Global Covenant: The Social Democratic Alternative to the Washington Consensus

In This Review

Global Covenant: The Social Democratic Alternative to the Washington Consensus

By David Held
Polity, 2004
216 pp. $59.95
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In this social democratic manifesto for the reform of global governance, Held, a British political scientist who has written perceptively on democracy and globalization, explores the challenge of preserving and extending social democratic values-the rule of law, democratic accountability, social justice, community solidarity-in a rapidly globalizing world. His thesis is that social democracy is increasingly difficult to sustain within national borders, as the forces of globalization expand the geopolitical space necessary for the provision of public goods, regulatory control, and political coordination. Accordingly, he offers a sketch of how social democracy might operate on a world scale. The result is a framework of proposed principles, policies, and institutions that together chart a middle course between the current dominant visions-namely, the neoliberal "Washington consensus" and radical antiglobalism. Economic governance would entail a commitment to the liberalization of markets but also ambitiously expand regulatory mechanisms to promote social welfare, environmental protection, and distributive justice. A global social-democratic polity would also establish new global and regional democratic bodies anchored in international law. How one gets from today's world of U.S. primacy to "social democratic multilateralism" is unclear. Held's optimism seems to be based on the assumed efficacy of enlightened self-interest, cosmopolitanism, and moral aspiration.