RECON Online Working Paper 2009/06

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Regional Federalisation with a Cosmopolitan Intent


Kjartan Koch Mikalsen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)



This paper deals with the issue of institutionalising a legal pacifistic international order. While Kant’s idea of perpetual peace serves as the point of departure, it is argued that in order to find a proper institutional arrangement one would have to look beyond the two notions found in Kant: the voluntary federation and the world state. In line with proponents of the world state, the author argues that the federative model is not only inconsistent with the idea of an international civil condition, but also is inadequate in empirical terms. At the same time, strong reasons can be raised against various world state conceptions. Against David Held’s idea of a ‘cosmopolitan democratic community’ it is argued that a world state could not become a relevant arena for democratic politics due to the lack of a robust civic solidarity at the global level. When it comes to more moderate ideas of world government, such as Otfried Höffe’s ‘minimal world state’, the traditional problem of despotism is held up, although in an untraditional way. Less than being a problem related to size, it is a problem related to the fact that a world state would have no external borders. Furthermore, it is argued that the conceptually necessary connection which often is said to exist between the state and any legal order relies on a misleading comparison of anarchic international relations with the original state of nature, conceived of, not as a hypothetical, but as an empirical condition. In so far as the so-called theorem of an international state of nature does not hold, it is argued, in line with Jürgen Habermas, that a peaceful international law-based order coherently can be envisaged as a non-state multi-level system. However, in order live up to the basic principles of Kant’s (liberal) republicanism, such a multi-levelled world order requires that regional unions like the EU and others, evolve into federal states.


Constitution for EuropeDemocracy – European Law – Federalism – Globalization – Governance – Institutions – International Regimes – Multilevel Governance – Supranationalism

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