Towards a Global Polity

By Morten Ougaard; Richard Higgott | Go to book overview

Introduction

Beyond system and society - towards a global polity?

Richard Higgott and Morten Ougaard


Beyond the internationalization of the state - the globalization of political life

Historical continuities notwithstanding, there is something new afoot. Globalization, that most over-used expression after the end of the Cold War is, despite the hype, different from previous historical eras. 1 Moreover, in addition to its now more commonly understood economic and cultural dimensions, the parameters of a concomitant process of political evolution, we suggest, can also be discerned. This we choose to call the emerging global polity. We recognize this is a contentious claim, likely to provoke resistance in a range of differing scholar communities of thought in international relations. Some scholars, with good cause, would argue that they have been talking about the institutionalization of world politics for more than twenty years (Keohane and Nye 1997). Quite so, but this is not the agenda of the essays in this volume which rather aspire to clarify a range of conceptual ways of thinking about what we call the 'globalization of political life'. The argument to be advanced in this volume is not, we hasten to add at the outset, simply an exercise in academic or scholarly introspection. Strong connections between the emerging discourse on the global polity and contemporary political practice across the borders of the nation-state already exist. Theorizing about the nature of politics in the abstract casts massive policy shadows in the opening stages of the twenty-first century, and, we should add, vice versa.

Once upon a time, claims to the existence of a nascent global polity would have appeared to be grand, courageous, or naively idealistic. We hope to persuade the readers of this volume that this is no longer the case. While recognizing the complexity of modern life and particularly the continued role of nation-states as formal sovereign actors, we wish to transcend traditional state-centric understandings of international politics by offering a series of insights and perspectives on non-state processes that are now generating changes which, until now, have been primarily handled by theoretical supplementation rather than radical theoretical restructuring. We mean we wish to progress beyond a process in which

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