Public Reason: Vol. 4, No. 1-2, June-December 2012
The Limits of Design for Cosmopolitan Democracy
Jonathan Kuyper

Most scholars and practitioners agree that world politics suffers from a democratic deficit. In response, proposals for cosmopolitan democracy are not in short supply. Indeed the meaning of the term cosmopolitan democracy is now incredibly broad, encompassing a wide variety of institutional and normative prescriptions intended to foster more democratically legitimate standards at the transnational level. However, there is a distinct irony to these proposals. The increased interdependence and cooperation of actors at the transnational level – spurred on by globalization – make cosmopolitan democracy a necessary vision. Simultaneously, globalization amplifies power imbalances and thus skews the interests of different agents. Hence, globalization makes cosmopolitan democracy a necessary but distant prospect. This article seeks to address the empirical institutional constraints against building cosmopolitan democracy using historical institutionalism to stress the limitations of design. A normative argument is also built focusing on the relative merits of democratic experimentalism as a way to advance the cosmopolitan project whilst undercutting the complications noted in the analytical section of the article.

Key words: Cosmopolitanism; global governance; historical institutionalism; democratic experimentalism; global democracy.


Kuyper, Jonathan 2012. The Limits of Design for Cosmopolitan Democracy. Public Reason 4 (1-2): 28-47.