Posted by: aboutalbion | April 28, 2012

World History and the gap

World history … world government … the gap

I want to add a postscript to last Thursday’s post in which I mused that the United Nations and its organs and its agencies (and others) appear to be capable of being seen as doing the groundwork for the necessary elements of a world government.

I think it is highly unlikely that China, representing the ‘eastern core’, and India would see things this way.  It is more likely that they would regard the United Nations and other western inter-governmental organizations, and the latter’s ‘humanitarian interventions’ that are made around the world, as manifestations of a specifically ‘western core’ interpretation of freedom, individualism, and democracy.

In other words, so far as I can see, a genuine international initiative to form a world government could not be based on western values alone.  And where would this initiative come from?  It is difficult to see because the well-known extrapolations of economic data suggest that China will achieve some sort of parity with the US in the next hundred years.  And having caught up with the US, why would China wish to cease to develop its economy at that point?

And so (in the meantime) to the question of how likely it is that a world government will be seriously considered.  The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (on the web) has an entry on ‘World Government’ that begins with three reasons for caution.  First, it is not feasible because it is quite unrealistic to suppose that such a world government would usher in an unending time of perpetual peace.  Second, it is not desirable because such a world government would be too remote from most people.  Third, such a world government is not necessary because all that are needed are inter-governmental organizations that can ‘modify’ nation state behaviour.

So if world government ideas are utopian, what is the distinctive standpoint of world history?  Maybe Professor Noortmann’s ideas (yesterday’s post) are apt here.  It might be the case that the role of world history is to narrate the big picture that highlights the gap between the ideals enshrined in international law and the asymmetric political realities that lie behind real international relations.


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