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Secession as a Crime Against the World State

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Advocates of the world state rightly point out that an effective world state, if it is to be created any time in the future, would introduce the rule of law on the whole of our planet. As a result, the world state would be empowered to prevent or stop any unlawful use of violence, that is, violence not properly authorized by a legitimate government. While any state—and by implication a world state—would ban unlawful violence, it is far from clear what kind of collective action, short of violent ones, a future world state would prohibit and prevent. In particular, it is not clear whether any detachment, or secession, from the world state would be explicitly prohibited by the globally enforced law. Any attempt to determine which collective action would or should be prohibited is at this stages peculative. This kind of speculation, in the present state of our disciplinary demarcations, is often the privilege of normative political or ethical theorists. This essay explores the speculations and arguments of one very influential normative theorist.

In his “Why the World State is Inevitable” Alexander Wendt (2003: 491–542)* maintains that the disruptions of the world state would constitute not politics but crime. At present disruptions of the world order or relations among states—for example, through the creation of new states through secession—constitute not a crime but political processes whose outcome and legal consequences are often uncertain. In the world state which, Wendt hopes, will be established within one hundred years or less, disruptions of this kind would no longer be disruptions of the world order but of the world state. If so, they fall under the legal regulative of the world state. Disruptions detrimental to the world state would no doubt constitute a breach of these legal regulations and, thus, a crime. From this it follows that secession, as a disruption of the world state, would constitute a crime whose punishment Wendt does not specify.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2010

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