In This Review
Governing the World Without Government

Governing the World Without Government

By Roberto Mangabeira Unger

Verso, 2022, 96 pp.

In this slender book, Unger ruminates elegantly on the problems of world governance. At times of global upheaval, such as today, thinkers and diplomats eagerly put forth grand new schemes for governing the world. The UN Security Council could be expanded; a new Council of Regions could be established. Unger argues that the fatal flaw in such proposals is that they threaten to transfer sovereignty upward toward a centralized authority precisely when states are seeking to protect their sovereignty and defend their ways of life. The only way to get cooperation without such transfers of sovereignty is through ad hoc and shifting coalitions of states. These initiatives are best exemplified by the Conference of Parties framework organized under the auspices of the UN, an approach currently used to foster cooperation regarding climate change. Unger sees a future in which various sorts of coalitions of the willing operate to produce collective action. But the success of this approach to global governance will still depend on whether the great powers can manage their rivalries and not allow their enmity to make international cooperation impossible.