In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Democracy in World Politics

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Political Philosophy and World Politics
  • Democratic Peace Theory

International Relations Democracy in World Politics
Andrea Ribeiro-Hoffmann
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0058


The relation between democracy and world politics is manifold. At the conceptual level, a number of schools of thought can be distinguished. Drawing on works from classical and contemporary political philosophers from Immanuel Kant to Jürgen Habermas, these schools address the classical contentions between liberal and communitarian, representative and participative, and procedural and deliberative models of democracy, as well as the role of nation-states as “borders” of the spaces where democracy can, or should, flourish. These debates are linked to questions of authority and legitimacy in world politics and are also addressed in the literature of global governance and global civil society. The more specific literature on democratic peace theory deals with the relation between political regimes and international conflict. At the practical level, two main ways to think about the relations between democracy and world politics can be distinguished. First, one can examine the extent to which decision-making processes within international organizations are democratic. Second, one can look at how world politics affect political regimes at the nation-state level, such as domestic democracy. The following cited works reflect these branches of the major debates on democracy and world politics. When referring to international institutions, the cited works are subdivided into UN system organizations, the European Union, and others. The impact of world politics on domestic democracies is treated at two levels: as a result of policies of democracy promotion (by nation-states and by international organizations), and as a consequence of globalization.

General Overviews

No books cover all aspects of the relation between democracy and world politics as described above. Hurd 1999 and Hurrelmann, et al. 2007 focus on questions of authority and legitimacy in world politics more broadly and are useful and updated works to situate the more specific debates. Archibugi, et al. 1998; Patomäki and Taivainen 2004; and Shapiro and Hacker-Cordón 1999 are comprehensive edited volumes exploring the possibility to think about democracy at the global level. Smith 2000 links these debates with the literature of international relations.

  • Archibugi, Daniele, David Held, and Martin Köhler, eds. Re-imagining Political Community: Studies in Cosmopolitan Democracy. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 1998.

    Indispensable edited volume that includes chapters by James Rosenau, David Beetham, James Crawford and Susan Marks, Mary Kaldor, Andrew Linklater, Ulrich Preuss, Richard Bellamy and Dario Castiglione, Janna Thompson, Daniele Archibugi, Martin Kohler, Gwyn Prins and Elizabeth Sellwood, Pierre Hassner, Derk Bienen, Volker Rittberger and Wolfgang Wagner, and Richard Falk.

  • Hurd, Ian. “Legitimacy and Authority in International Politics.” International Organization 53.2 (1999): 379–408.

    DOI: 10.1162/002081899550913

    In-depth but accessible analysis of authority in international politics, exploring three mechanisms of social control: coercion, self-interest, and legitimacy.

  • Hurrelmann, Achim, Steffen Schneider, and Jens Steffek, eds. Legitimacy in an Age of Global Politics. Transformations of the State. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230598393

    Excellent volume covering theoretical and empirical aspects of legitimacy and democratic legitimacy. The first part of the book deals with theoretical perspectives; the second, with empirical approaches; the third, with the legitimacy of governance arrangements beyond the democratic nation-state. The authors emphasize the distinction between the normative and the empirical dimensions of legitimacy, as well as the process of legitimation rather than the attribute of legitimacy.

  • Patomäki, Heikki, and Teivo Taivainen. A Possible World: Democratic Transformation of Global Institutions. London: Zed Books, 2004.

    The authors advance a methodology to access global democracy initiatives and provide an in-depth analysis of existing institutions’ arrangements (UN system, Bretton Woods, World Trade Organization, international courts) and new institutional arrangements, such as a global civil society, a global truth commission, a world parliament, a debts arbitration mechanism, and global tax organizations.

  • Shapiro, Ian, and Casiano Hacker-Cordón, eds. Democracy’s Edges. Contemporary Political Theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511586361

    Contains chapters by leading scholars such as Robert Dahl, David Held, Alexander Wendt, and James Tobin, exploring the boundaries and membership of the units in which democracy operates (e.g., its outer and inner edges).

  • Smith, Hazel, ed. Democracy and International Relations: Critical Theories/Problematic Practices. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.

    Excellent volume with conceptual and empirical chapters covering Russia, Latin America, Zimbabwe, Palestine, and Hong Kong.

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