Markus Fraundorfer – Democratising global governance

Political Theory Research Group seminar series: 4 May 2016

PTRG seminar 4May16

Will we have a global parliament or another way to address the global challenges that we are faced with today, such as climate change, social inequalities and wars? What will the future of the global governance system look like? These questions are very challenging to tackle, but Markus Fraundorfer’s fascinating paper ‘Democratising global governance’ aims to answer them.

Starting with a description of global governance today, his paper presents three dominant approaches to global democracy in the literature – i.e. federalism, con-federalism, and institutional cosmopolitanism – and distinguishes the understanding of global democracy as an ideal model of a world state, on the one hand, and as an incremental process, on the other. He himself supports the latter understanding because it better captures the gradual increase in the process of democratisation that we actually observe in the contemporary globe. The paper then introduces the theoretical framework with which the author will explore how the global governance mechanism may be democratised successfully. The framework consists of three elements: (1) the promotion of human rights, (2) the creation of more inclusive and participatory decision-making mechanisms, and (3) the establishment of accountability mechanisms.

The discussion that ensued was heated but constructive, and it focused mainly on the theoretical models the author selected and his theoretical framework. Some commentators pointed out that the paper’s lack of some substantive definition of ‘democracy’ or some specification of principles of democracy might render the author’s argument unpersuasive. Other commentators asked why democratisation is the right way, among various alternatives (e.g. an authoritative approach), to tackle present global challenges. Regarding the author’s theoretical framework, some commentators objected that it appears to be just a partial framework, and that it would be unrealistic to apply this framework to those countries beyond its narrow scope (e.g. China). Also, some argued that it is questionable whether the process of democratisation is equivalent to the protection of human rights. Others contended that the author’s theoretical framework is mostly western-based, but that, in order to realise a plausible global governance system, the cultural gap between the West and the East should be bridged. Fraundorfer responded to these questions appropriately, and added that the paper is the theoretical chapter of a book which will explore Brazil’s role in democratising the international order, and so that his theoretical framing, including the way he conceptualises democracy or selects a theoretical model and framework, is inevitably related to the case study in Brazil.

Written by Chiming Zhong


Markus Fraundorfer is a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of São Paulo, Institute of International Relations, and a visiting scholar at Edinburgh University’s Just World Institute.