Global transformations

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Global Transformations

by David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt and Jonathan Perraton

Transnational Democracy: Theories and Prospects

Tony McGrew

← Introduction
← Globalization and Transnational Democracy
← Theorizing Transnational Democracy
← Transnational democracy : plausible or desirable?
← Can transnational democracy be dismissed?
← Towards aDemocratic Global Polity?
← Conclusion: Reimagining Democracy
← References


Democratic theory (and practice), notes Shapiro, has always appeared '…impotent when faced with questions about its own scope' (Shapiro 1999,p1). Binary oppositions between the public and the private, the domestic and the international have been central to controversies concerning the properlimits to the democratic project. Radical critiques of modern liberal democracy, for instance, have advocated both the widening and deepening of the democratic order to embrace the private spheres of the household and the workplace (Held, 1996).Yet, until comparatively recently, democratic theorists rarely ventured beyond the state since prevailing orthodoxy presumed a categorical distinction betweenthe moral realm of the sovereign political community and the amoral realm of the anarchical society ; the domestic and international arenas respectively (Connolly 1991; Walker 1991). In effect,theorists of modern democracy tended to bracket the anarchical society whilst theorists of international relations tended to bracket democracy. Of course, there were exceptions. Classical liberalinternationalism, expressed in the ideas of Bentham, Woodrow Wilson, and proponents of functionalism, such as Mitrany, advocated a more democratic international order (Mitrany 1975; Mitrany 1975). But, for the most part, it is only in the post Cold War era that the historically estranged literatures of international relations theory and democratic theory have begun to exhibit a shared fascination with theidea of democracy beyond borders, that is transnational (or global) democracy (Held 1995; Clark 1999). This 'transnational turn', as it may be described, articulates a profoundly significant shift in thinking about the modern democratic project which deserves serious critical scrutiny.

In contributing to that critical scrutiny this chapter commences with a discussion of the factors which haveprecipitated this 'transnational turn'. This establishes the context for taking seriously the literature on transnational democracy. In surveying this literature section II identifies different accounts of transnational democracy rooted in distinctive traditions of democratic thought. Critical reflection on these four contemporary re-imaginings of democracy - liberal -internationalism, radicaldemocratic pluralism, cosmopolitanism, and deliberative democracy - raises fundamental questions about the desirability and possibility of transnational democracy. These issues are addressed in section III. Responding to these sceptical arguments section IV delivers a robust defense of the idea of transnational democracy. Finally, section V considers the prospects for the transnational democratic projectand reflects on the plausibility of the four very different re-imaginings of democracy elaborated in section II.

Globalization and Transnational Democracy

The burgeoning literature on transnational democracy has to be set in the context of several contemporary developments: an intensification of globalization, the Third Wave of global democratization and the rise of transnational socialmovements. These interrelated developments - the significance of which is contested - have encouraged reflection upon the conditions and possibilities for effective democracy. Economic globalization, many argue, has exacerbated the tension between democracy, as a territoriality rooted system of rule, and the operation of global markets and transnational networks of corporate power. In a world in...
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