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Robert Paehlke
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Global Citizenship: Plausible Fears and Necessary Dreams

Robert Paehlke

Some see global governance as necessary to protect human rights, mitigate climate disruption, reduce war, and counter rising inequality. Others fear global governance and even assume that all collective global actions, as well as global institutions like the United Nations, threaten both sovereignty and democracy. Within such contested territory, political leaders remain wary of strong global initiatives on environmental and social policy concerns—while still, on the other hand, favoring neoliberal free trade initiatives. Yet many trade treaties are in fact a form of global governance, one that undermines democracy at all levels by privileging the economic dimension of policy while excluding all others. Global citizenship and the democratization of international relations can counter public fears regarding a wide range of global policy initiatives. Such enlargement of the idea of citizenship has become an emergent possibility in the current epoch and, if expressed through a coherent global movement, can become a popular force for a Great Transition.

Global Governance on Trial | Global Citizenship Emerging? | Political Efficacy and Social Change | A Very Short History of Citizenship | Making Global Governance Attractive...and Achievable | The Character of the Global Citizens Movement | Endnotes


Global Governance on Trial

UN-funded health workers providing vaccinations in Pakistan were murdered by extremists. Without the violence, but also in the grip of anti-UN paranoia, some US conservatives have denounced, of all things, bicycle paths, alleging that Agenda 21, the UN’s 1992 road map for sustainable development, would force Americans out of their cars and into big cities; others have asserted that the UN intends to take people’s guns; and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has called global warming a fraud perpetrated to create a global government “to control all our lives.” Prior to becoming Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper argued that the real intent of the Kyoto Accord was global economic redistribution. Such claims are somehow not universally seen as madness.

The idea of global governance is alien to many. Political wariness clouds how we think about the urgent need for collective action on global challenges. Despite temptations to do so, those who appreciate humanity’s multidimensional shared fate should not just ignore this concern. Our political discourse must acknowledge the legitimate anxieties that many have about the prospect of global governance as well as the frequently voiced parallel view that citizen-based global cooperation is essentially silly, an impossible dream of foolish do-gooders. Many doubt that citizens can influence decisions on a global level because they doubt that they can even do so on a local level. We need to respond to cynicism and hopelessness by asserting, based on analysis of historical conditions and emerging possibilities, that there is nothing naïve about believing that citizens, governments, and human institutions can prevent everrising inequality and the overheating of the planet.

Those who present global governance as implausible ignore the everyday reality of global economic integration. A fragmented form of global governance already exists, a governance system rooted in the policies implicitly embedded within today’s adjudicated trade agreements. This system of governance, in which investment capital is highly mobile and labor much less so, risks placing nations that protect and strengthen social policies, encourage labor unions, or establish environmental rules at a competitive disadvantage.1 Economic integration in the absence of an overarching and democratically adjudicated framework for establishing economic, social, and environmental rules denies equitable participation in global decisions and systematically undermines local and national democracy. The question is not whether there will be global governance, but whether it will be democratic and integrative.

Today’s global trade agreements impact a far broader range of public policies than just trade and occur with virtually no public input or scrutiny. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has criticized the anti-democratic nature of such negotiations, noting that “[c]orporations are attempting to achieve by stealth—through secretly negotiated trade agreements—what they could not attain in an open political process.”2 The Trans-Pacific Partnership, now under deliberation, provides such an example.This closed negotiation process includes government officials, hundreds of corporate representatives, and a small number of labor leaders, but no representatives of other civil society organizations, such as those concerned with the environment, human rights, or social policy.


Global Citizenship Emerging?

Despite wariness of global governance, and lack of awareness that such governance already exists, many now see themselves as global citizens. A multi-nation poll conducted in 2005 found that “for the first time in history, one citizen in five across the world strongly identifies with being a citizen of the world ahead of being a citizen of a home country.”3 Those who fear global governance may find this alarming, but they are clinging to a fading past.

The same poll found that a majority of university-educated citizens saw a need for more comprehensive and better enforced global rules. It also found that leaders of non-governmental organizations, when asked to identify their ideal form of global governance for 2020, were as likely to choose “the emergence of directly-elected world government” as “a reformed and strengthened United Nations.” The extent to which this is a negative judgment about the prospects for UN reform is unclear, but it does suggest that many are open to global political change beyond what most national governments would countenance.4

An active global citizens movement (GCM) could, however, grow to influence global outcomes without a global government or even a formal global decision-making process. Indeed, a GCM might not opt to create a global government in the future, even if it had the capacity to do so, if it is able to achieve effective policies and initiatives on key global issues in other ways. Such a strategy for resolving global challenges would require dense cross-national networks and persistent effort.

Only a GCM can provide sustained locale-by-locale support for action on global concerns in the face of certain and ubiquitous political resistance. Indeed, such concerns would not persist if many national and local jurisdictions had not ignored or stymied solutions. A global stage dominated by economic interests and national leaders alone, operating largely behind closed doors, has systematically avoided confronting these challenges. On the world stage, the audience cannot even see the play, let alone join the cast.

In this context, the world has drifted into a perilous condition where problems like climate change and rapidly rising inequality have become urgent, demanding solutions long before global government could emerge. Global, citizen-based political action must precede whatever new institutional arrangements might emerge in the long run. Strengthening organizational capacity and public awareness can, however, mute these crises, and coherent and comprehensive governance can arise out of that process or develop later.

Building a GCM equal to this challenge is itself a massively complex task, requiring vast reserves of optimism and energy from millions of citizens. Fortunately, complex movements can emerge one issue at a time and spread sporadically and spontaneously. Vibrant global environmental and human rights movements, as well as other efforts addressing key aspects of global citizenship, already exist. Taken together, Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders, Oxfam, and the thousands of citizen-based development, human rights, social justice, environmental, and other civil society organizations could achieve synergies within a multi-issue global citizens movement. Still missing, though, is a wider appreciation of the interrelatedness of the issues on which these groups work as well as a greater sense among their participants that they are engaged in a common effort.

An overarching movement plan is not necessary, nor is an institutional structure or central administration. Movements can be amorphous and grow organically, generally including and spawning diverse organizations, each with continuously evolving perspectives. Individual citizens can, however, identify with and feel a part of a movement as a whole, share its broad goals, and actively participate in—or simply support—its initiatives. The American civil rights movement and the environmental movements in many nations have taken this pluralistic yet unified form. Broad-based movements do not have an address and phone number or a single leadership group. There will not likely be a single central website for the global citizens movement. All of these things make a GCM more decentralized, more unplanned, more possible, and less threatening.


Political Efficacy and Social Change

The social science concept of political efficacy can further illuminate the prospects for such a movement. Political efficacy is self-confidence regarding political activity, the belief that citizens can influence political and policy outcomes. Without widespread political efficacy, democracy loses legitimacy and cannot live up to its potential. Since robust political activism depends on such efficacy, the currently low level of political efficacy with respect to global issues and decisions reveals the challenge inherent in initiating and establishing a global citizens movement.

Moreover, low political efficacy at a global scale systematically undermines political efficacy within nations. In particular, inadequate multilateral agreements weaken national capacity to set strong social and environmental policy. Political leaders and economic elites evade responsibility by implying that they are powerless in the face of “global competition” to prevent the erosion of incomes, improve social programs, or strengthen regulation. If citizens believe that governments are powerless to establish policies that affect their everyday lives, they will see little point in participating in the political process.

Global economic integration does not inevitably undermine democracy, but it does when it proceeds without, in the words of former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali, the “democratization of international relations.” Indeed, long-standing inaction on transnational policy challenges reflects a willful erosion of public influence regarding those challenges at all levels. Citizens feel that action is impossible when, in fact, elites have consciously excluded social, environmental, and other urgent matters from existing trade agreements, and largely failed to take effective actions outside of those agreements. The situation is, however, far from hopeless.

American political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset in his work Political Man assessed the determinants of political efficacy and analyzed why social and economic groups did or did not act politically to change an established order. Groups like cigar rollers were politicized, while other groups of similar station were not, because the cigar rollers sat in a circle at large tables and could readily converse while they worked. In other work settings, workers could not interact and thus were far less likely to be politically engaged. Others were more likely to be politicized if they worked and lived in the same neighborhoods and had ongoing social and family connections. Today, while citizens in many nations are politically discouraged, new media make global conversations possible and facilitate the creation and functioning of transboundary organizations of citizens.

Industrial age politicization and political efficacy created political forces, such as unions and political parties, that eventually embedded market decisions within democracies in post-Depression, post-World War II Western nations. Unionization, social and educational policies, and graduated taxation all contributed to the reduction of inequality. In the 1970s, in the US and many other nations, citizen-based environmental movements pressed governments to enact wide-ranging regulations.

However, for more than thirty years now, social inequality has risen continuously within most nations, and perilous global environmental problems have emerged. In China, the top 10% now receive 60% of all income, and most rapidly industrializing countries show similar patterns.5 In the thirty-four OECD countries, the richest 10% have a total income nine times higher than the lowest 10%, up from seven times higher twenty-five years ago.6 Between 1993 and 2012, growth in real income for the top 1% in the US was 86.1%, while the remaining 99% saw income growth of only 6.6%, most of which went to the remainder of the top 10%. Even in more historically equal nations like Germany and Sweden, there has been slippage in recent years.

Three cautions are worth noting regarding this pattern. First, while inequality is rising globally, median incomes in rapidly industrializing countries like China and Brazil are gaining on those in North America and Europe. Second, not all of the increase in national inequality results from globalized trade and “exported” jobs; much results from technological advances that displace human labor. Attributing these trends to increased trade alone is thus an oversimplification that sidesteps the real challenge of establishing policies that reduce inequality within and between nations while also improving opportunities for better work-life balance everywhere. Third, not every nation readily accedes to the adoption of austerity policies that exacerbate inequality. France, for example, attempted to resolve its deficits with higher taxes on the wealthy rather than cuts to public sector employment and support for the poor.7

In sum, rising inequality is 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. Governments face constant pressure to adopt policies that exacerbate inequality as a putative necessity to remain economically competitive. A global citizens movement pushing for coordinated global action could offer the much needed counterpressure to such orthodox political logic.

Efficacy, however, also requires overcoming despair regarding the future, the assumption that nothing can change or that things will inevitably get worse. Democracy grew during the Age of Enlightenment, a time of great optimism regarding the human future. Paul Raskin rightfully argues that pessimism is “not so much wrong as disempowering.”8 He shows that sufficient resource capacity exists to create, over time, a world that is both environmentally sustainable and globally egalitarian, but that only “pragmatic hope” can create the citizen energy needed to achieve cultural and political change. Frances Moore Lappé likewise argues that environmental doom-and-gloom is a “thought trap” that can stultify our collective capacity to act.9

Establishing political efficacy globally is a spectacularly daunting challenge. Yet without it, how will citizens be able to pressure governments into acting on global challenges or, ultimately, institutionalizing inclusive global decision-making processes? Without it, global governance will remain paralyzed and action on global challenges largely inadequate. The challenge is all too real, but global citizen action is beginning to take hold.

Notable efforts include fair trade initiatives, the efforts of development-oriented civil society organizations, global human rights campaigns, and environmental activism. These broad waves of civic initiative play out in myriad examples. For instance, Electoral Rebellion recognizes that people often have a stake in other countries’ elections. Individual Israelis, through this organization, offer to vote on behalf of individual Palestinians, and Germans have voted on behalf of Spaniards when Germany imposed austerity measures on Spain. Those who offer their vote in these cases might well have voted the same way regardless, but the act of exchange is widely visible and makes a political point regarding transborder citizenship interests. In another arena, No Kero and Solar Sister provide affordable solar lighting to replace kerosene lamps and solar phone rechargers for villages beyond the electric grid.10 Replacing kerosene reduces black carbon (soot), a potent greenhouse gas, and saves users money, thereby improving their economic situations. A self-conscious global citizens movement could expand and multiply these and hundreds of other small initiatives.

Activism in the emerging civic, or social, economy complements such work. In the Global South, budding social entrepreneurs, with the help of governments or private foundations, have created innovative products explicitly designed to improve the environment and expand economic opportunities.11 The United States has seen the rise of entrepreneurial nonprofits with social and environmental missions as well as “benefit corporations,” private firms that prioritize purposes other than just the bottom line.12 Such enterprises, in effect, expand citizenship into the market realm. Few participants in these efforts are under the illusion that their efforts are panaceas, but these initiatives can launch quickly and build the linkages needed to grow a more comprehensive movement. They create connections, nurture hope, and build efficacy.

Challenging governments, international institutions, and trade policy is also essential, but few are prepared to begin there. In concert with global efforts, concrete and visible successes, however small, are needed to build a movement. Even if those initial efforts are insufficient, wider knowledge of them, and more minds opened to new possibilities, will spur other efforts. Such a movement can take hold organically and rapidly as crises mature and more people appreciate that global governance is where the long arc of human history is taking us—and has been for centuries.


A Very Short History of Citizenship

The history of citizenship suggests that global citizenship is part of a natural (though not inevitable) progression of human history. Over the centuries, citizenship evolved from local to national, following the expansion of production and markets. In the context of our increasingly interdependent economy, a shift toward global citizenship and rulemaking simply continues this evolution. The rights and duties of citizenship, moreover, have also evolved and expanded. Citizenship began with legal rights and duties and expanded to incorporate political rights and duties and then, more recently, social and environmental rights and duties. Appreciating this history makes global citizenship and governance less implausible and less threatening.

Citizenship evolved slowly from communities (city-states and principalities) to nation-states. The central impetus for the shift to national citizenship was the Industrial Revolution, where increased output created a need to expand markets. Multiple autonomous principalities hindered trade with their imposition of varying bridge tolls, road use charges, and duties. Larger governmental entities and uniform rules paved the way for continuous growth in production and trade. Growing literacy and rising wealth unrelated to inherited land led to a more democratic sense of citizenship. The nation-state emerged, and the spread of democracy was not far behind.

The creation of the modern welfare state in the first half of the twentieth century enhanced the scope of citizenship. British sociologist T.H. Marshall called this shift social citizenship, to convey that meaning of citizenship had come to encompass minimum standards of economic well-being.13 Writing in 1950, he argued that the basic rights of citizenship had evolved over several centuries. In Britain, hard-won civil rights (freedoms of speech, assembly, press, and religion, as well as the right to own property, conclude contracts, and access justice) were expanded to include political rights via the Reform Acts of 1832, the 1860s, and the 1880s, which gradually lowered property requirements for voting. These rights then expanded to include basic social rights.

Marshall saw these three aspects of citizen rights (civil, political, and social) as mutually reinforcing. The right to vote protects civil rights, and civil rights are essential to the effectiveness of voting and the functioning of government. Social and economic minima are likewise essential to both voting and civil rights and had, in his view, become a fundamental aspect of modern citizenship by the early twentieth century.

Marshall saw these three aspects of citizen rights (civil, political, and social) as mutually reinforcing. The right to vote protects civil rights, and civil rights are essential to the effectiveness of voting and the functioning of government. Social and economic minima are also essential to both voting and civil rights and had, in his view, become an essential aspect of modern citizenship by the early twentieth century.

Today, diminishing social equity in wealthy nations undermines Marshall’s social citizenship and the sense of progress that supported the emergence of political efficacy and democratic citizenship. Marshall’s buoyant perspective now seems to describe a more optimistic and prosperous time, yet when he wrote, average income per capita was far below what it is today. Few political figures today aspire to do more than slow the rate of decline in social equity. Social citizenship is crumbling, and declining social capital is threatening political citizenship.14

Taking citizenship global will not automatically reverse this decline, but it could build hope by establishing a sense of civic, political, social, and environmental citizenship worldwide. Citizenship, widely understood in global as well as national and local terms, moves mindsets from a focus on competition to citizenly concern regarding shared obligations. In time, it could also change the broad arc of public policy discourse, ultimately altering policy outcomes in ways that re-embed market forces in ethical habits and socio-political rules on a global scale.


Making Global Governance Attractive...and Achievable

Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued that democracy was only possible in communities of limited size. Fortunately, given the need for global governance, our technical capacity to communicate has changed radically in the three centuries since Rousseau. The Internet now enables people to locate each other and mobilize around specific initiatives or broad concerns. Internet use has become part of the rhythm of daily life (there are more than 500 million users in China alone), eroding both borders and distance. Barriers like language, censorship, and the cost of access remain, but increasingly, they too can be overcome.

This makes active global citizenship possible by opening lines of communication that can build trust and allow diverse individuals, organizations, and institutions to act together and to pressure governments and public institutions at all levels. With such new technologies, citizen-driven initiatives can be launched in a coordinated way or begin in a few places and spread spontaneously. This makes active global citizenship possible in ways that Rousseau could not have even imagined.

Our communication and transportations systems have facilitated the creation of an increasingly interdependent global economy, but without fair and effective social and environmental rules, such an economy carries great risks. The increasing concentration of wealth leads to a parallel concentration of political power. At the same time, the preferential treatment of investment income and the stagnation, or even decline, of wages reduce public revenue. The impacts of feckless globalization on the ecosphere pose severe risks. Cynicism regarding government rises when political leaders only consider a narrow range of action. A broad citizens movement can counter this distrust by taking citizen-to-citizen communication and democratic action global.

The first (and perhaps the best) way to lessen wariness about more open and visible global governance is to show that, rather than threatening existing democracy, it is crucial to protecting it from the eroding effects of the decidedly non-democratic global governance now operating. To reinforce this message, a global citizens movement might undertake campaigns to strengthen (“thicken,” in political science terminology) local and national democracy. The movement should be consistently and visibly on the side of expanding and deepening democracy, human rights, and fairness.

In Canada, the movement could support proportional representation or preferential voting, where voters can rank each candidate preferentially, with second and third choice votes counted from candidates finishing furthest behind, giving voters more input into election outcomes. The GCM might call for the prompt restoration of free and fair elections in Egypt or their establishment in Saudi Arabia or China. It might also oppose voter identification laws in the United States, which consciously exclude minority, poor, and student voters in certain states, or challenge election finance rules that allow large and secret campaign contributions. American elections, in particular, affect virtually everyone on the planet and are thus, to some extent, everyone’s business.

A second way to support and strengthen local and national democracy, and to reflect Rousseau’s wisdom, is to promote a limited global agenda. Given that economic integration has at least partially unraveled the embedding of market forces within democratic governance, and that new threats require worldwide action, a global agenda is unavoidable. Nevertheless, the challenges that require global action (as distinct from initiatives within multiple jurisdictions) are few in number. Moreover, policy architecture can accommodate local designs of policy implementation, as federal experience in multiple nations bears out. The principle of subsidiarity, establishing policies at the most local level possible, should guide decision-making as well as the internal processes of the movement that advances it. If the global governance agenda remains limited while an essential feature of global citizenship remains expanding democracy at all levels, not constraining democracy within nations, there is little sound reason for wariness regarding global governance.

Third, local economic diversity, including initiatives advocated by environmental and development citizen activists, aligns well with this emerging cosmopolitanism. Indeed, stronger local economies are needed to enable and support policy subsidiarity. Renewable energy can be small in scale and is typically more widely distributed than other energy options. Local agriculture and food sovereignty strengthen local economies. Even environmentalist demands for durable and repairable products strengthen local economies through stimulating local repair and resale enterprises. Finally, new media distribute content creation widely, the opposite effect of mass media, and have the potential to strengthen citizen engagement by creating new possibilities for political activism.

These possibilities are especially important in the Global South. Without new local energy options, many nations cannot afford fossil fuel imports. Many poor nations already rely heavily on renewable energy sources, usually hydroelectricity and biomass. They could greatly expand renewable energy production with solar and wind, technologies highly suited to decentralized populations. Feed-in tariffs, for instance, could help to scale up these technologies, simultaneously expanding energy access and reducing greenhouse emissions.15

In the communications sector of the Global South, sunk costs are limited, for example, in telephone lines. New technologies can bypass those costs, just as the limited presence of refining capacity and coal-fired power plants leaves the way open for renewables. Being behind in conventional technology opens the possibility of leapfrogging into more efficient, localized, and green technologies and production options.

Local food production for local consumption is far more secure, sustainable, and affordable than industrial-scale agriculture. The greatest barrier in the South to food production has been North American and European agricultural subsidies and food aid that forces recipient nations to buy from donor nations, undermining local food production. So-called free trade agreements have had little or no impact on those anti-market practices even while the IMF demands reductions in price subsidies for food in many of the affected countries. Movement-linked organizations should advocate greater food sovereignty and support groups that initiate urban food production in poor nations and poor neighborhoods in wealthy nations.

Fourth, a GCM should advance simultaneity as a form of global governance. Simultaneity recognizes that the competitive disadvantages of acting are lowered significantly if economic competitors take simultaneous action. This puts the focus on pressuring and working with local and national governments regarding global concerns. The pursuit of common global purposes is less threatening than are demands for global rulemaking. Some will, of course, nonetheless claim that “foreign” forces are at work, the “proof” lying in the global nature of the campaign. The appropriate response to such assertions is to ask, “What do you think would happen if we took this initiative here and no one elsewhere did so as well?” That indeed is precisely the discussion that needs to take place issue by issue. The logic of simultaneity can be widely understood. Simultaneous action must replace simultaneous inaction.

Fifth, and finally, to achieve broad appeal, a GCM must remain reasonably open regarding classic left-right political perspectives. Citizens everywhere understand that global decisions are now necessary, and a global movement facing up to the urgency of today’s challenges needs to welcome diverse approaches and solutions. The time has passed for anything hinting of reincarnation of the socialist internationals of a bygone era.

We do not, of course, need to hesitate to criticize excessive concentrations of wealth or inadequate regulation. Such things are at the heart of the problems the world faces. However, we need to be mindful that the solution is not just restraining the market, but also opening up more opportunities for real entrepreneurship, especially more start-ups and small-scale or community-based initiatives. Expanded local food and energy production, combined with public incentives such as feed-in-tariffs, is already altering market behavior.

Locally grown organic food, once only in isolated outlets, is now widely available. In Germany citizen, cooperative, municipal, and farmer-owned renewable electricity generation exceeds the output from renewable sources of large utilities, and electricity from those sources and will soon exceed production from fossil-based sources. Such local and participatory control leads to less NIMBY resistance to wind energy, more innovation, and potentially even some reduction in the concentration of wealth. Decentralization could in time offset or diminish the corrupting political effects of concentrated wealth in big energy and industrial agriculture.

Again, one cannot predict where a GCM will stand on particular issues. A GCM need not prima facie oppose “globalization” or “capitalism.” The movement should seek positives: socio-economic equity, environmental sustainability, strengthened democracy, and human rights. The best combination of ways to achieve these objectives globally, nationally, and locally remains to be seen.

Such considerations can aid a future GCM in creating quick, small, visible victories that enhance the efficacy felt by citizens regarding problems that require global solutions. That low efficacy is a core problem is hardly surprising. Humans have only rarely ever acted as citizens on this scale. We can do so because we must, but positive global change is most likely if it is initiated in many places and spreads organically. Something widely understood to be a global citizens movement will only emerge over time.


The Character of the Global Citizens Movement

What can we anticipate about the nature of a global citizens movement itself? A movement committed to expanded democracy, equity, and human rights must itself, in practice, be inclusive, equitable, and scrupulously democratic. Indeed, given that global institutions incorporating citizen participation will not emerge easily or quickly, the movement must be a model of democracy and inclusiveness to demonstrate the possibility of such democracy on a global scale.

The GCM will also be multi-centered geographically because of, at the very least, the cost of frequent face-to-face meetings. This pattern of decentralization already exists in global civil society. Most global environmental, social justice, and development organizations are either multi-centered or linked to broad geographic networks. Campaign ideas emerge in many locations and can spread to other locations quickly. As noted above, movements like the 1960s American civil rights movement were also multi-centered; an effective global citizens movement almost inevitably will be more so. The civil rights movement spread through the media of the day; today’s campaigns can actively be spread using new media rather than depending on traditional, centralized media systems.

In this way, a GCM, decentralized and inclusive, can stand in stark contrast to current global decision-making, both public and private, which is centralized, hierarchical, and exclusive. Global citizens can solve problems directly through personal, community-based, technological, and economic as well as national and international political efforts. Increasing numbers of people can come to understand that what they are doing, or might aspire to do, is potentially part of a citizen-based global effort.

Such actions are necessary because, while effective global governance is long-term, some challenges are too urgent to depend wholly on pressing national governments to step up. With many existing governments, national governments perhaps especially, at least partially within the sway of concentrated wealth, citizens must rise up to explore the possibilities and act on that vision to create change on a global level. Ultimately, sufficient change will require governmental and intergovernmental action, but those may only be possible when majorities glimpse the kind of world that is possible and, crucially, understand that citizens can make it happen.


1. An indication of how far control-by-trade-regime can go is the use of trade rules to block nations from discouraging tobacco use as a public health measure. See Sabrina Tavernise, “Tobacco Firms’ Strategy Limits Poorer Nations’ Smoking Laws,” New York Times, December 13, 2013,
2. Joseph Stiglitz, “Developing Countries Are Right to Resist Restrictive Trade Agreements,” The Guardian, November 8, 2013,
3. Doug Miller, “Citizens of the World Want UN Reform,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), April 8, 2005, http://
4. These approaches could be combined. For example, Daniele Archibugi has called for a bicameral UN with one chamber directly elected and the other representing nations. See his The Global Commonwealth of Citizens: Toward Cosmopolitan Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008).
5. Oxfam, “The Cost of Inequality: How Wealth and Income Extremes Hurt Us All,” media briefing, January 18, 2013,
6. Emmanuel Saez, “Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States,” September 3, 2013,
7. The country paid a price, though, when Standard and Poor’s downgraded France’s credit rating. Paul Krugman, “The Plot against France,” New York Times, November 13, 2013, opinion/krugman-the-plot-against-france.html.
8. Paul Raskin, “Game On: The Basis for Hope in a Time of Despair,” Great Transition Initiative (March 2013): 1,
9. Frances Moore Lappé, EcoMind (New York: Nation Books, 2011).
10. See and See also Rich McEachran, “African Social Enterprises Pave the Way for Solar Power While Stimulating the Local Economy,” The Guardian, December 3, 2013, http://www.
11. See discussion in Mary Kaldor, Sabine Selchow, and Henrietta L. Moore, eds., Global Civil Society Yearbook 2012 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
12. Some US states have legally designated benefit corporations to prevent shareholder lawsuits regarding management’s failure to maximize profits.
13. T. H. Marshall, Citizenship and Social Class: And Other Essays (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1950).
14. This pattern in the US context is described in Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000).
15. Tariq Banuri and Niclas Hällström, “A Global Programme to Tackle Energy Access and Climate Change,” Development Dialogue 61 (September 2012): 264-279,


Robert Paehlke


Robert Paehlke
Robert Paehlke, a political scientist, is Professor Emeritus of Environmental and Resource Studies at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. He was editor of the environmental journal/magazine Alternatives from its founding in 1971 until 1982 and continues to serve on its editorial board. His latest book is Hegemony and Global Citizenship: Transitional Governance for the 21st Century (2014).

Cite as Robert Paehlke, "Global Citizenship: Plausible Fears and Necessary Dreams," Great Transition Initiative (June 2014),

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