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Proposal for a New Vision and Strategy of Global Democracy

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From Plato to Rawls, via Hobbes, Lockes and most prominently Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the theory that societies function according to an implicit or explicit social contract is well accepted. The main questions are what form the contract takes, what rights and responsibilities do people have under it, how does it come about or change and how is it enforced? Democracy is a special sort of social contract where the people are sovereign and which can take many different shapes. The appeal of the social contract concept (encompassing more generally a civic and political contract too) is that it allows people to agree to a basic compact to live in peace and optimize freedoms and responsibilities. As a contract implies some sort of consent, compromise, and reciprocity which in a world of physically relatively equal humans is necessary for a sustainable peace, a social contract is necessary for any democracy thus far invented. In essence, a global social contract can be construed as a global “deal” for world citizens to solve their problems, or a “new global deal” or “global new deal” if one wishes.

The claim is made that global democracy cannot come about without an explicit global social contract, for the simple reason that the scale of the world does not allow informal and implicit contracts to function as they might at the level of small human units. Two other reasons for a global social contract as a precondition of global democracy are argued to be that first the many global problems cannot be solved in isolation (therefore that their solutions need to be explicitly negotiated in tandem with the related problems and they need to be contractually linked since they are linked in the real world), and secondly that even for unrelated issues, some world citizens would lose and some would win, so that here too one basic global social contract rather than many separate social contracts should be negotiated (global environmental issues are a typical win-lose issue in many people's minds). If, as is the case today, issues are discussed in isolation, then whoever is the loser in a particular negotiation will oppose the deal (even if it is a global optimum). If one fundamental contract were negotiated (such as a world constitution based on basic human rights), it is more likely that everyone would agree since everyone would gain and lose some. Finally, it is claimed that the stability of a global social contract would be optimized if it were 1) freely and openly negotiated by the world's peoples, 2) based on the equal human dignity of all, 3) explicit rather than implicit so as to allow full scrutiny and participation, 4) based on a process that is widely perceived as fair.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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  • World Constitutionalism
    In World Constitutionalism, over two dozen scholars, academicians, administrators, and leaders of civil society have come together to pen their innovative ideas. It is an attempt to carry their vision over national barriers through the realms of Human Rights, Environmental Law, Feminist Justice and Global Democracy. World Constitutionalism endeavours to foster scientific study of world governance as a multi disciplinary subject with an added flavour of law to give it special sanctity in the minds of the Peoples of the World. The book is an addition to the growing movement for World Unity that presently reechoes round the globe.
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