GoJIL Vol. 1, No. 3 (2009)
Does Anyone Really Want a Parliament of Man?
This is a review-essay of historian Paul Kennedy's recent history of the UN and global governance, The Parliament of Man. It offers a critical look at Kennedy's account of the development of the UN as the gradual, if fitful, progress of the United Nations towards global governance under an order of liberal internationalism – the slow triumph of international institutions and law over the the anarchy of international power politics among sovereign states. The essay argues that what Kennedy views as the gradual movement toward global governance by the UN, or international institutions of any kind, in the truly crucial matters of international security is actually an artifact of US hegemony, which offers the world a set of global public goods and minimal order. The extra-UN provision of these global public goods by the United States provides the otherwise missing exit from the classic problem of collective security – insincere promising, defection, and free-riding. The essay argues that Kennedy is essentially a "Whig historian" – positing a progress to history based around notions of global governance. It urges that the embrace of democratic sovereignty, with robust multilateralism among sovereigns, as an ideal political position, over internationalist global governance premised upon an indefinitely receding future in which universal, utopian, international organizations and law will overcome and replace sovereignty. Meanwhile, the "decline of the US" thesis and rise of multipolarity, celebrated by many as leading to a more just global order, should in fact give great pause, because a multipolar world is a more competitive, not more cooperative world. And the "universal" values of human rights might turn out, in retrospect, to have been far less a condition of international organizations and law and far more a benefit of US hegemony.
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