Who rules the world?

"'Who have him charge over the earth? Who laid on him the whole world?' With these rhetorical questions, in the book of job, Eli'hu means to dispel all doubt about the legitimacy of God's conduct; for God has received the task of ruling the world from no one but his very self." With these words Lorenzo Casini opens the preface Sabino Cassese's book, Chi governa il mondo? (Who Governs the World?). The book, an updated and enlarged translation of the English-language volume, The Global Polity: Global Dimensions of Democracy and the Rule of Law (Global Law Press/Editorial Derecho Global, Sella, 2012), addresses from a legal and political sociological point of view a fact as ineluctable as it is problematic, namely, that the world is not governed by any government nor is it desirable that it should be.

The author presents an interesting perspective and, notwithstanding the title, rather than answering the question who should govern the world, reflects on the notion of global polity (GP) and analyzes the complex institutions that, at all levels, make up the so-called "global government whence some hope for a global governance. National and supranational levels, governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental levels, networks of public-private hybrid organizations, businesses, non-governmental organizations, all the way to individuals: this whole pluralistic, polyarchical complex, which resists unification according to a single ordering principle, is what the author defines GP.

The book is divided into three chapters: 1. "The global polity"; 2. "A just global procedure?"; 3. "Global standards for national democracies?". The first chapter focuses on the definition of GP, its articulation and its features. In particular, the author identifies a few characteristics that offer a rigorous definition of GP. Of the seven characteristics pointed out by the author, we will underline three. First, GP is a "governance without a government," because there is no common and uniform model that governing or regulatory bodies must follow; instead, in every sector, these serve a balancing function between the individual national diversities, through the use of global rules. A second trait tells us that GP, both vertically and horizontally, does not delineate a hierarchically ordered legal space: the various levels and different governing or regulatory bodies overlap and mix. A third characteristic deserving of special attention involves the respect for democratic principles and the rule of law that global regulatory systems impose on the States: the right to be informed and heard, the right to defence, the obligation to state reasons, and right of access to the courts.

The second chapter discusses in great detail the theme of the different levels and governing bodies' right to participate in decision-making procedures. The range of rights to participate in GP affects both the vertical dimension as well as the horizontal. The right of participation within the vertical dimension of GP applies, for example, to individuals who exercise it in national governments, and applies to national governments who exercise it in global institutions. The horizontal dimension involves national governments who exercise this right in other governments, global institutions who exercise it in other global institutions and private citizens who exercise it in global institutions. A careful analysis of the case studies describing such a wide range of "participation" in GP pushes the author to ponder the problems that such a worldwide net of governing bodies ("reggimento globale") poses today for global governance, and to ponder as well the importance of focusing attention on the concept of "transnational democracy" that might take the legacy of the rule of law seriously.

The author devotes the third and final chapter to this theme. GP reveals a paradox: the right to participation is global, the implementing authority is national, and the court that controls it is global again. In other words, the principles of democracy and the rule of law are globalized following a bottom-up approach, but their compliance, albeit at a domestic level, is favored by top-down approaches. From here, the question the author tries to answer, through a series of cases, can be summed up in the question of whether global standards for democracy are a threat or an upgrade. Although there is no single model of democracy and the democratic process is not absolutely comparable to a machine that, once started, progresses unaided, historical experience teaches also that external conditioning, over time, can favour the emergence of truly democratic institutions and that, in the long run, external factors may also play the same role as internal ones.

Taking up once more the passage by the author of the preface with which we started our review, we conclude by pointing out that the issue of GP has become central to the latest reflections of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Think of the so-called "institutional way of charity" and paragraphs 57 and 67 of the Encyclical Caritas in veritate (CiV). Here Benedict XVI addresses global governance (globalizationis moderamen), returning to the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and polyarchy, to contribute to the building of a global order where institutions are of a subsidiary and poliarchical type, and to avoid the creation of a "dangerous universal power of a single type" (CiV, 57).

 Flavio Felice is Adjunct Scholar American Enterprise Institute and President of Tocqueville-Acton Centre Studies

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine

What's new on AEI

Holder will regret his refusal to obey the Constitution
image 'Flood Wall Street' climate protesters take aim at their corporate allies
image 3 opportunities for better US-India defense ties
image Is Nicolás Maduro Latin America's new man at the United Nations?
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 29
    MON
  • 30
    TUE
  • 01
    WED
  • 02
    THU
  • 03
    FRI
Thursday, October 02, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Campbell Brown talks teacher tenure

We welcome you to join us as Brown shares her perspective on the role of the courts in seeking educational justice and advocating for continued reform.

Friday, October 03, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Harnessing the power of markets to tackle global poverty: A conversation with Jacqueline Novogratz

AEI welcomes you to this Philanthropic Freedom Project event, in which Novogratz will describe her work investing in early-stage enterprises, what she has learned at the helm of Acumen, and the role entrepreneurship can play in the fight against global poverty.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.