Prospects for Transnational Citizenship and Democracy

By Weinstock, Daniel M. | Ethics & International Affairs, October 2001 | Go to article overview

Prospects for Transnational Citizenship and Democracy


Weinstock, Daniel M., Ethics & International Affairs


Nation-states are becoming increasingly integrated with one another. Increased integration has tended historically to be economic and commercial in nature, at least at first. But the case of the European Union suggests that once economies have become merged to a significant degree--for example, through the adoption of a shared currency--the pressure toward fuller, political integration becomes difficult to resist.

Political theorists have been divided over the question of whether we ought to welcome or deplore the prospect of transnational polities. Some claim that broadening the scope of political institutions can have positive consequences. It can, for instance, offset the kinds of problems that have flowed from the state's being made into the vehicle for the self-expression of ethnic nations. And it might also make it easier to motivate people from different national groups to recognize and institutionalize obligations of material aid to one another.

Others have found the prospect of transnational political institutions much more worrying. These critics often claim that political institutions spanning as broadly as those of, say, an integrated Europe would inevitably become bureaucratic despotisms--benevolent despotisms, perhaps, but despotisms nonetheless. Transnational polities, they maintain, threaten to undermine democracy. And while they do not claim that there is a necessary, conceptual link between democracy and the nation-state, they nonetheless feel that nation-states provide a political context that is much better suited to ensuring democracy. Transnational polities should according to this argument be resisted to the extent that they threaten democracy by undermining nation-states. For these authors the functioning of democratic institutions and the possibility of democratic citizenship require the nation-state for very strong contingent reasons.

My intention in this essay is to assess critically some of the main arguments that have been put forward by these skeptics about transnational democracy. These arguments have generally taken three forms. The first kind of argument concerns the conditions for responsible citizenship. It claims that the participation of citizens in the public sphere is more likely to be geared toward the common good if they are linked by national fellow-feeling. The second claims that the nation provides a "context of intelligibility" for debates about distributive justice that cannot be replicated in transnational polities. And the third holds that democratic institutions cannot be effectively implanted in political contexts vaster than that of the modern nation-state.

Though these claims are significantly different from one another, I will argue that they are underpinned by a common erroneous belief: that the obstacles to the establishment of transnational democratic institutions are different in kind from those that have been overcome in establishing democracies in modern nation-states. I will make the case that the obstacles that transnational political institutions would have to face do not differ in kind from those modern states have faced in the Westphalian world, and that there is therefore no reason in principle to think that the prospects for transnational citizenship and democracy are as grim as these critics have supposed. I will argue further that those who are skeptical about transnational citizenship and democracy often rely on a model of citizenship for which the modern, anonymous, mass-scale nation-state is already inappropriate.

Citizenship in the Nation-State

The first argument I wish to consider has been clearly formulated in recent work by David Miller. Miller argues that the nation-state provides the political context most conducive to effective, meaningful, and responsible citizenship. To evaluate this argument it is necessary to examine closely what the concept of citizenship means.

There can be no uncontroversial account of citizenship. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Prospects for Transnational Citizenship and Democracy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.