Pour un mouvement démocratique cosmopolitaire For a democratic cosmopolitarian movement
Details of the Proposal

Foreword : learning from Rio+20


The Rio+20 Conference was neither a success nor a failure. We simply need to see it for what it was and not as what we would have wished it to be. Let us see it as a snapshot of the current power structures in place, both in terms of global thinking and global action, namely, at a planetary level. Firstly, it is worth remembering that the Rio conference was not part of the international strategy espoused by world powers. In June 2012, states’ immediate concerns and issues were altogether different. We must recognize this. The Rio+20 Conference was part of the process led by UN programmes and agencies, which periodically provide an overview of the world situation, in this case on the environment: after Stockholm in 1972 and Rio in 1992, there had to be a Rio+20 conference in 2012.


Neither the United States, nor Europe, nor the so-called emerging countries incorporated into G20 wanted this conference at that precise moment. Having already seen the evidence in December 2009 in Copenhagen, they knew that the conditions for international negotiations between states were not favourable for reaching the slightest agreement. The world will wait; disaster and chaos may not. Despite this, the UN got its conference and that in itself was something. The primary outcome was the global-scale mobilization of national and transnational civil society, public opinion, academia and state and UN officials. Side effects were an immense sense of frustration and the feeling that this was a fool’s game, a show without an actor. And yet awareness is growing. It took 40 years for the findings and forecasts of a minority of ecologists (who were considered ludicrously alarmist at the time) to be taken up by the vast majority of the media and politicians. No one—or almost no one—denies the harsh reality of global warming, the extremely harmful loss of biodiversity and the non-sustainability of the system of production and consumption at a global level.


But the system is stuck. The key players are still endlessly reading from a script that is no longer relevant, either in terms of thought or action. Not to mention the vacuity of the concept of a green economy. And even if we have never been as close as we are now to the momentum needed for a paradigm shift to find a way out of the ecological and social crisis, there is currently nothing to say that we will not let the opportunity pass us by. To resolve the impasse, a dual change of perspective is required: a change in the field of thought and a change in the field of social and political action. We therefore have to enter into two phases of transition simultaneously and link up these two transitions.


The aim of this paper may appear utopian and overly ambitious to some. That is because it is not limited to thinking about the world using existing concepts, and because it is positioned resolutely within a particularly high level of social action, at the universal and world level of humanity. Indeed, I have chosen to situate my theory in a sufficiently long time period to encompass at least the modern era, in a sufficiently wide geographic area to include the planet, and in a sufficiently broad strand of sociology to account for humanity in its universality.


Answering the question of the century


I have chosen to consider humanity as an historical subject that is struggling to emerge at a key moment in political modernity, when democracy, weakened at all levels, is inexistent at the only level where the key issues of humanity are discussed today—that of the world system. The world ecological crisis and the inability of the international system of states to respond to it demonstrate that the human condition is now universal; more so than ever before. It is driving humanity (known as “the human race” or “humankind”) to think of itself today as a world community, to form itself into a world society and, like a world nation, collectively to defend its survival and its future. Humanity is already struggling to see itself as a world community. Consciousness of sharing a common destiny on a global level is not yet very widespread. Moreover, only the creation of a form of global political power—whatever form it might take— could constitute a world society. In Switzerland, it is the Federal Constitution that created the sense of being Swiss; and it is the European Union that is today creating European identity.


However, neither the international system, the contemporary UN system, based on bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, nor the G8 and G20 have proven capable of constituting the minimum institutional structure to allow the implementation of world governance. The issue is that effective world governance is now indispensable for the survival of humanity on earth, not to mention humankind’s aspirations for liberty, equality and solidarity or their desire for emancipation. How can world governance be put into effect? That, in my view, is the issue of the century, the question we have to undertake to answer. And there is some urgency. Yet we still do not have the theoretical tools to do so, nor a fortiori the social and political forces necessary to establish the conditions for this governance.


A new paradigm of thought for a new paradigm of action


When we rely on a new theory to develop a new strategy for action, the first difficulty with which we are confronted—and also the most significant—is that we are forced to forge new concepts. This is because the concepts we have in our toolbox of ideas are either so worn out that they have to be completely rebuilt, or totally hackneyed and obsolete, and therefore unqualified to describe and understand the new issue and make it understood. A new paradigm of thought and action therefore requires new concepts. This paper is an attempt to set out new sociological concepts by suggesting a number of neologisms, with the aim of addressing the questions that follow.

Question one: how should we define the difference between the current world and previous worlds?

Since its emergence five or six centuries ago, modernity has always cultivated a world system process, i.e. the dialectic between globalization and (re)location. However, in the 1990s, following two World Wars and the Cold War, humanity experienced a huge acceleration in the world system process, made especially possible by the advent of new information and communications technologies. The consequence of the considerable expansion in digital communications has been to reinforce, among increasingly large sections of the world population, the sense of belonging to a unique (though very diverse) human community advancing towards the same destiny. Although it has not yet been widely analyzed or understood, this phenomenon marks a real epistemic break in the history of humanity. At the same time, where first modernity allowed the expression of a limitless desire for emancipation both collectively and individually, then second modernity1, whilst also incorporating the desire for emancipation, puts it within the limits of sustainability.


MoNdernity is the name I have given2 to the modern world system in its contemporary formal structure, and moNdernization is the continual world system process at work within modernity and inherent to the modern world system. MoNdernity and moNdernization constitute the world system that corresponds to second modernity, which notably places the desire for individual and collective emancipation within the limits of sustainability.



Proposals and abstracts


Table of Contents

  • Foreword : learning from Rio +20
  • Answering the question of the century
  • A new paradigm of thought for a new paradigm of action
  • Question one: how should we define the difference between the current world and previous worlds?
  • Question two: how should we define the political format that will facilitate world governance?
  • Question three: how should we define the movement that would provide a democratic check on world governance?
  • Towards a cosmopolitarian movement to build a world political structure
  • Part 1. Analysis
    • Introduction : The transition from modernization to moNdernization
    • The outlines of the democratic cosmopolitarian movement
    • The emergence of a new social movement
    • Globalization & Anti-Globalization
    • Globalization & Alter-Globalization
    • The world system process and democratizationh: global mobilizations—local manifestations
    • Globalization of social mobilizations
    • A post-Cold War challenge: the globalization of democracy
    • From fragmented to networked struggles
    • An explosion in spheres and forms of struggle
    • The proliferation of social movement organizations
    • Mobilizations with a more ephemeral character
    • Ideological homogenization and coordination of movements
    • Renewal of the left and democratization of struggles
    • Towards permanent democratization
    • Homogenization of positions and coordination of strategies via transnational NGO networks
    • From Anti- to Alter-Globalization
    • The Zapatista example
    • World Governance: the democratic form of the World State
    • Democratic world governance is impossible without a World State (a constitutional state) and world government to guide public policies

    Part 2. Proposals

    • 1.First observation: The global / planetary level of governance is in the unthought realm of the political
    • A. Consolidate and disseminate the concept of the cosmopolitarian movement: the movement for world governance
    • B. Define the scope of a democratic cosmopolitarian movement
    • 2. Second observation: The democratic cosmopolitarian movement (movement for world governance) does not as yet exist: the people and organizations that it comprises are not yet fully aware of it
    • 3. Third observation: Transnational civil society is sector- and issue-based: this is inadequate to meet the global and systemic challenges of the modern world
    • A. Identify networks of actors with a sector or issue basis and work with them on global world governance
    • B. Work on the domains that form the backbone of the emerging World State, those that already offer an institutional framework for democratic world governance: international law and UN and multilateral organizations (ILO, WTO, etc.)
    • Conclusions