World Government, International Cosmopolitanism: Global Governance without a Global State

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Immanuel Kant is often credited with foreseeing the emergence of aworld wherein the economic and security issues of nations have become “globalized”. In such a world, the solutions to problems impacting all nations require coordinated and cooperative political action. Kant appearsto have two models for how such an interdependent world should be organized. The one presumably correct “in theory” would have nations give up their independence to a world sovereign with coercive powers to implement its laws. The other, the “negative surrogate” of the world republic, would organize independent nations into a voluntary defensive league based upon republican principles of governance and committed to cosmopolitan principles of right.

I will not go into the complex literature concerning the relationship between these two models but will instead investigate the question: what does cosmopolitan right add to the model of a defensive league of republics that can help us understand how global governance is possible in the absence of a global state?

This paper investigates the foundational character of cosmopolitan right as one of the three forms of public right in Kant's theory of right and its role in making global governance possible without a global state. While on the face of it cosmopolitan right is clearly a significant aspect of Kant's theory of right, appearing in both the Metaphysics of Morals as a form of public right and in Perpetual Peace as the third definitive article, traditional interpretations of Kant's theory have placed primary emphasis on national or political right without sufficient appreciation for the systematic context within which all law must develop. Cosmopolitan right, as the normative principle that shapes the development of public law regarding the interaction of individuals and states, must in turn shape national and inter-state law. I conclude that not only must all law, according to Kant, have a foundation in cosmopolitan right but that cosmopolitan right requires the development of democratic institutions at the global international level in order to universally secure the public rights of all individuals and bring about the “cosmopolitan community” that is the ultimate goal of history and politics.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • World Governance: Do We Need It, Is It Possible, What Could It (All) Mean?
    One of the main objections raised against world governance is not that it is impractical, but that it is unnecessary and even undesirable. There is a fear that world government would be or become tyrannical. German philosopher Immanuel Kant devised a project of "perpetual peace," but he was against a world state, advocating instead a kind of confederation of the states in the world. Finally, if a world government is indeed formed, how far should the instruments and tools of such a body reach? These and other issues have been explored in this book. Covering a wide range of disciplines - from philosophy to jurisprudence, ethics, and social science - the book explores how theorists have reflected upon the necessary components of an effective global order.
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