• S. Peou

From Global Governance to World Government? Some Additional Thoughts

Updated: Apr 19

April 20, 2020


This post attempts to answer this important question. I posted this piece before but would like to add that the current system of global governance is at a crossroads. The idealist push for world government is likely to persist, despite critics' point that this is very unlikely and impossible.

The world in which we live today cannot be fully characterized either as anarchical or as world government. Since the early 1990s, the term "global governance" has been used to describe a world where the global rule of law and international institutions exist and matter. Global governance can be defined as a system of formal and informal institutions, networks and processes whereby states and nonstate actors (intergovernmental organizations, global civil society, and multinational corporations) are assumed to share the stage in world politics and take collective action to address global challenges. It is not the end of international anarchy since there is no world government, as sovereign states remain the primary actors. In short, the system of global governance remains highly fragmented.

The big question is whether global governance is well-equipped to address global challenges such as the threat of conventional and unconventional war (which includes weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and cyberwarfare), human insecurity and human rights violations, underdevelopment and poverty, global financial crises and climate change, as well as overpopulation and pandemics. If globalization continues to spread wider and grow deeper, the push for collective action among states and nonstate actors is likely to gain momentum, as the threat of anarchy to humanity also grows.

Scholars continue to debate on these global challenges. Of course, we don't know what the future holds, but what we know is that the world is far from perfect and peaceful. Some scholars think that the rise of world government is inevitable. Others like me don't see how this development will actually take place since there is no strong sense of global community at the moment. The world in which we live remains culturally, socially, economically, and politically diverse so much so that neither the United Nations nor anyone else can do much more to bring about greater global solidarity or unity.

The world is now at a crossroads, probably moving toward a cyber-feudalism that may usher in a new period of authoritarianism and totalitarianism, somewhat similar to the situation that led to the Third Year War in Europe, the emergence of the Westphalia Peace Treaty of 1648, followed by imperialism and totalitarianism, World War I and II, as well as the Cold War and many hot wars around the world.

In short, the idealist vision for world government cannot be realized in the foreseeable future unless an unprecedented superpower emerges to bring this vision to pass. This development is not impossible, given the fact that the ongoing Information Revolution is also making it easier for some world leaders or global elites to push for a more centralized form of government. But any world government will not bode well for humanity either, as brute-force is likely to be used to suppress global resistance.

Tell what you think about my reflection on our world and share your vision with me.

2020 Sorpong Peou

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