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International Society and its Critics$

Alex J. Bellamy

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199265206

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0199265208.001.0001

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(Re)Imagining the Governance of Globalization

(Re)Imagining the Governance of Globalization

(p.195) 11 (Re)Imagining the Governance of Globalization
International Society and its Critics

Richard Falk

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Part Three of the book turns to the question of international society and international relations after September 11, starting with a chapter by Richard Falk, who argues that international society remains a useful starting point for studying today's globalized world because it is predicated on the dual assertions of international anarchy and a (potentially) global normative order – a duality that provides a fertile breeding ground for different accounts of what the world should look like. The author discusses the changing geopolitical context of globalization and global governance, suggesting that if globalization is to be retained as a label for the current phase of international relations, its net must be cast far more broadly than it has been – since the events of 2001 it needs to be interpreted far less economistically, and more comprehensively. The last part of the chapter considers approaches to global governance, international society, and world society given this altered understanding of ‘globalization’. The author identifies five overlapping accounts of globalization that provide alternative and competing pictures of the future of global governance and international society: corporate globalization, which refers to the growth of transnational business and the forging of common interests and values based on neoliberal economics; civic globalization, which in many ways is a civil society response to the corporate variety and has manifested itself in a number of transnational anti‐globalization movements, but has now moved beyond straightforward opposition towards the articulation of new global political agendas; imperial globalization, which is a US‐led form of globalization that seeks not the creation of a genuinely multinational neoliberal global economy but rather the extension of American power and the satisfaction of US interests narrowly conceived; apocalyptic globalization, the variant promoted by Osama Bin Laden and his followers and aims to overthrow the society of states and replace it with an Islamic world state; and regional globalization, in which a number of regions around the world are developing their own subsystems as a way of moderating pressures created by the global flow of capital. The author argues that none of these forms of globalization is likely to predominate completely, but that the relationship between them is likely to shape the nature of global governance for the foreseeable future.

Keywords:   American power, anti‐globalization movements, apocalyptic globalization, Osama Bin Laden, civic globalization, civil society, corporate globalization, global governance, global political agendas, globalization, imperial globalization, international relations, international society, neoliberalism, regional globalization, September 11, USA, US interests, world society

It was the English School that most effectively conceptualized the dual assertions of the anarchical structure of the world political system and of a normative order based on international law, diplomatic prudence, and informal linkages of comity. These ideas were particularly appropriate in the setting of various Westphalian discourses articulating the logic of the state system as a modification of the Machiavellian worldview associated with various forms of realism. Hedley Bull and R. J. Vincent were especially keen to distance themselves from those who advocated more ambitious renderings of the normative dimensions of international relations, either by stressing the promise of international institutions or stretching the coverage of international law to the point of overriding the sovereignty of states and the non-accountability of their official leaders. Such a view of international relations rested the prospects for governance and moderation on the discharge of benevolent managerial roles by the leading states, but within a framework of essential respect for the stability of a pluralist society composed of territorial states whose sovereign status was entitled to a wide margin of respect.

With the rise of transnational economic action, both actors and arenas, and with the multidimensional salience of transnational networks sustained by a variety of information technologies, this essentially Westphalian discourse seems outmoded, or at the very least, in need of being complemented by some post-Westphalian perspectives. This chapter seeks to do this in the context of an evolving critical understanding of ‘globalization’, not as cancelling the primacy of the society of states, but in complicating the explication of how politics and authority operate on a global level. I argue that the pluralist tilt of the English School must now be adapted to encompass the role of both actors in the global marketplace (trade, investment, currency) and civil society actors (transnational voluntary associations, militant global citizens, and their networks). Notions of power and security were also deeply challenged by the September 11 attacks and the United States' response, initiating an essentially (p.196) non-territorial war between two actors, neither of which is a state in the generally understood sense of a territorially delimited entity. Of course, the United States is such a state if we cast our gaze upon a world map, but if we construct its global presence in space, oceans, foreign bases, and grasp the global scope of its security zone, it is more useful to abandon the notion of ‘state’ and signal the rupture by the label ‘global state’.

An international society perspective remains illuminating, however, taking account of the continuing absence of centralized authority structures and a globally constituted security system operating within the United Nations. Some readings of American grand strategy attribute a project for world dominance that seeks above all to establish a global security system administered from Washington to the current leadership of the United States. To the extent that an American global empire becomes a reality, it would alter the relevance of a pluralist account of world politics by generating the first historical instance of a solidarist worldview. Such a solidarist world order would be generally viewed as a species of dystopia rather than an idealistic or even utopian response to the alleged chaos and penchant for warfare associated with pluralist experience, which has characterized solidarist thinking in the past. It is the objective of this chapter to consider these solidarist tendencies in contemporary world society within the framework of a reconstituted discourse on globalization.


In the 1990s it was evident that ‘globalization,’ despite objections about the unsatisfactory nature of the term as misleading or vague, was widely accepted as a usefully descriptive and explanatory term: namely, that the world order sequel to the cold war needed to be interpreted largely from an economic perspective and that the rise of global market forces was displacing the rivalry among sovereign states as the main preoccupation of world order. This perception was reinforced by the ascendancy of Western style capitalism, ideologized as ‘neo-liberalism’ or as ‘the Washington consensus’, a circumstance reinforced by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of a socialist alternative. It seemed more illuminating to think of the 1990s in this light significantly altered by reference to globalization than to hold in abeyance any designation of world politics by continuing to refer to the historical period as ‘the post-Cold War’. Some spoke convincingly of this being ‘the information age’ highlighting the restructuring of international life that was being brought about by the computer and Internet, but such a label seemed less resonant with the wider currents of emphasis on economic growth on a global scale than did the terminology of globalization.

But then came September 11, simultaneously reviving and revolutionizing the modern discourse of world politics, highlighting the severity of security concerns, but also giving rise to doctrines and practices that could not be understood by reference to the prior centuries of interaction among territorial sovereign states. The concealed (p.197) transnational terrorist network that displayed the capability to inflict severe substantive and symbolic harm on the heartland of the dominant state could not be addressed, or even comprehended, by resorting to a traditional war of territorial self-defence. There was no suitable statist adversary that could be blamed, and then defeated once and for all, although this fundamental and disquieting reality was provisionally disguised by the seemingly plausible designation of Afghanistan as responsible for the attacks by giving safe haven to Al-Qaeda. But with the Afghanistan War producing a ‘victory’ in the form of the replacement of the Taliban regime and the destruction of the Al-Qaeda infrastructure, it became clear that such a campaign was only marginally related to a ‘victory’ in this new type of ‘war’, if by victory is meant the elimination of the threat. For one thing, most of the Al-Qaeda leadership and many among the cadre apparently escaped, indicating the absence of any fixed territorial base or meaningful victory and the US government shifted its focus from the threat of mega-terrorism to the quite different, and essentially unrelated, issue of weapons proliferation in the ‘axis of evil’ countries. To the extent that globalization is retained as the label, its net must be cast far more broadly. The following section will present this argument by considering the relevance of the September 11 attacks to the reconfiguration of conflict on a global level, as well as to suggest how the quest for a new framework of regulatory authority has changed from the 1990s. At the same time, the central contention of this chapter is that ‘globalization’ retains its relevance as a descriptive label for the current phase of international relations, but since the events of 2001 it needs to be interpreted far less economistically, and more comprehensively. The final section will consider approaches to global governance, international society, and world society given this altered understanding of ‘globalization.’


To set the stage for this extended view of globalization as incorporating the new geopolitics of post-statist political conflict, it is necessary briefly to review the evolution of world politics after the cold war.

The breakdown of the geopolitical discipline of bipolarity that had managed conflict during the cold war era generated a security vacuum that could be, and was, filled in various ways. The Iraqi conquest of Kuwait in 1991 was an initial expression of this breakdown. It would have seemed virtually certain that during the cold war epoch, without the approval of Moscow and Washington, Iraq would not have embarked on a path of aggressive warfare against its small neighbour. The American-led coalition that restored Kuwaiti sovereignty was the mark of a new era being shaped by essentially uncontested American global leadership, seemingly a geopolitical debut for unipolarity in the global security sphere. The fact that the Security Council endorsed the defensive effort, accorded America full operational control of the Gulf War, and endorsed the subsequent ceasefire burdens that Washington insisted be imposed on (p.198) Iraq was far more expressive of the actuality of unipolarity than it was a sign of Woodrow Wilson's dream of an institutionalized international community collectively upholding the peace. What emerged from the Gulf War more than anything else was the extent to which the Security Council seemed willing to allow itself to be used as a legitimating mechanism for controversial US foreign policy initiatives that seemed to evade the limits on the use of international force contained in both international law and the UN Charter (see Justin Morris' contribution, Chapter 15, this volume).

Another course of action could have been followed, and was seemingly even encouraged by the first President Bush's rhetorical invocation of ‘a new world order’ as a means of generating public and governmental support in the United Nations for authorizing a collective security response to Iraqi aggression. Such reliance on the procedures of the Security Council to fashion and supervise a response would have been a genuine expression of the Wilsonian project to shift the locus of authority on matters of international peace and security from the level of the state to that of the world community. But there was no such disposition in the White House at the time of the first Bush administration. Instead, the United States moved to fill the security vacuum by acting on its own to the extent that it deemed necessary, while seeking Security Council approval for the sake of a legitimating rationale whenever it would be forthcoming. The initiation of the Kosovo War under NATO auspices in 1999 made this new American orientation toward law and power clear, and the fact that it was undertaken during the Clinton presidency suggested the bipartisanship of this geopolitical ascendancy in light of the disappearance of the Soviet Union as a state capable of deterring the United States. With the prospect of a Russian and Chinese veto in the offing, the US government avoided the Security Council, while organizing ‘a coalition of the willing’ under the formal umbrella of NATO, a deliberate step away from the multipolarity of independent policy-making in the Security Council. This departure from the discipline of international law and the UN Charter was widely, although controversially endorsed throughout Europe and in the United States (see Independent International Commission 2000 and Glennon 2001). It was justified as an exceptional claim necessitated by the perceived imminence of an ethnic cleansing crisis in Kosovo and against the background of the failure to protect the Bosnian peoples, as epitomized by the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of over 7,000 Bosnian males while UN peacekeepers stood by as disempowered spectators.

The Iraq crisis was a more revealing and consequential departure from the UN framework of restraint with respect to the use of international force in circumstances other than self-defence. Instead of circumventing the Security Council as in Kosovo, the US tried hard to enlist the UN in its war plans, and initially succeed in persuading all fifteen members of the Security Council to back Resolution 1441, which implicitly accepted the American position that if Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were not found and destroyed by Baghdad's voluntary action or through the UN inspection process, then an American-led war with UN blessing would obtain political backing and international legitimacy. Tensions within the Security Council were mainly concerned with the timing and trigger for an explicit authorization for (p.199) recourse to war and whether the threshold had been crossed. Evidently concerned that inspection might obviate the case for war, and that the mandate for war might after all not be forthcoming, the United States went ahead on its own in early 2003, inducing a coalition of more or less willing partners to join in the military effort, which produced a quick battlefield victory but a bloody and inconclusive occupation (see Falk 2003a).

In an important sense, President George W. Bush was implementing a vision of a new world order, but not the one that his father appeared to favour in 1990–1 or that Wilson pushed so hard for after the First World War. Unlike the Gulf War where the response, which was endorsed by the UN Security Council, was one of collective defence against prior aggression and conquest or the Kosovo War where the military action appeared necessary and justified as humanitarian intervention, the war against Iraq rested on neither a legal nor moral grounding that was persuasive to most governments in the world, was opposed by an incensed global public opinion, and even seemed politically imprudent from the perspective of meeting the Al-Qaeda challenge of transnational terrorism. The ‘Bush Doctrine’ of pre-emptive war, without a persuasive factual showing of imminent threat, represented a flagrant repudiation of the core international law prohibition of non-defensive force as generally understood, and established a precedent that, if followed by other states, could produce a series of wars and undermine the authority of the UN Charter and modern international law (compare Korb 2003 and Falk 2002). The United States approach filled the security vacuum after the cold war with the unilateralism and lawlessness of hegemonic prerogatives, and seemed to widen even the claimed right of pre-emptive defence by resorting to war in the absence of an imminent threat, and possibly in the absence of any threat whatsoever, thereby extending unilateralism and discretionary recourse to war even beyond the expansiveness of so-called preventive war. For the United States to attack Iraq, at every stage a weak state beyond the reach of its regional status, and weakened further by its exhausting stalemate of the 1980s in relation to Iran, by a devastating defeat in the Gulf War, and by more than a decade of harsh sanctions, involved launching a war without international or regional backing in a context where there was no credible past, present, or future threat.

And by this audacity on the part of the US government, repeatedly justified by the distinctive challenge of global mega-terrorism made manifest in the attacks of September 11, the United States was also reconstituting world order in three crucial respects: seriously eroding the sovereignty of foreign countries by potentially converting the world as a whole into a battlefield for the conduct of its war against Al-Qaeda; discarding the restraints associated with international law and collective procedures of the organized world community in the name of anti-terrorism; re-establishing the centrality of the role of force in world politics, while dimming the lights that had been illuminating the rise of markets, the primacy of corporate globalization, and the displacement of statist geopolitics. In effect, the focus on the terminology of globalization and the operations of the world economy were superseded by a novel twenty-first century pattern of geopolitics in which the main adversaries were a concealed transnational network of political extremists and a global (p.200) state operating without consistent regard for the sovereign rights of normal territorial states (Falk 2003b).

For both of these political actors, the framework of diplomacy and conflict that has evolved since the dramatic events of September 11 has important implications for world order. But there are important continuities, as well, that give persisting relevance to the role of the UN and international law. In view of this, it seems far better to deal with the current world by reference to its special novel features as modifying our understanding of world order, rather than claiming a unique set of circumstances that justify the depiction of a new system and the adoption of a new political vocabulary. My view is that despite some merit in this position favouring an entirely fresh language for this early twenty-first century period as compared to the 1990s, it remains advantageous to retain and revise the globalization discourse, especially in light of the continued relevance of global governance as an important focus for inquiry. The worldview associated with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and its several centuries of subsequent development in a world order composed of sovereign states is increasingly being treated as obsolete with respect to the resolution of acute transnational conflict.1 Reliance on the revisionist discourse of globalization seems useful to emphasize the extent to which the crucial dimensions of world history are being addressed with a much diminished role for the boundaries of states. These boundaries continue to identify a significant class of political actors on the world stage, but these actors are no longer appropriately treated as the defining forces shaping the history of our times.


Whether this current rupture with the past is an aberration to be corrected shortly or the new framing of global governance is uncertain. The contours and ideological orientation of globalization and governance are almost certain to remain highly contested and fluid, far more so than during the 1990s, and the future of world order will hang in the balance. The old political language of statism will persist in many formal settings, but it will not illuminate the changing structure of world order nearly as effectively as a revamped reliance on the language of globalization.

Five overlapping approaches to governance can be identified as the structural alternatives for the future of world order. These will be briefly depicted, and a few conclusions drawn. They are: corporate globalization; civic globalization; imperial globalization; apocalyptic globalization; and regional globalization. The emerging structure of world order is a complex composite of these interacting elements, varying with conditions of time and space, and therefore incapable of an authoritative ‘construction’ as a generalized account of the new reality of the global life world. In other words, many constructions vie for plausibility, but none can be completely prescriptive. The contours and meanings of globalization are embedded in a dialogic process, further complicated by sharply divergent perceptual perspectives and by a bewildering array of shifting contextual elements. We must be content (p.201) with partial, fluid, tentative formulations of this evolving world order premised on ‘globalization’.

Corporate Globalization

In the 1990s, with the resolution of the East/West conflict, the centre of attention shifted to the ideas, arenas, and practices associated with the functioning of financial markets and world trade, as guided by a privileging of capital formation and efficiency. The role of governments was increasingly seen in relation to this dynamic, and to be legitimate political elites had to win the endorsement of private sector elites. Ideological adjustments were made to upgrade markets, privatize a wide range of undertakings previously situated within the public sector, and minimize the role of government in promoting social goals. New arenas of policy formation emerged to reflect this shift in emphasis, giving prominence to the World Economic Forum organized as a gathering of business leaders, but soliciting the participation of the top political figures. Governments and international financial institutions accepted and promoted this economistic agenda, creating arenas designed to facilitate the goals of the private sector, such as the annual economic summit (Group of Seven, then Eight) that brought together the political heads of state of the principal advanced industrial countries in the global North.

In the 1990s there seemed to be a rather neat displacement of the territorial and security features of the state system with the capital-driven concerns of the world economy organized according to the ideology of the free market. It appeared that a new non-territorial diplomacy associated with trade and investment was taking precedence over older concerns with alliances, as well as with friends, enemies, and the security and well-being of the territorial community of citizens. As long as corporate globalization was sustained by impressive growth statistics, even if accompanied by growing indications of persistent massive poverty, widening disparities with respect to income and wealth, and a disturbing neglect of economic stagnancy in sub-Saharan Africa, there was little mainstream questioning directed at the pro-globalization consensus. This consensus was seen as a panacea by important champions of globalization, producing also a drift towards constitutional democracy.

It was only in the wake of the Asian Financial Crisis that began in 1998, and its reverberations in such disparate countries as Argentina, Japan, and Russia, that serious criticism began to produce a controversy as to the future of corporate globalization. In such an atmosphere, the reformist voices of insiders such as George Soros and Joseph Stiglitz began to be heard more widely, lending credibility to the previously ignored leftist critics. And then, in late 1999, the Seattle demonstrations directed at an IMF ministerial meeting signalled to the world the birth of a wide and deep anti-globalization movement deeply opposed to the basic policies associated with the implementation of neoliberalism. The reaction to Seattle finally generated a debate about the effects of globalization, assessing its benefits and burdens and focusing particularly on whether the poor of the world were being victimized or assisted.

(p.202) During the George W. Bush presidency, despite the focus on global security and the war against mega-terrorism, the US government has dogmatically and unconditionally reinforced its commitment to corporate globalization as the sole foundation of legitimate governance at the level of the sovereign state. These policies are being promoted without much fanfare because of the preoccupation with the war/peace agenda, but corporate globalization is being challenged both by the realities of a sharp global recession and by a robust worldwide grass roots movement that has shifted its goals from ‘anti-globalization’ to ‘alternative globalization’.

Civic Globalization

As suggested, the effects of corporate globalization have generated a counter-movement on the level of ideas and practices, which seeks a more equitable and sustainable world economy, although it is not necessarily opposed to ‘globalization’ as such. That is, if globalization is understood as the compression of time and space as a result of technological innovation and social/economic integration, if people-oriented rather than capital-driven, then support for ‘another globalization’ best describes the identity of the popular movement. Over the years, civic globalization has clarified its dominant tendencies, although diverse constituencies from North and South, including activist groups mainly concerned with human rights, economic well-being, environmental protection, and global democracy have produced a somewhat incoherent image of what is meant by a people-oriented approach. Civic globalization has been shedding its negative image of merely being against corporate globalization, and can no longer be accurately described as an anti-globalization movement, despite a continuing repudiation of the main tenets of corporate globalization. In the search for coherence and a positive program, there is an increasing disposition to view civic globalization as essentially a movement dedicated to the achievement of global democracy, which includes a major stress on a more participatory, transparent, and accountable process of shaping and implementing global economic policy.

As might be expected, those concerned with the impact of corporate globalization are also deeply disturbed by the American response to the September 11 attacks, and view resistance to ‘imperial globalization’ (below) as equally important as opposition to corporate globalization. The mobilization of millions to oppose the Iraq War in early 2003 was mainly a phenomenon in the countries of the North, but it attracted many of the same individuals who had earlier been part of the grass roots campaigns associated with opposition to corporate globalization. There is an uncertainty, at present, as to whether anti-war and anti-imperial activism will merge successfully with the struggle for an alternative form of globalization.

Imperial Globalization

Even at the high point of corporate globalization in the mid-1990s, there were a variety of assessments that pierced the economistic veil to discern an American project of global domination (compare Hardt and Negri 2000 and Bacevich 2002). (p.203) It was notable that during the 1990s the United States failed to use its global pre-eminence to promote nuclear and general disarmament or to create a more robust UN peacekeeping capability or to address the major unresolved conflicts throughout the world. Instead, the United States government put its energies into the discovery of new enemies justifying high defence spending, perpetuating a network of military bases and regional naval commands, developing its nuclear arsenal, and embarking on an expensive programme for the militarization of space. In retrospect, it seems difficult to deny the charges that US policy, whether or not with full comprehension, was seeking a structure for world order that rested on American imperial authority. True, the apparent priority function of this authority was to make the world safe and profitable for corporate globalization, especially in the face of growing opposition.

The ‘election’ of George W. Bush as a representative of the radical right in the United States gave an unanticipatedly wide opening to the most ardent advocates of imperial globalization situated within the American policy-making community. September 11 converted the undertaking from one of indirection and closet advocacy in conservative think tanks to that of the most vital security imperative in the history of the country. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks it provided the most powerfully persuasive rationale for United States' global leadership since the cold war era, and it did so in a setting where the absence of strategic and ideological statist rivalry allowed the United States government to project a future world order at peace, and enjoying the benefits of a reinvigorated corporate globalization. As suggested earlier, the anti-terrorist consensus loomed large at first, giving rise to widespread support for the US decision to wage war against Afghanistan, and to dislodge the Taliban regime from control. The move towards war with Iraq disclosed the limits of this global consensus as well as the diplomatic limits of American power to induce political support for its project of global dominance. As with Afghanistan, the Iraqi regime was widely deplored by other governments as oppressive and militarist, but unlike Afghanistan, Washington's claim to a right of pre-emption seemed much more connected with its geopolitical expansion, especially in the Middle East, than with a response justified by defensive necessity in relation to the continuing threats posed by the Al-Qaeda network. Indeed, as critics of the Iraq War pointed out during the pre-war debate, the probable effect of the war would be to heighten the Al-Qaeda threat rather than diminish it.

The perception of imperial globalization is a matter of interpretation, as are its probable effects on global governance. The advocates of the new imperialism emphasize its benevolent potentialities, with reference to the spread of constitutional democracy and human rights, and the provision of peacekeeping capabilities that could act far more effectively than what could be achieved by the United Nations (Kagan 1998; Ignatieff 2003b). The critics are concerned with arousing a geopolitical backlash in the form of a new strategic rivalry, possibly involving a Sino-European alliance, and about the prospect for a further abandonment of American republicanism at home and abroad under the pretext of responding to the security threats that are present. In this setting, it seems prudent to worry about the emergence of some (p.204) new oppressive political order that might be most accurately described as ‘global fascism’, a political fix that has no historical precedent. Of course, the proponents of imperial globalization resent the frictions associated with civic globalization, and despite the claims of support for ‘democracy’ prefer compliant governmental elites and passive citizenries. Bush ‘rewarded’ and lavishly praised governments that ignored and overrode the clearly evidenced anti-war sentiments of their citizens, especially Britain, but also Italy and Spain, while ‘punishing’ those that refused to support recourse to aggressive war against Iraq, including France, Turkey, and Germany.

Apocalyptic Globalization

There is no entirely satisfactory designation for the sort of political stance associated with Osama Bin Laden's vision of global governance. It does appear dedicated to extreme forms of political violence that challenge by ‘war’ the strongest consolidation of state power in all of human history. Its capability to pose such a challenge was vividly demonstrated on September 11, attacking the United States directly and more effectively than had been done by any state throughout the course of its entire history. The Bin Laden vision also embodies very far-reaching goals that, if achieved, would restructure world order as it is now known: driving the United States from the Islamic world, replacing the state system with an Islamic umma, and converting the residual infidel world to Islam, thereby globalizing the umma. It is here characterized as ‘apocalyptic’ because of its religious embrace of violent finality that radically restructures world order on the basis of a specific religious vision, as well as its seeming willingness to resolve the historical tensions of the present world by engaging in a war of extermination of those designated as enemies, including Jews, Christians, and atheists. Since the United States as the target and opponent of Al-Qaeda also expresses its response in the political language of good and evil, but with the moral identities inverted, there seems to be good grounds for the term ‘apocalyptic globalization’.2

Perhaps this confers on Al-Qaeda an exaggerated prominence by treating its vision as sufficiently relevant to warrant this distinct status as a new species of globalization that approaches the future with its own formula for global governance. At present, the scale of the attacks, as well as the scope of the response, seems to validate this prominence, even though it may seem highly dubious that such an extremist network has any enduring prospect of toppling statism or challenging corporate globalization. As far as civic globalization is concerned, there exists a quiet antagonism, and an even quieter basis for limited collaboration with its more radical counterpart. The antagonism arises because the main supporters of civic globalization regard themselves as secularists, or at least as opponents of extremist readings of any world religion that gives rise to a rationale for holy war. The collaboration possibility, undoubtedly tacit, arises because of certain shared goals, including justice for the Palestinians and opposition to imperial and corporate globalization.

(p.205) Regional Globalization

As with apocalyptic globalization, the terminology is an immediate problem. Does not the postulate of a regionalist world order contradict trends toward globalization? The language may seem to suggest such a tension, but the intention is coherent, to imply the possibility that global governance may in the future be partially, or even best, conceived by reference to a world of regions. The basic perspective is to view European regionalism as an exploratory venture, which if it succeeds, will lead to imitative behaviour in the other principal regions of the world. What success means in this case is difficult to discern, but undoubtedly includes economic progress, social democracy, conflict resolution in relation to ethnic and territorial disputes, and resistance to, or at least the moderating of, imperial, apocalyptic, and corporate manifestations of globalization. Such regionalizing prospects are highly speculative at this stage, but still worth entertaining, given the dramatic transformations experienced by Europe during the past fifty years, and the difficulties associated with world order alternatives.

Regionalism is conceptually and ideologically appealing as a feasible synthesis of functional pressures to form enlarged political communities and the rise of identity politics associated with civilizational and religious orientations. Regionalism is geopolitically appealing as augmenting the capabilities of the sovereign state without abandoning its centrality in political life at the national level, especially to allow non-American centres of governance to compete economically and to build bulwarks of political resistance to the threats posed by imperial and apocalyptic globalization.

It is also well to acknowledge grounds for scepticism with respect to regional globalization. The disparities in the non-Western regions are so great as to make ambitious experiments in regionalism seem rather utopian for the foreseeable future. Also, the regional frameworks are not entirely congruent with the supposed acknowledgement of civilizational and religious identities. Even in Europe there are large non-Western, non-Judeo-Christian minorities, and in Asia and Africa, the civilizational and religious identities cannot be homogeneously categorized without neglecting the realities of their basic condition of heterogeneity.


The basic argument here is that it remains useful to retain the descriptive terminology of globalization in addressing the challenge of global governance, but that its provenance should be enlarged to take account of globalizing tendencies other than those associated with the world economy and the anti-globalization movement that formed in reaction. To remain useful, the discourse on globalization needs to extend its coverage to the antagonism produced by the encounter between the United States and Al-Qaeda, acknowledging its borderless character and the degree to which both antagonists sponsor a visionary solution to the problem of global governance, neither of which seems consistent with the values associated with human rights and global democracy. Moreover, by suggesting an alternative to reliance on statism, (p.206) the European experiment, in organizing many aspects of political community on a regional basis, is also a potential source of resistance to both imperial and apocalyptic menaces.

Such an appreciation of various globalizations is not intended as a funeral rite for the state system that has shaped world order since the mid-seventeenth century or to deride the achievements of territorial sovereignty in promoting tolerance, reason, and a liberal conception of state/society relations. The state may yet stage a comeback, including a normative comeback, providing most of the peoples of the world with their best hope for blunting the sharp edges of corporate, imperial, apocalyptic, and even regional dimensions of globalization. The recovery of a positive world order role for the state may be further facilitated by collaborative endeavours joining moderate states with the transnational social energies of civic globalization. Such a possibility has already been manifested in impressive moves to support the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the outlawing of anti-personnel landmines, and especially by the movement to establish the International Criminal Court.

The whole project of global governance has been eclipsed by the events of recent years, especially by the advent of a unilateralist American government in the 2000 presidential elections, followed in 2001 by the unleashing of the borderless war and the deliberate Washington effort to sideline the United Nations. Part of the rationale for reimagining globalization is to encourage a more relevant debate about the needs and possibilities for global governance. That is, suggesting that the world situation is not altogether subject to this vivid clash of dark forces, that constructive possibilities exist, and deserve the engagement of citizens and their leaders throughout the world. Of course, it will be maintained by some commentators that such an undertaking is merely rescuing globalization from circumstances that have rendered the discussions of the 1990s irrelevant to the present.

Returning to the observations made at the outset, the postulate of a decentralized political order composed of many dispersed actors continues to support a pluralist view of world society, but not one that is elegantly simplified by limiting the class of political actors to sovereign states. Beyond this, the integrative characteristics of both the world economy and global civil society, as well as the drive for global empire, give unprecedented weight to more solidarist constructions of the global reality. Indeed, the most responsive rendering would seem to rest upon a creative tension between the two poles of assessment, pluralist and solidarist, associated with the English School. We do not yet have a convincing political language with which to express this new dynamic reality, and so during what might be a long waiting period, the best solution seems to be this presentation of ‘complex globalization’, a multidimensional viewpoint that is dialectical in the sense of suggesting the currently anguished interplay of the main contending agents of history. Whether a new coherence will emerge from complex globalization is radically uncertain, although it is plausible to highlight two solidarist candidates for the shaping of the future of world society: the first, associated with the American dominance project; the second associated with the vision of a global democracy that informs the activities of global civil society. An imperial solution for world order would create a negative form of solidarism while a democratic (p.207) solution would embody a positive form. In either case the pluralist hypothesis is likely to be refuted by the middle of this century. As mentioned in the discussion of regional globalization it is at least conceivable that a triumphal regionalism will produce a new pluralism rather than lead to some variant of solidarism as a sequel to the Westphalian era.

The future of world society is being forged on the anvil of complex globalization. It is likely to produce a world order that exhibits a high degree of structural hybridity, combining aspects of pluralist and solidarist organizational ideas. Whether it will be humanly beneficial will depend, above all, on neutralizing apocalyptic and imperial globalization, as well as democratizing corporate, civic, and regional globalization. It is an ongoing historical cosmodrama that is likely to swerve to and fro before arriving at some outcome that is sufficiently stable to give rise to a new generalized account of world society.



Portions of this chapter were originally presented as paper at a conference on ‘Critical Globalisation’ held at UCSB, 1–4 May 2003, and scheduled for publication in a conference volume.

(1.) For a well-argued realist assessment of some constructivist illusion surrounding the understanding of the Westphalian world order, see Krasner (1999). For detailed depiction see Falk (1998, 1999a).

(2.) I owe my use of ‘apocalyptic’ in this context to conversations with and presentations by Robert Jay Lifton.