The Practical Politics of Global Integration

On June 13th and 14th, 2016, the World Government Research Network (WGRN) hosted its first academic workshop, titled “The Practical Politics of Global Integration.”

The workshop was held at the Southbank Campus of Griffith University, in Brisbane, Australia.

Attendees included academics from four continents, with a range of expertise, including political theory, international relations, history, physics, architecture, and more.

The purpose of this workshop was: 1) to further the general discussion regarding global integration, 2) to translate abstract concepts of global political order into concrete proposals for moving the process of global integration forward, and 3) to provide an inaugural kick-start to the WGRN-facilitated intellectual exploration of world state-related issues.

The workshop began with presentations by Alex Wendt (The Ohio State University) and Dan Deudney (Johns Hopkins University), who provided a meta-theoretical context for thinking about a global state.

Professor Wendt addressed the potentiality – often raised in objection to a global state – that a world-encompassing government might become a global despotism. He noted that global anarchism can itself have despotic characteristics, and thus he suggested that those who oppose a global state because it might become despotic should be obliged to explain how anarchic life is not despotic as well.

Professor Deudney then presented his assessment of a global state, which he said he is technically not in favor of although he is in favor of global order of a sort which he has previously described as negarchy, whereby the power of states is restrained due to the structure of the global political system.

A series of similarly intriguing presentations subsequently followed, from Andreas Bummel (Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly, Berlin), James Arputharaj Williams (Campaign for a UN General Assembly, New Delhi), Chris Hamer (University of New South Wales), Joseph Baratta (Worchester State University), Terry Madonald (University of Melbourne), Mark Beeson (University of Western Australia), Joel Trachtman (Tufts University), Shirley Scott (University of New South Wales), James Thompson (Hiram College), Louis Cabrera (Griffith University), and Richard Shapcott (University of Queensland).

Videos of these presentations will be posted to the WGRN website in the coming days, along with other supplementary material, such as powerpoint presentations.

This workshop not only provided an opportunity to share a collection of insightful and wide-ranging ideas, but it also served a catalytic function, in terms of generating further enthusiasm among the participants for pushing the dialogue forward; something which will be done via contributions to the World State Debate, via articles published in other journals, and via a variety of other forthcoming engagements.

The yet larger significance of this workshop was that it served as a more general re-launching of the academic discussion of a world state. Although there have been roundtable discussions at political science conferences in the past on this topic, of late there has been a dearth of such activity and thus this workshop served as a marker, indicating that “the conversation” was back in play.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of this workshop, however, was the tone of inquiry which it established. The history of the “world state debate” is a history of much derision provided by those who scoff at the idea, and of much exuberance by those who view a world state as the cherished ideal of humanity’s political existence. At the Brisbane workshop, in contrast, the overall tone was one of thoughtful ambivalence. Some attendees were of the mind that a world state is either not feasible or is undesirable, but were intrigued to hear opposing views. Other attendees who were in favor of a world state were receptive to the critiques provided by their colleagues. The sum of this set of dispositions was a collective sense of the importance of continuing the dialogue and doing so in a cautious yet committed fashion.

Another source of the collective sense of ambivalence seemed to derive from the challenge which was presented by the workshop’s title: The Practical Politics of Global Integration. On the one hand, it is challenging to move from the theoretical plane to the realm of practical politics. On the other hand, if we seek to discuss anything “practical” about global integration, we have no choice but to make reference to theories in order to explain our practical choices. Which is to say that we’re faced with the challenge of praxis, or perhaps proto-praxis – moving from meta-theory to theory-for-practice, which can then in fact be acted upon. When thinking and talking about something as complex, vast, and multifaceted as governance at the global level, that sort of intellectual movement will always be a challenge.

We thus look forward to seeing a growing list of scholars who wish to answer that challenge by participating in the conversation as it evolves in the years ahead!

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