Regional vs. Global Democracy: Advantages and Limitations

22 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 2 Aug 2010

See all articles by Carol C. Gould

Carol C. Gould

CUNY - The Graduate Center; CUNY Hunter College

Date Written: 2010


The contemporary proliferation of transnational impacts of local and national decisions in view of globalization have led to the need for new forms of regional coordination, cooperation, and regulation, as well as to calls for more global democratic forms, in order to deal with the economic, ecological, and human rights concerns that transcend the borders of nation-states. Beginning with reflections on the development of new forms of regionalism in economics and politics (including the EU but extending to other geographical regions), this paper considers the normative arguments that can be advanced in favor of the cultivation of regional democratic associations, operating within regional human rights agreements, at this historical juncture. It develops further implications of two criteria I have previously advanced for enfranchising those impacted across borders and asks whether they support new forms of regional democracy or enfranchisement, and if so, of what sort. Among the considerations in favor of a regional focus are 1) communitarian factors stressing the importance of shared experiences as well as the role of localities, 2) the notion that regional governance would respect the existing diversity in global mores and cultures, and 3) the greater feasibility of regional as opposed to global forms of democratic association for the present and the foreseeable future. The normative difficulties with such regional models are then considered, especially the potential these new forms of association might have for engendering conflicts between or among regions (thereby replicating here the conflicts among nation-states) and also the possibility that regionalism may reify and intensify cultural differences in the interpretation of basic international norms, including possibly weakening the force of some human rights. The paper then goes on to briefly review the leading proposals for more comprehensive schemes of global democracy, both in the strong form advocated by such theorists as Tännsjö and Marchetti and in the cosmopolitan proposals of Held and Archibugi. A more modest proposal for transnational, though not fully global, forms of democracy is then proposed, operating within democratized institutions of global governance and drawing support from networked democratic social movements. The paper concludes with a consideration of the relation of such transnational democracy to new regional forms of democratic association, as well as to global democracy.

Keywords: global democracy, transnational democracy, regionalism, cosmopolitanism

Suggested Citation

Gould, Carol C., Regional vs. Global Democracy: Advantages and Limitations (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Carol C. Gould (Contact Author)

CUNY - The Graduate Center ( email )

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CUNY Hunter College ( email )

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