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Capsule Review

Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance

In This Review

Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance
By David Held
Stanford University Press, 1995 324 pp. $49.50 Purchase

This ambitious book argues that modern liberal democracy is no longer a sufficient political system. The author notes that the rise of contemporary representative democracy was deeply intertwined with the development of the nation-state. The global economy, however, with its transnational corporations, interest groups, and other transnational and supranational trends, has grown beyond the control of individual nation-states. Decisions made by other political communities impinge on one's own, with no obvious democratic recourse when rights and interests are not respected.

The author's solution is to establish a "cosmopolitan democracy" that could democratically control these new forces, just as strong welfare states were developed in the 1930s to control capitalism at the national level. However, in an age in which big government is under attack, calling for new political institutions on a global scale with enormous legislative and regulatory powers is both hubristic and quixotic. The world is saved from U.N. inefficiency only by the organization's weakness. A functioning world government would quickly become a monstrosity of administrative costs and good intentions gone awry. The result would not be democratic empowerment but a feeling of disenfranchisement at the hands of a new bureaucracy.

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