 Global Civil Society?

War. Sweeping into Oxford, they confronted a don in his Oxonian mas-
ter™s gown, reading Thucydides in the original Greek. ˜And what are you
doing to save Western civilisation, young man?™, one of the women de-
manded. Drawing himself up to his full height, the don looked down his
nose, and replied: ˜Madam, I am Western civilisation!™ Graduates are
today living between arrogance and humility. They are inadequately
taught the arts of dealing with diversity and coping with con¬‚ict, handling
adversaries, nurturing skills of self-reliance and courage, in the face of the
unexpected, the unfamiliar, or the unknown. Almost everybody is just
getting by, bobbing up and down on the surface, pulled hither and thither
by a ¬‚ood of meetings, memoranda, travel schedules, league tables, busi-
ness plans, research applications, publishing commitments, long teaching
weeks, mountainous piles of assignments, due tomorrow, and for marking
the following day. Yet thanks to its ˜ruination™, higher education can (and
is already beginning to) resonate to the theme of self-scrutiny and scrutiny
of the world. Pushed and pulled hither and thither, faced with a surfeit
of data, and con¬‚icting frameworks of interpretation, higher education is
becoming a ¬eld in which ˜supercomplexity™ is recognised.19 It is called
on by the world to ditch its metaphysical past, even to abandon talk of
the republic of science (or dreams of public collusion of science-minded
industrialists and ¬nanciers to establish a world republic, as outlined in
H. G. Wells™ classic tract, The Open Conspiracy, 1928). The ¬eld of higher
education is forced to become more humble, to be the responsible bearer
of bundles of norms that have a strikingly similar, if contradictory ring:
the organised suspicion of Truth; the realisation instead that our lives
and the world itself can be interpreted in multiple and different ways;
the search for commercially viable knowledge; the resistance to commer-
cialism; suspicion of ideologies and speaking out independently against
prejudice; criticising the powerful; supporting the weak; emphasising the
ironies of the human condition . . . and taking seriously the ethos of plu-
ralism, even giving it institutional force, so placing higher education and
its graduates on a collision course with the principal threats to global civil

Although it does not turn it into paradise on earth, the spread of higher
education arguably helps to stabilise and strengthen global civil society.
It adds to some of its best qualities, and highlights the need for clear-
headed strategic thinking about how best to strengthen them further.

19 Ronald Barnett, Realizing the University in an Age of Supercomplexity (Buckingham and
Philadelphia, 2000).
Paradise on earth? 139

The outlines of these actually existing qualities have gradually surfaced
in this book, and can be summarised in a few propositions. Global civil
society enables individuals, groups and organisations to organise and to
deploy their powers across borders, despite remaining barriers of time and
distance. This society provides non-governmental structures and rules
which enable individuals and groups to move and to decide things, to
follow their inclinations, to bring governmental powerholders to heel, to
engage in many kinds of mutually bene¬cial exchanges, even to work for
the socialisation of market economies so that production for social need,
rather than for pro¬t, prevails. This society makes it easier and cheaper for
trades unions and campaigners against hunger to coordinate their actions,
for companies in Seoul to ship goods to Italy, for the aboriginal peoples
of northern Canada to keep in touch with their brothers and sisters in
southern Africa; it enables the residents of Melbourne to visit relatives in
Athens, for activists in Vancouver to challenge the timber-cutting policies
of Indonesians and Brazilians, and for large banks in Frankfurt and Tokyo
to manage their world-wide foreign-exchange positions around the globe,
from one branch to another, always staying ahead of the setting sun.
Global civil society (as Michael Walzer has said so aptly20 ) resembles a
project of projects. It resounds of liberty, with all its multifariousness,
awkwardness, challenge and hope. Its civilities tend to be independent-
minded and active, rather than deferential. It is rich in freedoms within
and beyond borders: for example, to keep in touch with others who are
loved and valued; to accumulate money and wealth; to consume products
that were once considered exotic, in any season; to travel, to make friends
across borders, and to reunite with others, virtually or actually; and to
re-build damaged infrastructures by recovering memories, protecting the
vulnerable, raising hopes and generating new wealth and income. Global
civil society offers other possibilities: ˜spaces of hope™21 in which to warn
the world of threats to its security and to denounce and to reduce violence
and uncivil war; the freedom to press the principle that social and political
power beyond borders should be subject to greater public accountability;
and, generally, the opportunity to rescue the culture of ˜cosmopolitanism™
from its negative connotations of jet-setting, leisured individuals loyal to
no one and bent on sel¬shly sampling all cultures at will “ replacing
such connotations through the defence of a worldly politics that cultivates
the need for transnational mobility of viewpoint and action in support
of justice and freedom for all of the earth™s inhabitants. In this way, the
three little words ˜global civil society™ potentially enable millions of people

20 Michael Walzer, ˜The Concept of Civil Society™, in Toward a Global Civil Society (Provi-
dence and Oxford, 1995), p. 27.
21 David Harvey, Spaces of Hope (Edinburgh, 2000).
140 Global Civil Society?

to socialise de¬nitions of our global order “ even to imagine its positive
Unfortunately, such freedoms or ˜spatial opportunities™ (Micheline
Ishay) are currently unfolding in a hell-for-leather, Wild West fashion,
and are also very unevenly distributed. The freedoms of global civil soci-
ety are exclusionary and fail to produce equalities; in other words, global
civil society is not genuinely global. It is not a universal society. Vast areas
of the world, and certainly the large majority of the world™s population,
are excluded from active involvement. True, they ˜participate™ within this
society in the minimal sense that they are sometimes seen ¬‚eetingly, by
the privileged, mostly as anonymous television or newspaper images and
broken voices and reported tales of woe. In an era of rapid communica-
tions, the marginalised know that the world is a ladder on which some
go up and most go nowhere, or down. They see and feel their abject-
ness refracted through their encounters with the guardians of power and
prosperity. The wretched of the earth come to develop a world-wide rep-
utation for malnutrition, disease, homelessness and death.
They are seen as well as victims robbed of a voice by the cruel facts
of communication poverty. It is common knowledge that three-quarters
of the world™s population (now totalling 6 billion) are too poor to buy a
book; that a majority have never made a phone call in their lives; and that
only 5 per cent currently have access to the Internet.22 It is less common
knowledge (according to US State Department ¬gures) that as many as
4 million men, women and children annually are being bought, sold,
transported and held against their will in slave-like conditions. For its
victims, global civil society means the freedom of others to exploit them “
in quick time, at great distances. It means as well rising vulnerability to
the destructive or infectious powers of others: whereas smallpox, ¬rst
discovered in the Nile Valley 1,300 years ago, reached the continent of
Australia only during the nineteenth century, the AIDS virus took merely
three decades to penetrate to all four corners of the earth. The global epi-
demic has so far left 50 million people infected, of whom 16 million have
died. Around 14 million children have consequently been orphaned; and
in countries like Lesotho and Zimbabwe, where one-¬fth of all children
have lost their parents, whole social fabrics are torn by crumbling house-
hold structures.
From their side, the excluded and victimised ˜participate™ within global
civil society in a second minimal sense: thanks to aid programmes, tele-
vision and Hollywood ¬lms, they know something about the lives of the
rich and powerful of the world. Struggling to make ends meet, they are

22 John Keane, On Communicative Abundance (London, 1999).
Paradise on earth? 141

aware of how insubstantial is their share of the world™s wealth and power
and style. They sense that their lives are permanently under the shadow
of ˜Westerners™ and things ˜Western™: They are subjected to crude and
aggressive prejudices of those who shadow them. They feel scorned, like
a ˜wrongful™ majority. They know that being marginal means being con-
demned to a much shorter life. They are made to feel like victims of a
predatory mode of foreign intervention: they feel shut out from global civil
society, or uprooted by its dynamism, or imprisoned within its discrimi-
natory structures and policies, like unpayable debt-service payments, or
victimised by hunger or scores of uncivil wars.23
Others “ many Muslims say “ feel profound disappointment, tinged
with anger and righteous indignation. They reason that the enormous
potential of global civil society to expand dialogue among civilisations, to
˜af¬rm differences through communication™, is being choked to death by
the combined forces of global markets and military might, manifested for
instance in the long-standing and dangerously self-destructive alliance
between the United States and Israel24 ; some deeply religious Muslims
in¬‚uenced by ˜sala¬™ ideology blast that alliance as world-threatening.
They reject foreign ideals such as democracy and urge violent action lead-
ing to the establishment of an Islamic order based upon the ˜sovereignty
of shari™a™ (Taqiuddin An-Nabhani). Still others are gripped by feelings
of humiliation: of being crushed into impotence that derives from the
failure to be understood, the simple inability to make their voices heard,
to be recognised as the potential makers of their own histories. Then,
¬nally, there are the damned who curse quietly or express open ha-
tred for this civil society “ or who join Dostoevsky™s underground man
by drawing the de¬ant conclusion, against all things ˜reasonable™ and
˜Western™, that two plus two indeed equals ¬ve. From there, it may be
only a step or two to picking up a gun “ to ¬ght for the cause of ridding
the world of the hypocrisy and decadence of an immediate aggressor, or
a pseudo-universal way of life.
All these reactions serve to fuel the conclusion that global civil society
today resembles a string of oases of freedom in a vast desert of localised
injustice and resistance. The metaphor “ familiar in the Arabic contrast
between al-mujtama™ al-madani (civil society) and al sahara, the desert,
with its connotations of savagery, the unpolished and unre¬ned “ can be
prolonged for a moment, in order to draw another necessary conclusion:

23 Fred R. Dallmayr, ˜Globalization from Below™, International Politics, 36 (September
1999), pp. 321“34, Richard Falk, Predatory Globalisation. A Critique (Oxford, 1999),
chapter 8; and Orhan Pamuk, ˜The Anger of the Damned™, The New York Review of
Books, November 15, 2001, p. 12.
24 Interview with Professor Abou Yaareb al-Marzouki, Hammamet, Tunisia, 18 April 2001.
142 Global Civil Society?

that it is important as well to see that the privileges within this oasis
cannot be taken for granted. Global civil society currently suffers a se-
rious de¬cit of legitimacy: not only does it generate enemies who make
a ¬st in their pockets, but it is also marked by the absence of widely
held ˜common values™. There is certainly plenty of moral ˜spirit™ within
this society: movements, organisations, groups and individuals project
and defend ideas and values that bear crucially upon the ways the world
should be organised. Yet the old rule that a common sense of belonging
is necessary for a community to survive and thrive does not apply “ or
so far does not hold “ for global civil society. It contains no ˜self-evident
truths™ (in the sense of the American revolutionaries) and indeed any at-
tempt to project a particular bundle of norms as candidates for ˜Common
World Values™ “ to do with such familiar modern versions of principles as
Race, Religion, History, Nation “ appears both reactionary and divisive.
Global civil society is at best bonded together by norms that are strongly
procedural “ commitments to due process of law, political democracy, so-
cial pluralism “ and also by norms “ like civility and the commitment to
non-violence “ that have a highly variable content or are revocable under
certain conditions. The upshot is that this society is highly vulnerable to
the charge that it contains no binding moral Esperanto or ˜world values™,
and that consequently ˜many people feel as though they have lost control
of their lives™.25 And so, unsurprisingly, the plural freedoms of global civil
society are threatened constantly by the fact that it is a breeding ground
for manipulators who take advantage of its available resentments and
freedoms by waving the sword of ideologies above the heads of others.
The growth of borderless economic exchanges encourages certain win-
ners, some global corporations for instance, to cultivate talk that slakes
their thirst for power over others. Free market ideology linked with tur-
bocapitalism “ talk of deregulation, capital account liberalisation, sta-
ble money, budgetary restraint, structural adjustment, the privatisation
of the public sector, opportunity, risktaking, performance, consumer
choice “ has a strong af¬nity with these corporate winners. This ide-
ology, sometimes called the ˜Washington consensus™ (a term ¬rst used
by the economist John Williamson), encourages those who believe in it
to turn a blind eye to the contradictions of turbocapitalism. It puts busi-
ness on a tall pedestal. ˜The problem for capitalism™, writes one of its
ideologists, ˜is that many people “ including many capitalists “ seem to
have forgotten that it™s the most powerful force for good the world has
seen™. Global business reduces poverty, raises employment standards, and

25 From the speech by Amitai Etzioni to the colloquium, ˜Diversity Within Unity™ (Centre
for the Study of Democracy, London, 25 April 2002).
Paradise on earth? 143

promotes human rights and democracy. ˜So it™s time for the capitalists
and anti-capitalists to make common cause™, concludes the ideologist.
˜It™s time that campaigners for social justice and environmental protec-
tion saw business as their ally, not their enemy.™26 Such talk massages
the conscience of the rich, if they have one. It encourages them to feel
invincible. They are charmed into believing that they are clear winners,
that they no longer have to sit at the same table with their trade union or
consumer critics. Clustered around turbocapitalist ¬rms and their servic-
ing professions, the new rich even come to feel that they have no ˜need™
of the new poor “ even that the freedoms of civil society themselves are a
tradeable commodity.
Borderless exchanges also produce strong political reactions in favour
of the local and national. Sometimes these localist reactions are dogmatic.
They are often led by public ¬gures “ Patrick Buchanan, Pim Fortuyn,
Pauline Hanson, Vladimir Zhirinovsky “ who behave like the albatrosses
of globalisation. Harbingers of political storms, they rail against the whole
dirty business of ˜Euro-globalisation™ (Jean-Marie Le Pen). It stands ac-
cused of robbing ˜us™ of ˜our™ jobs because of competition from low-paid
˜foreign™ labour and cheap ˜foreign™ imports. The dogmatists play on the
fact that in various parts of global civil society, except Japan, the number
of foreign-born workers has been rising in recent decades. More than
7 million Mexican-born people are now living in the United States; and
in the European Union, there are an estimated 20 million legal (and
3 million illegal) immigrants. The ˜anti-globalisation™ dogmatists bowd-
lerise the point: they ignore the fact that most trade is between the richest
countries, and that (for example) unskilled and low-paid jobs in these
countries are typically in the service sector, which for obvious reasons is
comparatively insulated from global competition and often suffers labour
shortages. The dogmatists play on protectionist impulses. They warn cit-
izens that ˜their™ own country is already ˜full™, and that (as Pim Fortuyn
said repeatedly before his assassination in 2002) ˜foreigners™, with their
peculiar, bigoted beliefs, are diluting the precious culture of tolerance
for which civil societies are renowned.27 Sometimes the dogmatists
preach revenge. ˜Why should we create suffering for ourselves?™, Vladimir
Zhirinovsky once asked. The answer was quick: ˜We should create
suffering for others.™28

26 Steve Hilton ˜The Corporatist Manifesto™ Financial Times Weekend (London), 20“21
April 2002.
27 Correspondence with Percy Lehning (Amsterdam), June 2002. On the general problem
of nationalism, see my Civil Society: Old Images, New Visions (Oxford and Stanford,
1998), pp. 79“113.
28 Financial Times (London), 9 December 1993.
144 Global Civil Society?

Such unpleasant proto-nationalist talk reminds us that global civil so-
ciety (as Ulrich Beck has observed29 ) is not some new kind of mega-
national society that contains and dissolves all national identities into
itself. It is rather a vast landscape of multiple and non-integrated identi-
ties, including national identities that are produced and preserved in and
through the communications systems of the society itself. No necessary
harmonising effects are produced from within this landscape. Its losers
sometimes react to their disempowerment resentfully, by taking revenge
upon others, sometimes cruelly, guided by thoroughly modern ideolog-
ical presumptions, like xenophobic nationalism or dogmatic religiosity.
Racist ideology functions in a similar way. Although its roots are trace-
able to late medieval Europe, racism too began to ¬‚ourish only from the
time of the nineteenth century, mainly in the Western hemisphere, where
the rejection of hierarchy as the governing principle of social and political
life nurtured both the quest for meaning and a sense of self-worth and
political aspirations for equality in this world. The term ˜racism™ began to
be used only during the 1920s, when it signi¬ed, as it still does today, a
rejection of the ideal of a civil society. Racists are those who react suspi-
ciously against others in social spaces by concentrating on the different
physical markings of their bodies and then wrapping them in fearful and
arrogant, if inchoate presumptions of emotional and intellectual inferior-
ity. Its arbitrary stereotypes are often self-con¬rming, but in every case
they serve (as Loury puts it30 ) to ˜spoil™ the collective identities of civil
society by treating others as dangerously different.
These grim incivilities reveal that the plural social spaces of global civil
society, some of which are tissue-thin, are constantly threatened with
ransacking or takeovers in the name of some or other organised ideology.
Ideologies are upwardly mobile, power-hungry and potentially dominat-
ing language games. They make falsely universal claims. In so doing, they
mask their own particular conditions of production, and attempt to snuff
out the plurality of language games within the actually existing global civil
society or surrounding state structures in which they were born.31 The
proponents of ideologies like free market competition, nationalism and
racism take advantage of the growth of global civil society by roaming
hungrily through its free social spaces; they try to convince the uncon-
verted that ˜it is often safer to be in chains than to be free™ (Franz Kafka);

29 Ulrich Beck, What is Globalization? (Cambridge, 1999), Introduction.
30 Glenn C. Loury, The Anatomy of Racial Inequality (Cambridge, MA and London, 2002);
see also George M. Frederickson, Racism: A Short History (Princeton, 2002).
31 This revised understanding of ideology is developed in my ˜The Modern Democratic
Revolution: Re¬‚ections on Lyotard™s The Postmodern Condition™, in Andrew Benjamin
(ed.), Judging Lyotard (London and New York, 1992), pp. 81“98.
Paradise on earth? 145

they treat others as competitors, or as enemies to be defeated, or injured,
or left to starve to death. In consequence, inequalities of power, bully-
ing and fanatical, violent attempts to de-globalise are chronic features of
global civil society. Understood normatively as a trans-national system of
social networks of non-violent polyarchy, global civil society is a wish that
has not yet been granted to the world.

The triangle of violence
The legitimation problems of global civil society should remind its friends
of the need to examine carefully, as well as strategically confront, the prin-
cipal threats to its survival and future growth. Violence against civilians “
the unwanted physical interference with their bodies that typically causes
them pain and mental anguish and, in the extreme case, death “ is un-
doubtedly one of the greatest enemies of this society. Violence is anathema
to its spirit and substance. This follows, by de¬nition, because global civil
society is marked by a tendency to non-violence. This stems from the fact
that many of its participants “ not all of them, it should be emphasised “
share a peacefully cosmopolitan outlook on the world, for instance by dis-
playing a strong distaste for war, a genuine interest in others™ ways of life,
a facility or respect for different languages, or a simple commitment to or-
dinary courtesy and respect for others, whatever their skin colour, gender
or geographic background. This learned quality of non-violent openness
is paradoxically reinforced by the fact that the daily lives of its participants
are normally cloth-bound in inherited habits and structured routines that
might seem banal in their repetitiousness, but are in fact highly intricate
and complex in the way they work.32 The existential foundations of daily
life are the ˜raw material™ of civility. The members of global civil society
are animals of erect stature. They ¬nd it painful to remain upside down
for long and therefore not only have a common understanding of up and
down, but prefer uprightness. They likewise have shared notions of left
and right, of immobility or motion, and because they have bodies, arms
and legs they comprehend what it means to move, to squash, to kick, to
be hit by something hard. Conceptions of constraint come easily to these
beings: they dislike it when others prevent them from talking, or swal-
lowing, or obstruct their motion, or strike or physically hurt them. These
dispositions are enmeshed in non-violent webs of more or less taken-
for-granted commitments: conversations, gestures, washing their bodies,
patience, laughter, sexual play, housecleaning, shopping for items pro-
duced in more than one country, planning journeys, tending crops and

32 Thomas L. Dumm, A Politics of the Ordinary (New York and London, 1999), chapter 4.
146 Global Civil Society?

plants, worrying about income, ¬lling out forms, paying bills, prepar-
ing food, looking after others, watching television, reading newspapers,
telling children about the world and putting them to bed.
We have seen that the contemporary revival of interest in civil society,
and the corresponding invention of the new term global civil society, had
much to do with such experiences of the past century as total war, aerial
bombardment, concentration camps, and the threat of nuclear annihila-
tion. Violence is a great catalyst “ and vicious enemy “ of civil society. And
so it is necessary, if disconcerting and painful, to re¬‚ect for a moment
on the problematic forms of violence which today surround and threaten
global civil society. Quite aside from the ongoing tendency of local civil
societies to produce troubling amounts of violence “ rapes, muggings,
gang-land crimes, murders33 “ linked to humiliation, poverty, frustra-
tion, physical and mental exhaustion, emotional abandonment and the
loss of intimacy, there is also mounting evidence that global civil society,
despite the end of the Cold War, is today falling under the shadow of an
unstable triangle of violence.
One side of the triangle is the instability caused by nuclear-tipped states
in the post-Cold War world system of cosmocracy. This system (as we
have seen) is dominated by the United States, which can and does act as
a vigilante military power backed by nuclear force. As a vigilante power,
it is engaged in several regions without being tied permanently to any of
them, but its manoeuvres are complicated by the fact that it is presently
forced to co-exist and interact peacefully with four powerful states within
the system of cosmocracy, three of whom are nuclear powers: Europe
and Japan (zone A), and China and Russia (zone B) (see ¬gure 3.1).34
The geometry of this arrangement clearly differs from the extended freeze
imposed by the Cold War, when (according to Raymond Aron™s famous
formula) most parts of the world lived in accordance with the rule, ˜peace
impossible, war unlikely™. With the collapse of bipolar confrontation, this
rule has changed. There is no evidence of the dawn of a post-nuclear
age, and the freedom from the fear of nuclear accident or attack that that
would bring. Nowadays, as Hassner has explained, peace has become a
bit less impossible and war a bit more likely, principally because a form
of unpredictable anarchy has settled on the whole world.35

33 See my Re¬‚ections on Violence (London and New York, 1996), esp. pp. 107ff.
34 Barry Buzan, ˜Rethinking Polarity Theory: Re¬‚ections on the Meaning of “Great
Power” ™, unpublished paper (Centre for the Study of Democracy, London, March
35 See the concluding interview in Pierre Hassner, La violence et la paix: de la bombe atomique
au nettoyage ethnique (Paris, 1995), esp. pp. 23“61: ˜In the past, the doctrine of deterrence
matched the civil character of our societies: an invisible hand, or abstract mechanism,
Paradise on earth? 147

It may be that nuclear weapons have so reduced the need for mass mo-
bilisation of troops that they have enabled a permanent ˜civilianisation™
of daily life in some Western states.36 Insofar as these weapons have also
tended to make unlikely war between the dominant powers, it may be true
as well that the probability of a nuclear apocalypse, in which the earth
and its peoples are blown sky-high, has been permanently reduced.37 Per-
haps. Yet the actors and institutions of global civil society need to be on
guard: perpetual peace is a very long way off in the future. There are var-
ious reasons for this. The key political powers are currently preoccupied
with seeing through a possible ˜revolution in military affairs™,38 in which
military forces will be geared increasingly to electronic intelligence gath-
ering, computerised communications networks, protective screens and
highly destructive, precision-guided or ˜smart™ weapons capable of use
anywhere on the globe. It is highly doubtful whether such weapons can
eliminate ˜frictions™ (von Clausewitz) from battles. There are doubts too
about whether the claimed level of precision can be affordably and reliably
achieved, or about whether civilians uninterested in military heroism will
be prepared to witness, in silent gratitude, the violent elimination of others
by remotely piloted vehicles, nano-weapons and sophisticated informa-
tion systems. Major wars using these and more old-fashioned weapons
remain a long-term possibility, including even the use of nuclear-tipped
weapons in con¬‚icts that originate in local wars and con¬‚icts.

took charge of our security, and we did not have to bother our heads with it. But today
the nuclear issue can no longer be considered in isolation, it is inextricably mixed up
with everything else.™ A more activist perspective is provided by Helen Caldicott, The
New Nuclear Danger (New York, 2002).
36 Paul Hirst, War and Power in the 21st Century. The State, Military Con¬‚ict and the Inter-
national System (Oxford, 2001), p. 39.
37 A classic re¬‚ection on the problem is Hans Morgenthau™s Politics Among Nations: The
Struggle for Power and Peace (New York, 1954). Following the nuclear attack on Japan,
he claimed that the avoidance of a nuclear Third World War required the structural
transformation of the anarchic territorial state system into a world state. He saw that
requirement as necessary, but as impossible to satisfy. No world state “ except one that
was imposed in the aftermath of a Third World War “ could be built unless it was
built upon a sense of world community nurtured by shared moral and political values.
Morgenthau concluded that such a world polity was unlikely, since no such community
of values was available, either in the present or in the foreseeable future. Some observers,
including the American ˜realist™ scholar Kenneth Waltz, have turned Hans Morgenthau™s
conclusions upside down, to argue that the gradual spread of nuclear weaponry is more
to be welcomed than feared, principally because the rising dangers of accident or attack
will spawn the growth of global self-restraint in all matters nuclear. See Jonathan Schell,
˜The Folly of Arms Control™, Foreign Affairs 79:5 (September“October 2000), pp. 29“30.
38 The policy trends are analysed in M. O™Hanlon, Technological Change and the Future
of Warfare (Washington, DC, 2000); E. A. Cohen, ˜A revolution in warfare™, Foreign
Affairs 75:2 (March“April 1996), pp. 37“54; and in the contributions to J. Arquilla and
D. Ronfeldt (eds.), In Athena™s Camp: Preparing for Con¬‚ict in the Information Age (Santa
Monica, 1997).
148 Global Civil Society?

Surgeons speak of enucleation to describe the process of removing tu-
mours from shells. The same term could be used to describe a basic po-
litical priority of the friends of global civil society: the systematic removal
of nuclear weapons and weapons-making systems and materials from its
structures of government. The priority will be hard to realise; alterna-
tive scenarios are equally likely. Global civil society is embedded within
a risk-producing system in which the possibility of a damaging theft or
spillage of nuclear materials, or nuclear reactor meltdown or the open use
of nuclear weapons is chronic. A taste of things to come is perhaps the
routine dropping of depleted uranium shells on the victims of war. Mean-
while, nuclear weapons abound “ the arsenals of the United States and
the Russian Federation each contain somewhere around 7,000 nuclear
warheads.39 And despite the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, nuclear
capacity, as can be seen in the nuclear arms races between Pakistan and
India, and between Israel and the Arab states, is spreading, despite any
prior agreements about the rules of nuclear confrontation and despite the
fact (revealed in the so-called National Missile Defense system planned
by the Bush administration) that the issue of nuclear weapons is now
deeply implicated in the so-called ˜modernisation™ of weapons systems.
American of¬cials, aware that their old Cold War rival is no longer so,
now like to speak of a ˜generic™ threat, a bundle of potential dangers that
might well arise at any moment, somewhere else in the world. Hence
the investment, since the early 1980s, of some $60 billion in the project
of developing a National Missile Defense programme that takes aim at
˜rogue™ powers equipped with nuclear weapons. One trouble with this
project is that there are potentially large numbers of rogues “ the US
State Department currently lists forty-four governments endowed with
nuclear weapons™ capacity “ and that the world of cosmocracy is already
confronted by rivalries between newcomer nuclear governments. The
world™s ¬rst nuclear confrontation unrelated to the Cold War “ ¬ve tests
conducted by India in May 1998, followed by seven tests by Pakistan “ has
been reinforced by a long sequence of new and equally threatening devel-
opments: the Iraqi government™s expulsion of UN weapons inspectors;
North Korea™s ongoing efforts to build weapons; continuing doubts about
Russia™s ability to keep safe its nuclear weapons and materials (despite
American contributions of $2.3 billion per annum under the Nunn“Lugar
legislation); and American assurances that it will not object to China™s
plans to expand its nuclear arsenals “ which would lead to the end of
the current world-wide moratorium on nuclear testing, as codi¬ed in
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Like the seeds planted by Cadmus,

39 The Times (London), 10 February 2001, p. 16.
Paradise on earth? 149

nuclear armaments appear to be breeding nuclear armaments. Talk of
˜throw-weight gaps™, ˜windows of vulnerability™ and ˜missile gaps™ admit-
tedly no longer echoes through the corridors of cosmocracy. Yet ominous
signs are everywhere. New revelations of past and present administrative
carelessness and ˜normal™ nuclear accidents are streaming into public
circulation. Disturbing compensation claims against the malfeasance of
nuclear-tipped governments are ¬nding their way into the cosmocracy™s
courts. Plans are afoot to develop ˜mini-nukes™, precision-guided, low-
yield nuclear weapons that suppose that the principle of casualty-free
battle can be extended to nuclear war. The sequence of developments
actually runs longer and deeper than this, and is by de¬nition (like the
future) uncertain. But the conclusion is unavoidable: global civil society
is framed by a cosmocracy that produces a risk-producing rabble of self-
interested nuclear powers sharply opposed to the aim of either reducing
or abolishing outright nuclear weapons systems.

Uncivil war
Global civil society is threatened as well by the violence unleashed in
uncivil wars: armed con¬‚icts that rip apart political institutions, poi-
son the institutions of civil society, and ¬‚ing their combatants into self-
preoccupation with survival.40 Examples of this second side of the trian-
gle of violence are to be found in abundance, and include two decades
of ¬ghting in the Sudan, fuelled by constant imports of arms that reach
the hands of state and non-state actors, who struggle to use these arms
in highly complex ways to preserve or acquire land, cattle, wealth and
power. The con¬‚ict has resulted in the death of at least 2 million peo-
ple and another 4 million are refugees in their own country “ internally
displaced people, in the jargon of the INGO world.41
Despite many differences, uncivil war zones of the Sudanese kind are
marked by similarities. Those who are caught up in their maelstroms of vi-
olence suffer a shrinking of existential horizons caused by unimaginable
cruelties: armies, militias and rag-tag criminal gangs rape, pillage and
murder to the point where all remaining islands of civility are wrecked,
beyond repair. The violence is typically fuelled by global ¬‚ows of arms,
money and men, who take advantage of the fact that local political institu-
tions are crumbling and competitor power groups are jostling for territory


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