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John Martin Gillroy

Robert Paehlke’s argument seems to have entirely ignored the reality that his GCM is a form of collective action problem. If so, it is well established that these dilemmas cannot be solved from within, or by bottom-up efforts alone. In order for a GCM to be successful, it might start from the bottom-up with the development of social conventions in distinction to the market and sovereignty-based ones currently informing international law. But it would then have to turn these conventions of practice into legal rules and find an institutional structure to balance principle and process in the promotion of the alternative moral precepts that Paehlke advocates. Without top-down reorganization and the intervention of legal governance institutions, the transformation is at worst improbable and at best impermanent.

If Paehlke is correct that “[t]he history of citizenship suggests that global citizenship is part of a natural (though not inevitable) progression of human history,” this history should also be acknowledged to demonstrate that the most successful collective action takes place within an evolving legal superstructure of rules, incentives, and changing principles. Although one level is both formed and reformed by the other, the dialectic of both is the most critical element of any analysis of collective action, but a full discussion of the forces within this dialectic as it applies to Paehlke’s GCM is largely absent from both the original essay and the discussion of it.

There is little treatment of what the GCM collective action problem is, what the character of the strategic context demands, the assumed character of the individual assumed by the policymakers to be involved in creating the collective action movement, let alone the relationship of the collective action problem to both the existing international legal structure, or the changes in that structure that would be necessary to implement Paehlke’s recommendations.

This points to a more fundamental failure in our ability to trace the logical connections between the initial premises of our arguments and the empirical results we assume from them. What good is it to ponder something like a GCM if we cannot understand the fundamental assumptions and core principles, that is, the essential philosophical logic of concepts at the heart of what is being argued and what makes a certain policy and certain empirical results logical entailments of it? This is the difference between argument and opinion.

If Paehlke is correct that the problems that demand a GCM, like rising inequality, are “more a result of public policy than an inevitable result of global economic integration, particularly when such policies are economically inefficient, socially divisive, politically corrosive, and environmentally destructive,” then it is the paradigm of policy design assumed by the analyst, viz. the theoretical and practical structure of argument that answers these fundamental questions, that is of critical importance to any serious discussion of a GCM as a component of global transformation. Only with such structure can one establish the logic of philosophical and factual concepts that inform our premises and then generates the set empirical conclusions they demand and in this way present an intact and systematic argument that can be critically, that is logically, analyzed.

Paehlke gestures toward a possible policy paradigm with his reference to Rousseau’s thought as a basis for the generation of the movement, but a simple reference is not enough to see how a policy paradigm based on Rousseau’s philosophical logic of concepts would necessarily lead to the type of GCM described by Paehlke. If great transformation is to be made, we need to understand and test various such paradigms and make complete arguments with a substructure of philosophical logic and a superstructure of empirical policy recommendations that are logically tied together and imply one-another in order to judge their comparative value. Otherwise, we are merely engaged in an eristic clash of opinion.

Progress will not occur through disconnected assumptions, random critical principles, and a specific wish list of empirical policy goals with no apparent connection to one another. If Great Transformations are to be more than talking points, we need a revolution in the systematic study of law and policy that joins logics of policy investigation with concurrent logics of philosophical concepts: superstructure of argument with its substructure. Not doing so is how a discussion like this can proceed without any significant mention of the demands of the fundamental collective action problem at the foundation of Paehlke’s call for a GCM.

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John Martin Gillroy
John Martin Gillroy is Professor of International Relations and Public International Law and Founding Director of the Graduate Programs in Environmental Policy Design at Lehigh University. He is the author of the recent book An Evolutionary Paradigm for International Law Philosophical Method, David Hume, and the Essence of Sovereignty and the editor of the book series Philosophy, Public Policy And Transnational Law.

Cite as John Martin Gillroy, "Commentary on 'Global Citizenship: Plausible Fears and Necessary Dreams,'" Great Transition Initiative (June 2014),

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