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Global Society and Its Ancient Greek Antecedents

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Can a democratic Global Society become the alternative to Empire and bring order into present international anarchy? One hundred percent sovereignty in nation states gives "security" to each but creates "anarchy" in relations between states. To bring order into international relations some sovereignty has to be surrendered. Empire, which does bring an order of sorts, is imposed from outside, is undemocratic and aggrandising. Global Society can be conceptualised as its alternative. Sharply contrasting Global Society to Empire tends to pose the former as a panacea, but it is important to know its potential faults. Global Society can be envisioned at the constitutive stage and as continuing to exert influence within the institutions it creates. At the difficult constitutive stage, it will be fragile and of unwieldy size and ought only be called into play at critical junctures. The institutions it creates will be a democratic federal regime of regional blocks of states. To resolve issues, Global Society presumes effective consocial dialogue and participation rather than violent contention. Classical and Hellenistic Greece provide examples where vision and honour battled with the ambitions and greed of Empire and remarkably sometimes won. All the Greek city-states were under some sort of regional federal alliance at different times and drew strength from shared religious sanctuaries and their attached Games. The various interchanges between democratic Federalism and Empire in ancient Greece offers a microcosm of today's interregnum between modern and postmodern international relations. For as democratic political theorists at the start of the twenty first century, we do not seem to be able to do without the legitimizing idea of the People, but we do not know what to do with it. - Margaret Canovan, "The People, the Masses, and the Mobilization of Power: The Paradox of Hannah Arendt's 'Populism'" Lysistrata: Don't you share a cup at common altars, for common gods, like brothers, at the Olympic games, Thermophylai and Delphi? - Aristophanes, Lysistrata
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-02-01

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