Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 11.2 (2004) 83-133
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Toward Global Democracy:
Thoughts in Response to the Rising Tide of Nation-to-Nation Interdependencies
Hassan El Menyawi*
"De cette manière, l'État-Nation, qui a intégré sa population par la participation démocratique, gâche sa conquete la plus essentielle [à cause de l'internationalisation du monde]."1 [In this manner, the nation-state that has integrated its population through democratic participation loses its most essential conquest, because of globalization]. [End Page 83]
"[Institutions at the international level need] to look through [their] member nations into the eyes of the world's peoples."2
Accompanying the growing intensity of globalization, nation-to-nation interdependencies are on the rise, meaning that events and decisions in one nation increasingly have effects in other nations. At times, these interdependencies are negative, such as a recession that travels to North America after the onset of an economic bust in the Far East. Yet although nations' destinies are increasingly interconnected, their populations do not communicate with one another prior to making collective decisions, although those same decisions might negatively impact another nation. National democratic institutions are generally designed in ways that only allow citizens to vote in elections and to send representatives to legislatures, allowing no guarantee that the views of foreign populations will be considered. In fact, no national democracy has ever allowed foreigners to vote or send voting representatives to its legislature.
In light of increasing interdependencies among states, it has become important to design a system of global3 democracy. Such a system could provide national populations with opportunities to communicate with one another that would allow them collectively to minimize negative interdependencies. Without a new design, national populations will continue to impose their will (or the effects of their decisions) on other nations, in turn reducing their potential for national autonomy.
In this article, I discuss the possibility of designing an international democratic system. Since my project is to design institutions, it differs from the work of such scholars as Anne-Marie Slaughter.4 Slaughter has written extensively on how nations influence and create interdependencies with one another at the global level, noting the interlocking effects on legal and political structures and [End Page 84] relationships. She focuses on describing events occurring at the global level, whereas mine is a normative project, attempting to re-design the operations of the global level. She, for example, argues that
the state...is disaggregating into its separate parts, functionally distinct parts. These parts—courts, regulatory agencies, executives, and even legislatures—are networking with their counterparts abroad, creating a dense web of relations that constitutes a new, transgovernmental order. Today's international problems— terrorism, organized crime, environmental degradation, money laundering, bank failure, and securities fraud—created and sustain these relations.5
Slaughter thus documents trends and phenomena occurring at the global level. My approach, while in factual agreement with Slaughter about increasing interdependencies, has a prescriptive turn. My approach suggests new structures—new institutions—designed to deal effectively with the rise of nation-to- nation interdependencies.
One way to move to a more legitimate international legal system that addresses the rise of interdependencies is to facilitate national populations' communication with one another. In other words, greater communication helps to move toward a democracy that includes the populations of all nations, linking them together.6 Indeed, there is a growing scholarly literature pointing to the need for a democratic conception of international relations and law, supplemented with the fact that a tide of democratic change has swept the world.7 As represented in the quotation above, the political philosopher Jürgen Habermas [End Page 85] laments the absence of international democracy, after the great historical quest nations have undergone to achieve national democracy. Why not then consider democratic structures as a basis for international governance?
Several international relations theorists, political philosophers, and democracy scholars have attempted to reorient the literature on international relations, and contemplate the institutional implementation of international...