No political theorist has engaged in a more sustained and thorough consideration of the consequences of globalization than David Held. In addition to contributions in democratic theory he has also contributed to some of the most comprehensive empirical studies of globalization as a historical, political, economic and cultural phenomenon.1 In his theory of cosmopolitan democracy Held articulates a comprehensive global system of governance. He lays out the institutional and normative basis for a common structure of action that would in theory cover the entire globe in a decentralized but integrated political and legal system. Such a structure of cosmopolitan sovereignty, he argues, could serve as the ﬁnal authority at the global level while at the same time reinvigorating popular sovereignty at the local and national levels. Held’s concerns regarding globalization and the nation-state fall into three
general categories familiar to our discussion thus far. First, Held argues that the regulatory and protective capacity of the state is being transformed – and in many cases reduced – by expanding political, economic, military, and cultural connections across borders. Second, he argues, such connections create chain reactions in political and economic institutions that transcend national borders. Decisions made at a distance have a profound eﬀect on the political and economic development of nation-states, and as a result domestic constituencies experience a narrowing of the passage through which they may steer the course of government, thus limiting their capacity for collective selfdetermination. And, third, processes of globalization transform political identities in myriad ways, causing regional, subregional or local groups to reevaluate the representative capacity of their central governments, stimulating the constitutive authority of the people to seek change.2 For Held, the solution lies in the gradual institution of a form of cosmopolitan sovereignty that would one day cover the globe. In what follows I will argue that while the transformation and weakening
of the state’s protective capacity may indeed lead to the need for a form of cosmopolitan sovereignty, Held’s model raises two important questions for the concept of popular sovereignty as discussed here. First, to what extent would local and national collective self-determination be limited under a
global structure of cosmopolitan law? And, second, how are we to identify and mobilize the proper constitutive authority necessary for the legitimate constitution of such a system of global governance? The next section will discuss the system of cosmopolitan sovereignty as
described by Held. The following one will articulate what I call the problem of cosmopolitan founding, the diﬃculty of articulating the proper constitutive authority for the constitution of cosmopolitan global governance. And, ﬁnally, the closing section will interrogate the concept of global civil society as a proposed form of democratic politics that could serve to bring legitimacy to the constitution of cosmopolitan global governance.