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Time and World PoliticsThinking the Present$

Kimberly Hutchings

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780719073021

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719073021.001.0001

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Time for democracy

Time for democracy

(p.106) 5 Time for democracy
Time and World Politics

kimberly Hutchings

Manchester University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on two alternative diagnoses of the time of contemporary world politics: firstly, arguments that suggest the end of the Cold War marks a stage on the way to the transformation of international political community towards a cosmopolitan world order; secondly, Hardt's and Negri's post-Marxist thesis of empire and counter-empire. It examines Habermas's reinterpretation of Kant's idea of perpetual peace, and a range of arguments about post-Westphalian world politics as a time in which some version of cosmopolitanism may become possible globally at elite or grassroots levels. It explores an account of the de-centring of political authority away from its locus in the state in the globalisation of bio-power, and the resistance that this creates in the process. It also evaluates the resources offered by these theories for analysing and judging the present, and the ways in which those resources depend on temporal assumptions.

Keywords:   contemporary world politics, Cold War, post-Marxist thesis, counter-empire, cosmopolitanism, Negri


IN the previous chapter I argued that ‘scientific’ attempts to diagnose the post-1989 times of world politics, in spite of their explicit rejection of historicism, nevertheless depended on kairotic meta-narratives of political temporality. The familiar ghost of philosophical history, in which the scholar's task is both to identify the ‘real’ mechanisms underlying historical development and to intervene, or enable intervention, positively in relation to time – to work with or against time – continued to be present. One of the reasons why post-Popperian social science ostensibly rejected historicism was because it was argued that historicism was normatively driven and incapable of objectivity. On these grounds, scientific International Relations scholars in the 1990s rejected the ‘ideological’ narratives of Fukuyama and Huntington and looked to a combination of methodological technique and empirical evidence to substantiate their claims to the truth of the post-Cold War world. In this chapter, we examine a rather different range of responses to developments in world politics in the late twentieth century. These accounts acknowledge an explicitly normative, progressive ethical and political agenda and their indebtedness to modernist philosophies of history. They are allied either to the promotion of cosmopolitan liberal or social democracy or to the promotion of radical global democracy. And although they reject the idea that they embrace the kind of historicism condemned by Arendt, Benjamin or Popper, they nevertheless situate their historical analysis as a theoretically and empirically defensible development of the arguments of Kant and Marx respectively. For these scholars, the end of the Cold War, although significant, is less important for the present and future of world politics than the range of developments referred to in Chapter 1 as ‘globalisation’. In what follows, we will examine the temporal assumptions and claims at work in the arguments of theorists who contend that the world may have arrived at a time when government has ceased to be bounded by the nation-state and democracy may become genuinely, globally inclusive.

(p.107) In the first part of the chapter, we will focus on examples of post-Kantian theorists of cosmopolitan law, democracy, citizenship and civil society. We begin by examining the work of one of the inspirational figures for post-Kantian arguments, that of Habermas, and the ways in which assumptions about world-political time operate in his work. We will then go on to look at two examples of theorists who have taken Habermas's Kantian cosmopolitanism forward in work on contemporary international politics: Linklater and Benhabib. In the second part of the chapter, we will turn to examine the arguments of Hardt and Negri, who identify themselves as rejecting Kantian cosmopolitanism and instead put forward a post-Marxist theory of the future of world politics. It will be argued that the claims of all of these theorists to be post Kant or Marx, when it comes to their account of the temporality of world politics, are questionable. Although the theories under consideration disavow aspects of the modernist philosophy of history, in particular in relation to determinism, their interpretations of chronos remain fundamentally shaped by a kairos of world politics that is revolutionary ‘new time’ wedded to a narrative of both progress and unity. In the final part of the chapter, we will examine the impact of these post-Kantian and post-Marxist conceptions of world-political time on their diagnoses of what matters in the present.

Cosmopolitan time

Habermas and the ‘Kantian project’

Habermas's critical theory has been formulated over the past half century and encompasses a wide variety of arguments in philosophy and social theory, as well as shifts in ideological orientation, from its beginnings in the neo-Marxist tradition of the Frankfurt School. However, one of the threads that has persisted in his work throughout this time, from The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1989) to the legal and political theory presented in works such as Between Facts and Norms (1996) and the essays recently gathered together in translation, The Divided West (2006), is the historical significance of modernity. Even in his earlier work, in which Habermas focused on the legitimacy crisis in modern social democratic states, he nevertheless found the solution to modernity's problems within modernity itself (Habermas, 1979). In his mature work, this solution is located in the presuppositions of communicative action, which underpin both Habermas's ‘discourse ethics’ (1990, 1992)1 and the evolution of societies from traditional to modern forms (1979). They are also at the heart of the self-reflexive capacity of ‘lifeworld’ in modern societies to act as critical constraint on ‘system’ (1984, 1987).2 And they ground the necessity of the link between popular sovereignty and human rights foundational to the constitution of the modern democratic state, and to the extension of constitutionalism beyond the bounds of the state (1996, 1997, 1998, 2006). Habermas's social, (p.108) political and ethical theories build on the work of Kant, Hegel and Marx, but also on that of theorists as diverse as Austin and Luhmann, and he denies that his diagnosis of modernity and of the possibility of progress within it relies on a philosophy of history. Nevertheless Kant has become the most significant reference point in Habermas's defence of the progressive potential of modernity in the post-Cold War world, and the latter's argumentative strategies are increasingly reminiscent of Kant's arguments in his political writings on peace and universal history. This is evident in Habermas's argument for the continuing robustness of what he terms the ‘Kantian project’ of ‘constitutionalising’ international law, in the face of a variety of other interpretations of the direction of world politics after the Cold War and 9/11.3

In his essay ‘The Kantian Project and the Divided West’ (2006: 115–193), Habermas defends the ongoing ‘juridification’ of international politics through a combination of philosophical and socio-historical argument, in which the questions of what international politics is and what it ought to be are inextricably entangled with one another. The essay begins with a historical claim:

Following two world wars, the constitutionalization of international law has evolved along the lines prefigured by Kant toward cosmopolitan law and has assumed institutional form in international constitutions, organizations and procedures. (2006: 115)

Habermas explains this historical trend as the product of collective learning processes (2006: 147), of a double kind. These learning processes reflect the lesson of the horrors of war but also the lesson learned within the modern constitutional state that law, properly understood, rationalises power in a normatively positive way (2006: 138–139, 148–150). It is the latter lesson that is most crucial, since it demonstrates the connection in principle between law and peace. This conceptual connection, which Habermas elucidates at length in Between Facts and Norms (1996), derives from the formal properties of law itself, first properly unpacked in the social contract theories of Rousseau and Kant:

The point of the reconstructive program of social contract theory was to demonstrate that the conceptual germ of the constitutionalization of the ‘irrational’, unregulated decisionistic power of the state is, in virtue of its formal legal character, already implicit in political power itself. (2006: 131)

On the account Habermas derives from the work of Rousseau and Kant, law puts an end to the wars of the state of nature not because it equates to the sword in the hands of leviathan, as for Hobbes, but because the universal form of law presupposes conditions of equality and impartiality that can only be fully satisfied if positive law is grounded in a constitution in which democratic will-formation and fundamental rights are embedded. Civil peace within the state, therefore, is only ultimately to be found within the constitutional state and, for similar reasons, peace between states could only be ensured for Kant if (p.109) they (states) entered a law-governed condition under a cosmopolitan constitution (2006: 121–122). According to Habermas, this explains Kant's arguments for reading history from a cosmopolitan point of view (2006: 122).

Habermas reads back the idea that there is a conceptual connection between peace and law into the logical and historical implications of international law, which, he argues, have become increasingly, though still inadequately, constitutionalised during the twentieth century. He departs from Kant, however, in refusing the two options he (Kant) presents for the telos of inter-state relations, that of constitution as a world republic on the one hand (2006: 123), and that of the ‘league or confederation of nations’ on the other (2006: 124). Habermas argues that the first of these options follows from Kant's analysis only because Kant was operating with the model derived from the French revolutionary constitution, with its emphasis on the indivisibility of sovereign power (2006: 128). Because of this, Kant was concerned that a world republic would all too easily lapse into despotism, in which the plurality of nations and peoples would be subsumed under a centralising power, and therefore decided against the idea of a world republic. Instead, Kant argued for a league of nations, whose voluntary cooperation with each other was partly grounded in the principle of right and partly in the philosophy of history and the combined incentives provided negatively by war and positively by trade (2006: 126).

For Habermas, however, Kant's first option is not the only way of thinking about the constitutionalisation of international law, and the latter option, insofar as it legalises relations between states, has a constitutionalising logic implicit within it. He goes on to build on Kant's analysis in a different way, arguing that the constitutionalisation of international law is complementary rather than analogous to the constitutionalisation of law within the state (2006: 134). Habermas suggests that the constitutionalisation of international law is not necessarily tied to the idea of a world republic, since the key actors involved are collectives (states) rather than individuals (citizens) and the purpose is not to constitutionalise (rationalise, constrain) an already existing political power but to enable the fulfilment of diverse functions, many of which do not require a supranational level of authority (2006: 134). According to Habermas, the kind of constitution already implicit in supranational and transnational organisations implies a multi-level system of authority. He sees the constitutions (founding treaties and charters) of existing organisations such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and, above all, the European Union, as foreshadowing the shape that such a multi-level constitutionalised global order is likely to take (2006: 134, 140). At the supra-national level, Habermas suggests that legal authority would (and should) be largely confined to the preservation of peace and the protection of human rights.

Supranational constitutions rest at any rate on basic rights, legal principles, and criminal codes which are the product of prior learning processes and have (p.110) been tried and tested within democratic nation-states. Thus, their normative substance evolved from constitutions of the republican type. This holds not only for the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but even for the treaties underlying GATT and the WTO … To this extent, the constitutionalization of international law retains a derivative status because it depends on ‘advances’ of legitimation from democratic constitutional states. (2006: 140–141)

The conceptual connection between law and peace is carried historically by ‘democratic constitutional states’, and the ‘prior learning processes’ embodied in them, and transferred by those states to the realm of international law. However, Habermas is not only suggesting that the limited requirements to ‘not … engage in wars of aggression and not … commit crimes against humanity’ (2006: 143) are presupposed empirically in existing, partial constitutionalisations of international law. In addition, he argues that these requirements are universally valid beyond the ‘thick’ claims of differing identities and cultural traditions. Here Habermas is using his distinction between ‘morality’ and ‘ethics’. According to Habermas, ‘ethics’ refers to those normative values that reflect specific conceptions of the good and are embedded in cultures and ways of life. Ethical principles are not inherently universal, but make sense in relation to particular contexts, languages and histories. ‘Morality’, in contrast, refers to those principles of justice that transcend cultural difference and are genuinely universal in their appeal. This universality echoes Kant's account of practical reason and the moral law, but is grounded instead in a theory of language and the necessary presuppositions of communication (Habermas, 1990, 1992). On Habermas's account, we can test out the universality of claims of justice through an actual or virtual discursive procedure, in which all affected by the claim in question are involved. The conceptual connection between law and peace at the global level is secured ultimately by their common foundation in principles of justice that are genuinely universal, because they are grounded in the presuppositions of communicative reason, and all those affected by them would endorse those principles if given the opportunity to deliberate upon them in a fair discursive procedure (2006: 143).

Habermas's adaptation of the ‘Kantian project’ attempts to draw out the logic implicit in the idea of law, but, as with Kant, goes beyond the realm of the ‘idea’ by tracing that logic within empirical history (chronos), specifically the empirical history of western modernity. As with Kant also, however, Habermas is insistent that the necessary links between law and peace may not be empirically realised within the workings of chronos (2006: 144) and that this therefore necessitates philosophical history:

the idea of a cosmopolitan condition, however normatively well founded, remains an empty, even deceptive, promise without a realistic assessment of the totality of accommodating trends in which it is embedded. (2006: 144)

(p.111) Kant, Habermas argues, used his philosophy of history to help render the cosmopolitan condition empirically probable and plausible (2006: 145). According to Habermas, Kant's identification of cosmopolitan historical trends in his philosophy of history suffered from blind-spots inherent in his time and place, but nevertheless remains significant in principle insofar as it rests on ‘the cognitive procedure of universalization and mutual perspective-taking which Kant associates with practical reason and which underlies the cosmopolitan transformation of international law’ (2006: 146). Habermas therefore undertakes to read the history of international law and international politics in a way that does better justice to Kant's insights into the real meaning of progress in history. He does this by identifying those historical developments that ‘meet the Kantian project halfway’ (2006: 143) and by setting his reading of history against alternative possibilities, which put international politics beyond law or reduce international law to an instrument of power politics or cultural identity (2006: 148–149). In doing this, Habermas acknowledges the depth of conflict over different interpretations of international law and of the history of international law, but argues that this conflict itself militates against a reduction of international law to power, since the relation asserted between law and power is ‘affected by the normative self-understanding of state actors’, a self-understanding shaped by the constitutional history of the state actor in question.

The Kantian conception of international law, by contrast, allows for the possibility that a superpower, assuming it has a democratic constitution and acts with foresight and prudence, will not always instrumentalize international law for its own ends but can promote a project that ends up by tying its own hands. (2006: 150)

Habermas goes on to offer a reading of the history of international politics and successive institutionalisations of international law that point to ways in which it accords with, and ways in which it runs counter to, any cosmopolitan promise. In his account, the UN Charter plays a particularly significant role in relation to three of its features: firstly, in the connections it makes between securing peace and human rights; secondly, in the link made between prohibitions on the use of violence and the threat of prosecution and sanctions; and thirdly, in the inclusivity of the UN's membership and the universal validity claimed for the law it enacts (2006: 160–166). For Habermas all three of these features make explicit the link in principle between law, democracy and rights and thereby represent moves towards a cosmopolitan constitution. However, evidence in both Cold War and post-Cold War periods for the consolidation of this cosmopolitanism is, as Habermas acknowledges, ambiguous (2006: 161; 168–169). As well as cosmopolitan innovations in international law, such as the spread of international human rights law in the Cold War period or the humanitarian interventions of the 1990s, there are also many examples of the (p.112) redundancy and manipulation of the UN and its founding principles. In addition, these developments in the ‘high politics’ of international relations are situated in a wider context, ‘the emergence of a world society, chiefly as a result of the globalization of markets and communication networks’ (2006: 175). Globalisation, Habermas argues, is a set of systemic processes that has led to the multiplication of international organisations and the intensification of global governance, taking the world into a new ‘postnational constellation’ that, it turns out, ‘meets the constititutionalization of international law halfway’ (2006: 177).

Although he does not claim that globalisation is straightforwardly progressive (in his terms) in its effects, nevertheless Habermas does claim that the pressures of globalisation tend to strengthen the common interest of states in the rule of law and also socialise state actors to act in ways that acknowledge mutual dependence and increasingly undermine the distinction between domestic and foreign policy (2006: 177). The latter reinforces the principled link between all law and its (rationally required) legitimate grounding in democratic will-formation and fundamental human rights. This is exemplified, for Habermas, by the case of the EU in which ‘if the chains of democratic legitimation are not to break, civic solidarity must extend across former national borders within the enlarged communities’ (2006: 177). In this respect, globalisation reinforces the previously relatively weak link between international law and ‘world citizens’ (2006: 135) and greatly enhances the chances of the cosmopolitan logic of international law unfolding historically. In the concluding sections of the essay, Habermas examines three alternatives to an interpretation of the times of world politics in terms of the ‘Kantian project’ (2006: 179–193). The first is ‘hegemonic liberalism’, the second, ‘neo-liberal and post-Marxist arguments’, and the third ‘Schmittian’ arguments. In each case, Habermas's defence of his Kantian alternative in contrast to these others rests on its claim to offer a more plausible understanding of the nature of law, and the analytical and normative implications of that understanding.

By US hegemonic liberalism, Habermas is referring to neo-conservative and liberal ‘empire’ arguments that support US interventionism as the way forward for a more stable post- Cold War international order. Habermas's critique of this kind of thinking is that because it effectively reduces law to power it compromises its own liberal credentials. This not only leads the US to make serious mistakes about how to fight ‘international terrorism’, but also prevents it from putting in place the kind of processes of validation that would enable discrimination between particular and universal interests. This, Habermas argues, sets up a ‘cognitive dissonance’ between the universalistic language of US claims to represent justice, and the particularistic nature of its actions, which will sooner or later become apparent to its own citizens (2006: 184–185). By ‘neo-liberal and post-Marxist arguments’,4 Habermas means arguments from (p.113) both right and left which see the times of contemporary world politics in terms of the globalisation of capital, and understand international law as entirely subordinate to this process. Habermas is summarily dismissive:

The distinctive dialectic of the history of international law cannot be interpreted with a completely deformalized conception of law as a mere reflection of underlying power constellations. The egalitarian and individualistic universalism of human rights and democracy has a ‘logic’ that interferes with the dynamics of power. (2006: 187)

Habermas devotes rather more space to the refutation of arguments derived from the international legal theory of Schmitt, which argue against the further juridification of international politics and for the post-Westphalian emergence of two mutually antithetical imperial hemispheres (2006: 188).5 However, Habermas's reasons for refuting this interpretation of contemporary world politics are very much the same as for his rejections of the other two. Habermas traces Schmitt's claims about international law to their grounding in moral non-cognitivism (and the incommensurability of different conceptions of justice) and rejection of the possibility of ‘rationalising’ the primal existential antagonism inherent in the political (2006: 190). Although superficially plausible in certain respects as a description of certain developments in international politics post-9/11, Habermas argues that there is no philosophical ground for the ‘clash of civilizations’ thesis that follows from a Schmittian understanding of identity and power.

In Schmitt's case, it was already nourished by ressentiment against Western modernity and its updated versions remain completely blind to the productive ideas of self-consciousness, self-determination, and self-realization that continue to shape the self-understanding of modernity. (2006: 193)

The quotation above underlines the significance of Habermas's understanding of western modernity for his diagnosis of the current times of world politics. It also demonstrates, yet again, the pattern of his argument, which shifts from the philosophical to the empirical and back again. In Chapter 2, in our examination of various exemplars of modernist philosophy of history, we noted that the arguments of Kant, Hegel and Marx shared certain features. In each case, the time of western modernity was given world-historical significance (became the yardstick for the political time in general), the relation between the philosopher and his times became immanent to the account of history being given, and there was an identification of the current time with ‘revolutionary’ new time, represented by the world historical ‘event’ of the French Revolution. In Habermas, we can trace analogous elements of his argument, but his account is closest, perhaps unsurprisingly, to that given by Kant. In Habermas's case, the world-historical significance of western modernity lies in its institutionalisation of practices of communicative, as well as instrumental, rationalisation at the phylogenetic (p.114) socio-political) level. As with Kant, the emphasis is on reason as the key to freedom and to the construction of a new and better world. Just as for Kant, only societies that embed the principle of right in a republican constitution can bring politics into accord with the demands of practical reason, so for Habermas, only those societies that embed the possibility of discursive validation of claims to truth and justice can take forward the telos immanent in communicative action.

Like Kant, Habermas, having identified the ideal telos of history, recognises that development towards that telos is not inevitable, and that one must distinguish between empirical and philosophical history. Like Kant also, however, he sees the task of the philosopher as being to forge a link between philosophical and empirical accounts by reading history ‘from a cosmopolitan point of view’. In doing this, however, the nature of the link between empirical and philosophical remains ambiguous. On the one hand, the philosopher's reading of history represents a transcendental moral judgment of what ‘ought to be’ a categorical imperative for those dedicated to progress; on the other hand, the reading of history is presented as immanent to historical development, a truth that can be read off by an impartial observer of the ‘logic’ of modernity. On the one hand, progress is carried self-consciously by principles of self-reflexivity built into complex societies; on the other hand it is carried willy-nilly by processes such as globalisation that intensify that complexity and carry it beyond state borders. Whereas for Kant, Hegel and Marx, the French Revolution exemplified the ‘new time’ in which they lived, for Habermas this new time is the time of globalisation or the ‘postnational constellation’ – historical developments that meet the rationalising capacity of law halfway. Habermas's argument replicates the argument of his predecessors in its reliance on a particular relation between chronos and kairos, in which the latter is carried through, but also shapes the former, and in which there is a constant dialectic between determinism (fate) and self-determination (autonomy). The role of the philosopher is both to interpret the meaning and direction of political time and to intervene to push historical development in the ‘right’ direction. His insights are a product of his time and place (western modernity) but they are also universally valid and applicable.

Cosmopolitan futures

Over the past ten years, a rapidly expanding literature in international political theory, ethics and globalisation studies has argued for the development of cosmopolitan democracy and citizenship, modelled on liberal or social democratic lines, as both a normative ideal and an immanent potential of world-historical development. Accounts of what this cosmopolitan ideal might look like vary. But in all cases, such arguments put forward an analysis of international, transnational and global politics in terms of the progressive transformation of the political temporality of inter-state relations into the (p.115) global political temporality of humanity as a whole.6 Much of this work finds at least part of its inspiration in the ‘Kantian project’ as it is conceptualised in Habermas's philosophical and social theory. Two examples of this can be found in the work of Linklater (1998) and Benhabib (2002, 2004).

In Linklater's argument modernity is defined by a principle of universalisability that successively challenges limits to the moral and political progress of humanity. The present is interpreted as revolutionary ‘new time’ because the Westphalian international order is in the process of transformation into a new form of political community in which citizenship is no longer confined by the boundaries of states. The telos towards which the transformations analysed by Linklater are leading is that of self-determination, understood along the lines of Kantian autonomy in which individuals become self-legislating. For Linklater, this means that the end of history takes the form of a cosmopolitan, egalitarian, dialogic democracy. The mechanisms through which progress happens are immanent to history but not certain in their outcome. Linklater essentially relies on two such mechanisms, both of which reflect the importance of Europe as the carrier of world-political time. Firstly, there are the material mechanisms of globalisation which lead to an increase of economic interdependency, which are abetted by advanced communicative technologies with global reach, and which necessitate the development of increasing inter- and trans-state cooperation in global governance and regulation. However, these material processes are by no means straightforwardly progressive. On the one hand, they facilitate the recognition of the commonality of the situation of humans across the globe; on the other hand, they exert fragmenting as well as unifying pressures, alienating those at the sharp end of global inequalities and deepening rifts between rich and poor, dominant and subaltern cultures (Linklater, 1998: 30–32). It is therefore the second mechanism which is much more important for Linklater's theory of history: the non-material process of moral learning, in which both individuals and collectivities absorb and proselytise the universalising lessons of Enlightenment reason (1998: 118–119).7 Linklater's most powerful example of moral learning draws on Marshall's theory of the development of citizenship rights, in which the logic of universality implicit in liberal citizenship pushes forward an increasingly inclusive understanding of both who is included as a citizen and the kind of rights that he or she bears (1998: 184–189). Although progress cannot be guaranteed, the theorist's analysis confirms that it is moral learning which is the sine qua non of progress. In so far, therefore, as the theorist points out and reinforces the moral lessons of modernity, he is acting as a good global citizen. The demand to read history as if it were progress becomes a categorical imperative.

Promoting the Kantian vision of a universal kingdom of ends, and the parallel enterprise of realising the neo-Marxist ideal of overcoming asymmetries of power and wealth, form the essence of cosmopolitan citizenship. (1998: 212)

(p.116) In Linklater's analysis, civil society is the arena in which political actors challenge the unjustifiable exclusions inherent within states and in inter-state relations. Feminist and multiculturalist movements are taken to exemplify the way that Habermasian performative contradictions within liberal states, in which states act in contradiction with their own grounding principles, provide revolutionary opportunities for social and political transformation.8 The same logic that pushes the extension of rights within states, challenges the validity of the distinctions drawn between those within and those without state borders. The development of global civil society is therefore a logical development of Enlightenment reason, as is the European Union (1998: 189–211). On Linklater's interpretation the analysis of global civil society is necessarily linked to his broader progressivist narrative, in which liberal Enlightenment reason plays the crucial role. This does not mean that Linklater is claiming that all activity in global civil society is necessarily progressive. But he is providing a way of distinguishing between the progressive and reactionary within civil society movements, and putting the emphasis on the positive logical weight carried by progressive developments. It is therefore also the case that an idealised version of global civil society itself, as a public sphere of open and inclusive dialogue, becomes an integral part of the telos of modernity.

Benhabib's cosmopolitanism is based on a modified version of Habermas's discourse ethics and theory of history. As with many other cosmopolitan theorists, she developed her ethical and political theory (1992) initially in relation to the state as the necessary form of political community. In this context Benhabib accepted Habermas's distinction between morality and ethics and between different forms of rationality and their associated modes of action. She also broadly accepted his theory of modernity (system/lifeworld). She argued, however, that certain adjustments to Habermas's theory were necessary. For Benhabib, Habermas draws the boundaries of the content of moral discourse too narrowly to accommodate feminist concerns with the distribution of power within the private sphere. He also underplays the importance of recognising differences in power and culture between individuals involved in dialogic exchange premised on the norms inherent in communicative reason. Benhabib, in contrast, insists on the need for participants in communication to be recognised not simply in ‘generalised’ terms of universal respect and egalitarian reciprocity, but also in their ‘concrete’ identity. With these adjustments, Benhabib formulated her version of Habermasian discourse ethics as ‘interactive universalism’, and argued that this should form the basis for political practice in the form of deliberative democracy (1992: 107–113, 169–202).

In her more recent work, Benhabib has gone on to extend this interactive universalism from the sphere of the state to the international, and to extrapolate a cosmopolitan politics that builds on her cosmopolitan ethics (2002, 2004). Her reasons for extending her argument beyond the sphere of the state follow from her diagnosis of the present.

(p.117) We have become moral contemporaries, even if not moral partners, caught in a net of interdependence, and our contemporaneous actions will also have uncontemporaneous consequences. This global situation creates a new ‘community of interdependence’. (2002: 36)

It is this interdependence that creates a connection in practice between discourse ethics and global scope, which was always present in principle.9 Once it is accepted that some norms may now have an impact across the boundaries of political culture and community, discourse ethics must go global and extend the range of participation in dialogue to everyone. This has two kinds of political implication. Firstly, it implies that political community can no longer necessarily be confined to the state, and that institutional mechanisms for deliberation across boundaries of state and culture must be put in place. Secondly, it implies that the norms presupposed by communicative reason oriented towards agreement, norms Benhabib sums up as ‘universal respect’ and ‘egalitarian reciprocity’, must become counterfactual guides to our ‘judgments and deliberations’ about moral and political issues at a global level (2002: 38).

However, Benhabib is well aware that accepting the guidance of the norms inherent in communicative reason is not something that comes about through an examination of the logic of argumentation alone, or through the simple fact that the circumstances of justice are now marked by interdependence across state and cultural borders. And here she calls upon a Habermasian theory of modernity to supplement the ‘weak transcendentalism’ of discourse ethics (2002: 38). Like Habermas, Benhabib sees the ‘generalized moral attitude of equality towards human beings’ qua human beings as the historical achievement of European modernity, one which has been carried by both coercive and communicative encounters between cultures and political communities over time. This collective moral learning is most advanced in ‘cultural life-worlds and worldviews under conditions of modernity’ (2002: 40). This might be seen to pose problems for moral and political questions that involve ‘non-modern’ cultures and communities in debates over moral principles. However, Benhabib does not see this as an insuperable problem because of the way in which, according to her account, interdependence is opening up all cultures to the moral lessons of modernity. Speaking of the different extent to which cultures may have internalised distinctions such as the Habermasian distinction between ‘moral’ and ‘ethical’, Benhabib states:

Increasingly, though, the globalized world we are inhabiting compels cultural traditions that may not have generated these differentiations in the course of their own development to internalise them or to learn to coexist in a political and legal world with other cultures that operate with some form of these differentiations. Many traditional cultures, for example, still consider women's and children's rights as an aspect of their ethical life-world, of the ways things are done in that particular culture. However, the international (p.118) discourse on women's rights, the activism of international development and aid organizations, migration, and television programmes are transforming these assumptions. (2002: 40)10

Benhabib is somewhat ambivalent as to how inter-cultural moral learning takes place. She suggests that it is both through the exercise of communicative rationality itself, and through material, coercive mechanisms that drive cultures into modernity whether they like it or not. In practice, it becomes clear that the conditions underpinning the discourses needed to agree on global moral norms are stringently liberal. They therefore require a high degree of coincidence of moral starting points, which is where the account of world-political time, which Benhabib borrows from Habermas, substitutes for the work that communication itself is supposed to do. Modernist liberal societies are ahead of the game in the ‘end of history’ stakes, but the rest of the world will catch up as the globalisation that meets the Kantian project half way accelerates. As with Kant, Habermas and Linklater, for Benhabib, the cosmopolitan future is both morally required and historically immanent, even if not inevitable. Its shape reflects the ethical and political lessons inherent in modernity, which require the reconciliation of respect for human rights with the principle of democratic self-determination. Benhabib's vision of a cosmopolitan future is therefore one in which humanitarian intervention is rendered compatible with democratic self-determination through keeping the principleof membership of political community open to challenge. She follows both Kant and Habermas in envisaging a world in which universalist cosmopolitanism and particularist republicanism are mutually reinforcing.

In the spirit of Kant, therefore, I have pleaded for moral universalism and cosmopolitan federalism. I have not advocated open but rather porous borders … (2004: 220–221)

The details of the political arrangements that form the telos of Linklater's and Benhabib's arguments are not the same. In Linklater's case the vision of a post-Westphalian world order is profoundly different from current international society and shares considerable ground with Held's model of cosmopolitan democracy and Habermas's multi-level, global federation (Held 1995, 2004; Habermas, 2006). For Benhabib, in contrast, the vision of a cosmopolitan future is closer to Kant's league of nations, in which republican constitutions co-exist under a framework of international law, but with the proviso that there are mechanisms in place to discursively validate decisions about who has the right to cross borders. Nevertheless, in terms of their analysis and judgement of the relation between the past, present and future of world politics Linklater and Benhabib have much in common. In both cases it is the institutionalisation of procedures for the discursive validation of norms (reflecting insights emergent within western modernity) that provides the progressive potential for history. In (p.119) both cases also, this potential is taken forward by the material driver of globalisation, in combination with the changing potential of international law, after the Cold War. Whether we like it or not, it is argued, all inhabitants of the world are becoming contemporaries and therefore open to progress. Although this progress is not guaranteed, its meaning is known and its applicability is universal.

Imperial time

Progressive Kantian readings of the times of world politics, from liberal democratic peace theory to Habermas's interpretation of international law, have become commonplace in the post-Cold War era. Sometimes these theories use insights from Hegel or Marx to modify or elaborate on essentially Kantian arguments.11 But it has been rare for theorists of world politics or globalisation who identify themselves as Marxist or post-Marxist to put forward a progressive analysis of the current times of world politics. The major exception to this trend is the work of Hardt and Negri, who in books such as Empire (2000) and Multitude (2005) elaborate an explicitly post-Marxist argument that combines a reading of the present with a vision of a radically democratic global future. As with Habermas's (and the other post-Kantian theorists discussed above) use of Kant's work, Hardt and Negri argue that although they draw on Marx's work, they are not committed to his philosophy of history. In its place, they put forward an alternative theorisation of world-political time, one which combines Marx's historical materialism with arguments drawn from the analysis of ‘biopower’ in Foucault and Deleuze and Guattari (Hardt and Negri 2000: 22–29).12 Hardt and Negri diagnose the present as the unprecedented time of ‘empire’, the decentred biopolitical production of economic and political power beyond sovereignty, which nourishes and harbours the revolutionary forces of counter-empire.

The theorisation of world-political time put forward in Empire and Multitude makes use of a particular interpretation of the distinction between chronos and kairos, a distinction initially explored in Negri's essay, ‘The Constitution of Time’ (2003b; first published 1981). In this essay, chronos is the measurable, measuring time of capitalism, in which the value produced by the labourer is constituted as dead labour, the ultimate spatialisation of time in the commodity (2003b: 51). Contrasted with this kind of time, is the productive time (kairos) of communism, the time of living labour, which is also revolutionary time, and which capitalist time presupposes. Already in this essay, Negri prefigures the arguments he and Hardt articulate in Empire (2000) and Multitude (2005), which are also echoed in Negri's ‘Kairos, Alma Venus, Multitudo’ (2003c). These works all invoke the idea of creative, multiple times (‘instants’, ‘event’) of resistance to the homogenising, deadly time of imperial power, but also ground (p.120) the possibility of the former in its being in some sense always already foundational to the latter.

… in the history of thought, the hypothesis of a collective constitution of time as an operation antagonistic to the spatial and mediatory conception of time, becomes an increasingly observable element – one that is always characteristic of revolutionary thought. (2003b: 59)

Empire, although it is to be transcended, is presented as a progressive force because of the ways in which it has dismantled the mediations (such as those of nation-states and the civil societies of nation-states) of earlier capitalist eras and brings the population of the globe (in Hardt and Negri's terms, the ‘multitude’) face to face with imperial power as such. The telos of Hardt and Negri's account of history harks back to the communist ideal of a world in which freedom is grasped by humanity in and for itself.13 In Empire, the meaning of this telos in practice is not spelled out, though by implication this will be a holistic, undifferentiated social condition in which the breaking down of boundaries initiated by empire will be carried further in the multitude. This is gestured towards by the two immediate aims suggested by Hardt and Negri for the multitude in the conclusion to Empire, that of the right to free mobility for labour and a global minimum wage. In Empire, Hardt and Negri suggest two mechanisms though which imperial power may be transcended. First, they suggest that internal tensions or contradictions within the mechanisms of empire will push forward revolutionary change, for instance through the forced globalisation of labour. This is clearly a re-working of the Marxist notion of capital harbouring the seeds of its own destruction. Secondly, change will come about through the political demands and resistance of the ‘multitude’, as its consciousness shifts from an ‘in-itself’ to a ‘for-itself’ moment. In contrast to the Habermasian emphasis on communicative reason, here the emphasis is on resistant action, in which the generative power of desire which empire has both relied on and exploited is turned in novel directions (2000: 406). On this model the ideal end of history envisaged as a humanitarian and deliberative cosmopolitan politics, is replaced by an ideal of global revolutionary praxis.

The argument for the telos of imperial power is fleshed out further in Multitude, the sequel to Empire. In this text, Hardt and Negri locate the transition from traditional models of class struggle to the multitude's multiple, singular resistances to imperial power in the changing modes of economic and social production. The form of the latter has been transformed into a post-Fordist network model, and its content is now exemplified not by the material production of things, but by the immaterial production of life itself, the biopolitical production of the common (2005: 114–115). In spelling out their theory of the multitude, Hardt and Negri build on Marx's ‘method’, and admit that ‘we continually have the haunting suspicion that he was already there before us’ (p.121) (2005: 141). At the same time, however, they are anxious to avoid giving the impression that ‘forms of resistance evolve through some natural evolution or in some preordained linear march toward absolute democracy’ (2005: 93). As with the post-Kantian theorists discussed above, Hardt and Negri distance themselves from any claims about the necessity of the historical development that they describe and to which they are committed.

For Hardt and Negri it is clear that the ‘logic that determines the genealogy of forms of insurgency and revolt’ (2005: 63) is not to be found in the kinds of cosmopolitan argument discussed in the previous section. They are critical of the role of moral universalism in contemporary world politics, arguing for instance, that global civil society activism in the form of humanitarianism sustains rather than subverts imperial bio-power (2000: 36–37). At the same time, however, this moral universalism, as manifested in the development of non-governmental humanitarian organisations, is nevertheless linked to progress, in the sense that it represents the breakdown of the mediating role played by the civil societies of nation-states, which in the past protected certain populations against the full consequences of global imperial power. This breakdown is a stage on the way to a different kind of change, in which ‘the multitude’ directly confronts empire. Exemplary cases of the latter kind of revolutionary practice on Hardt and Negri's account include anti-globalisation politics and indigenous revolutionary movements (2000: 53–54, 393–413; 2005: 264–267, 299–303).

We need to look now from the other side and recognize the logic that determines the genealogy of forms of insurgency and revolt. This logic and this trajectory will help us recognize what are today and will be in the future the most powerful and desirable organizational forms of rebellion and revolution. (2005: 63)

… we know that capitalist production and the life (and production) of the multitude are tied together increasingly intimately and are mutually determining. (2005: 90)

The difference between the ‘empire’ and ‘counter-empire’ aspects of politics beyond the state for Hardt and Negri, is reminiscent of the traditional Marxist distinction between a class ‘in-itself’ and a class ‘for-itself’, in which a transformation in political consciousness makes an objectively existing socio-economic group into a revolutionary subject. Although humanitarian non-governmental organisations confirm ‘the multitude’ as a global entity, in acting on behalf of humanity as such they also confirm the passivity of the multitude. In contrast, anti-globalisation protests and indigenous revolutionary politics are the multitude acting in- and for-itself, albeit in a fragmentary and uncoordinated way. In the final section of Empire, in which Hardt and Negri address the question of what the politicisation of the multitude would mean, revolutionary change is (p.122) associated with the demand for global citizenship as the right to free immigration and a social wage mentioned above, as well as expropriation of property (2000: 396–403). But Hardt and Negri's vision of a cosmopolitan future transcends these specific claims and is presented as a utopian world of freedom and love, a democracy unlike any that has previously existed (2000: 413; 2005: 330).

In Multitude, Hardt and Negri contrast their argument with alternative accounts of the relation between democracy and globalisation (empire) (2005: 233–237). Their key critique of the arguments of theorists such as Habermas, Linklater and Benhabib is that the latter misunderstand the radical nature of the shift from international capitalism to empire, and from thence to the time of multitude. This misunderstanding is twofold, encompassing mistakes about the radical nature of the effects of globalisation, and about the meaning of democracy. Cosmopolitanism misrepresents globalisation, Hardt and Negri argue, because it does not grasp how the globalisation of bio-power undermines all boundaries; instead it assumes that it will be possible to spatialise and constrain empire, on analogy with how the democratic, welfare state ameliorated the effects of capitalism in the twentieth century. Relatedly, cosmopolitanism misrepresents democracy, because it persists in visualising it in liberal and constitutional terms, as a set of structured, mediated relations between ruler and ruled. In contrast, Hardt and Negri argue that the democracy ‘to come’ is without ‘qualifiers’, in other words it is literally identifiable with the direct self-rule of the multitude (2005: 236–237).

We can already recognize that today time is split between a present that is already dead and a future that is already living – and the yawing abyss between them is becoming enormous. In time, an event will thrust us like an arrow into the living future. (2005: 358)

In spite of their claims to be ‘post’ Marx, the moves in Hardt and Negri's argument about the time of world politics replicate the ways in which Marx thinks of his present as world-political time, theorises his own relationship to his present and identifies his times with revolutionary ‘new time’. In spite of their emphasis on multiplicity and singularities, Hardt and Negri read world-political time in a unified way as a story with universal significance, one which builds on rather than challenges Marx's account of earlier stages of history. As with Marx, Hardt and Negri understand their role to be both scientific and revolutionary, on the one hand identifying the ‘logic’ underlying both ‘empire’ and ‘multitude’, and on the other making the future happen in an appropriate way. Like Marx, they claim to have identified the key ‘tendency’ in contemporary economic and social relations, even if it has yet to become the reality for the majority of the world's population. Like Marx also, they see this ‘tendency’ both as inherent in material relations (now understood as biopolitical immaterial production of subjects) and as a matter of praxis or sheer creativity. And again, (p.123) like Marx, they grasp their own time as ‘new time’ in a special sense, an unprecedented socio-economic order that creates unprecedented opportunities for progressive change.

On examination it is clear that Hardt and Negri have no more transcended Marx's analysis than Habermas, or his followers, transcended Kant’s. In all of these cases, the claim to transcendence rests on two main arguments. Firstly, that the contemporary thinkers offer a better understanding of the key mechanisms involved in historical development; and secondly, that they have moved away from any notion of historical determinism or a ‘telos’ in the form of a given end of history. In relation to the first claim, there are in fact very strong similarities in the supposedly ‘post’ Kantian and Marxist stories that are told and the theories of their predecessors. Habermas, Linklater and Benhabib substitute a quasi-transcendental theory of the presuppositions of communication for Kant's conception of practical reason, but their claims for the form and substance of moral rationality remain very much the same as Kant’s. In their theories of history they are even closer, acknowledging much the same kind of mix of material and rational, self-conscious factors as Kant recounts in his readings of history from a cosmopolitan point of view. Hardt and Negri do not essentially differ from Marx in their account of the ground and orientation of revolutionary subjectivity, even if ‘multitude’ is not presented as a unified identity in the same way as the proletariat. Moreover, as with Marx, it is material changes in the form and substance of relations of production that drives the possibility of progressive change for the two thinkers. Given the amount of common ground, it would therefore seem to be the case that the claim to be ‘post’ Kant or Marx ultimately comes down to the rejection of a determinist theory of history or of teleology. But, as Browning has pointed out in relation to Hardt and Negri, it can plausibly be argued that, if anything, the latter are more closed and deterministic in their reading of history than Marx himself (Browning, 2005). As was evident in our examination of modernist philosophies of history in Chapter 2, Kant and Marx never straightforwardly presented the trajectory of history as necessary or inevitable. The whole purpose of interpreting historical political time was to be able to capitalise on those tendencies within it that were oriented towards the ideals of reason and freedom. In this respect, Habermas, Linklater, Benhabib and Hardt and Negri, with their focus on ‘trends’ (Habermas) or ‘tendencies’ (Hardt and Negri) are carrying forward the project of philosophical history rather than departing from it. In the following section, we will examine the implications of this philosophical history for the analysis and judgement of contemporary world politics.

Towards a democratic future

The post-Kantian and post-Marxist theories of the present discussed above rely on the normative standards of reason and freedom (kairos) being immanent in (p.124) the actual historical and political development of world politics (chronos). The mechanisms through which world politics progresses are identified with communicative reason or revolutionary action respectively, but this is illustrated rather than demonstrated through a selective account of historical chronos and the meaning of particular developments (Habermas on international law, Hardt and Negri on the ‘concrete abstraction’ of immaterial labour). In this sense, the explanation for progress is always already known, and although neither approach claims to know what will happen in advance, both are clear as to why progress happens. This grasp of the kairos shaping world-political events has strong implications for the description of, and prescription for, the world-political present. This is apparent in the contrasting accounts of the nature and role of global civil society offered by post-Kantian and post-Marxist theorists.

Post-Kantian accounts of global civil society borrow from Habermas, in seeing it primarily in terms of dialogic public spheres (Linklater, 1998; Young, 2000; Benhabib, 2002; Kaldor, 2003). This exerts obvious constraints on what can count, by definition, as global civil society activity, so that, for instance, violent activity of any kind tends to be excluded, as are movements out of tune with the implicit universalism of communicative reason (Kaldor, 2003: 97–101). This means that post-Kantian analyses of global civil society focus on the work of humanitarian non-governmental organisations and issue-based social movements that seek to influence global governance in a direction more in accordance with the presupposition of communicative reason. Following Habermas also, post-Kantian accounts of global civil society tend to support a framework of cosmopolitan law, governance and policing, based on principles of universal human rights, to sustain the operations of global civil society. Even theorists such as Kaldor, who are sceptical about the possibility of cosmopolitan democracy, offer an account of global civil society underpinned by international law, in which key moral principles are enshrined and may be enforced (Kaldor, 1999: 210; 2003: 128–141).

Post-Marxist approaches to global civil society are sceptical of cosmopolitan enlightenment, and of the universalising claims of humanitarian non-governmental organisations or the rhetoric of humanitarian intervention (Hardt and Negri, 2000: 36–37).14 Instead they look to more particular modes of resistance in the non-state sphere to exemplify the genuinely radical potential of global civil society (Baker, 2002: 129). The emphasis of such accounts is on the ideal of revolutionary praxis as the distinctive mark of genuine civil society activism. All global civil society actors may be challenging the status quo, but only those that embody the goal of freedom within their own praxis as political actors, as in Hardt and Negri's example of the ‘White Overalls’ anti-globalisation protests, provide the appropriate vision for what global civil society should mean (2005: 264–267). In place of a post-Kantian rule-governed world order, which frames (p.125) the ongoing dialogue of diverse civil society actors and which is substantively modelled on liberal or social democracy within states, we are presented with a future which is in principle indescribable because of its radical novelty.

In the case of both post-Kantian and post-Marxist arguments there is an ongoing trade-off between the empirical (chronos) and the normative (kairos) that fixes the parameters of analysis. Because of this, the ideals of rational dialogue and of revolutionary practice respectively exert specific kinds of closure on the concept of global civil society and therefore on the ways in which it can be analysed or understood. The effect of this closure is to occlude both interconnections between what is counted as inside global civil society and what is excluded, and to occlude the possibility of recognising ambivalences internal to that which is counted as inside. Thus, following the post-Kantian path, we are diverted from theorising the connection between civility and violence, even when it is acknowledged that coercion plays a necessary role in sustaining civil society. We are also encouraged to see the distinction between violence and civility as clear cut, so that identifying ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ within global civil society is relatively unproblematic. In the case of post-Marxism, Hardt and Negri similarly divert us from considering the link between the moral humani-tarianism of the non-governmental organisations, which they see as implicated in empire, and the resistant practices of anti-globalisation protestors or indigenous social movements. We are only permitted to see the former as an aspect of the material conditions for the latter, but not the actual and ongoing interplay between grassroots movements and trans-national organisations. At the same time, the ‘multitude’ is presented as necessarily pure in its generative power in sharp distinction to the corruption and crisis of empire, and we are encouraged to think that the distinction between empire and counter-empire is somehow straightforward.

The exclusions in both post-Kantian and post-Marxist accounts of global civil society are particularly powerful because they are not simply reducible to wishful thinking. Instead they reflect a way of thinking about the world in which the theorist is doubly invested in reading history as progress. The theorists of cosmopolitanism and empire have normative standards which the world fails to live up to, but they also understand history in such a way that they are obliged to read the world as if it were developing in accordance with their normative telos. This is because, even if they don’t see progress in world history as inevitable, they know that one of the ways in which progress will happen is through the intervention of the theorist, insistent that this progress is visible and that he or she knows how it works. Thus, Habermas sees himself as part of the rational dialogue which pushes moral learning, and thereby the constitutionalisation of international law, forward, and Hardt and Negri are part of the transformation of the multitude from a class in-itself to a class for-itself. Post-Kantian and post-Marxist analyses of contemporary world politics take for (p.126) granted that one can speak of world politics in terms of a unified temporality, with a specific past and future. Invariably, this temporality is captured in retrospect, from a (globalised, capitalist, modern) present interpreted as increasingly shared, towards which world politics has been evolving. In this context, plurality tends always to be accounted for in terms of either anachronism or reaction.

In addition to blocking recognition of plurality through an overly universalising account of the history of world politics, post-Kantian and post-Marxist arguments also ground their accounts of progressive, post-state politics in values that transcend contingent conditions of political action. In the post-Kantian case, these values are embedded in communicative reason; in post-Marxism, they are embedded in revolutionary praxis. However, the claim to the universal appeal of these normative arguments is grounded in time as well as reason, since both sets of theorists presume a particular stage of historical development, and link this to the intelligibility and persuasiveness of their ethical position. This circularity in which reason provides the key to interpreting political time, but political time in turn grounds the claims of reason, leads to the assumption that their views can command widespread agreement by right-thinking people and that the operationalisation of the ethical standards in question will produce progressive politics.

Although the post-Kantian and post-Marxist accounts of global civil society are different in their empirical and normative claims, I have suggested that they shape and limit our political imaginary in relation to the times of world politics in very similar ways. Ethically and politically both accounts endorse the universality of particular moral ideals (reason and freedom) and concomitant political practices. Analytically, both accounts rely on a holistic, universalising (kairotic) ordering of the history of world politics. This shapes the analysis of the comparative significance of different kinds of (chronotic) global political developments, and also leads to a homogenised account of how people are historically situated in the present. In ways strongly reminiscent of historicist and social scientific theories discussed in previous chapters, post-Kantian and post-Marxist modes of thinking the world-political present repeat the situation in which politics is caught between fate and control, and the purpose of the theorist's intervention is to be timely, to make a difference to the world.


Neither post-Kantian nor post-Marxist theories suggest that the future is determined, although they do suggest that there is a direction to world-historical development. In line with the philosophies of history on which they draw, they identify progressive potential in history, and argue that it is the duty of the progressive theorist to contribute to that potential. Nevertheless, they do offer privileged access to the future in terms of establishing both what it ought to be (p.127) and the mixture of rational and material mechanisms through which it may be brought about. In this way, they assess the value of political action in the present in terms of a projected future, which is known but not yet achieved. We therefore know the answer to ‘what is to be done’ (and therefore also, what should not be done) in order to ensure the transformation of the world-political present.

For Habermas, therefore, it is clear that the promotion of certain human rights norms across territorial state boundaries, the increasing legalisation of inter-state relations, and the establishment of modes of democratic deliberation at supra-national, trans-national and national levels is the prerequisite of the fulfilment of the promise of republican states and international law. In contrast, the promotion of some kind of centralised world government or cosmopolitan democracy is not the right way to go, and we must reject the rival analyses offered by neo-conservatives, neo-liberals, post-Marxists and Schmittians. For Hardt and Negri, in contrast, we know that the legalisation of inter-state relations in developments such as international human rights regimes and humanitarian intervention is evidence of the all-pervasiveness of imperial power, that the work of humanitarian non-governmental organisations is an inappropriate form for emancipatory politics to take, and that anti-globalisation protests presage the unprecedented democratic future beyond empire. We also know that various post-Kantian, as well as neo-conservative and communitarian, interpretations of contemporary world politics, are mistaken.

In order to have this kind of grasp of the world-political present, post-Kantian and post-Marxist theorists have to assume both the capacity of kairos to transcend the contingencies of chronos in order to create world-political time, and that world-political time has a unified meaning. To have already decided against a world republic or for anti-globalisation protests, is to deny the specificity of different presents and the unpredictability of different futures. To read history in terms of a particular vision of progress is to deny the significance of the plurality of understandings and experiences of political temporality within the world. Confidence in these assumptions, which is also shared by the less optimistic theorists of international politics discussed in the previous chapter, is what enables the constant slippage, in both post-Kantian and post-Marxist theories, from the temporal trajectory of global politics to that of western capitalism and the liberal democratic state (Dunn, 2004: 152).


(1) The key principle of discourse ethics is that in order for a moral principle to be legitimate, all those affected by a norm would have agreed to it in an inclusive dialogue conducted under conditions of fair argumentation (See Habermas, 1990, 1992; Benhabib & Dallmayr, 1992).

(2) In his Theory of Communicative Action (1984, 1987), Habermas distinguishes two (p.128) modes of action in modern societies: strategic action is driven by instrumental rationality, and involves functional responses to the requirements of complex economic and political problems, for instance the design of monetary or bureaucratic systems; communicative action, by contrast, is grounded in communicative rationality, in which certain normative pre-requisites are embedded, and is at work in the development of public spheres, human rights and democratic politics. The latter ‘lifeworld’ aspects of modern society, in Habermas's view need to regulate and constrain the former ‘systemic’ aspects.

(3) These alternative interpretations include realist, liberal (neo-conservative), neoliberal, post-Marxist and Schmittian (based on the work of Carl Schmitt) ‘hemispheric’ arguments; see discussion below (Habermas, 2006: 179–193). For a more in-depth discussion of Habermas's relation to Kant, see Hutchings, 1996: 58–80.

(4) Habermas includes Hardt and Negri as an example of post-Marxism – see discussion below.

(5) See Schmitt (1996, 2003). Huntington's ‘clash of civilisation’ thesis also comes under the Schmittian heading for Habermas. See also discussion of Agamben in Chapter 6 below for a different reading of Schmitt's significance.

(6) These ideas vary from the relatively detailed architecture suggested by Held, to the ‘grassroots’ civil society arguments of Falk and Kaldor. See Held (1995), Falk (1995), Archibugi et al. (1998); Kaldor (2003); Archibugi (2003); Held (2004); Germain &Kenny (2005a); Baker & Chandler (2005a); Hutchings (2005b).

(7) This argument is based on the self-conscious appropriation of Habermas's interpretation of history in terms of the values embedded in communicative reason.

(8) Again, Linklater is borrowing from Habermas here and the idea of ‘performative contradiction’. This notion is developed as part of Habermas's discourse ethics and does work similar to that of Kantian universalisability in Kant's moral theory. A speaker is in performative contradiction when he/she communicates something that undermines the conditions of possibility of communicating it: see Habermas, 1992: 86–91.

(9) This is an inference drawn in much contemporary ethical and political cosmopolitan theorising: see Held (2004), Fraser (2005) and discussion of Linklater above.

(10) See a discussion of the implications of Benhabib's views for transnational feminism in contrast with Spivak's in Chapter 7 below.

(11) There are clearly Hegelian elements in Habermas's notion of historical collective learning, and the role of economic globalisation in most such theories often draws on aspects of Marx's analysis of capitalism, its unequal distributive implications and internal contradictions. Linklater treats the Kantian and Marxist philosophies of history as virtually equivalent (1998: 4; 212).

(12) As will become evident, I am not convinced that Hardt and Negri move as far from a historicist version of Marxist teleology and dialectic as they claim to do. This is an opinion echoed by many interpreters: see Walker, 2002; Maurer, 2004; Quinby, 2004; and Connolly, 2005: 148–154. Nevertheless, their biopolitical view of globalisation, to which the production of subjects rather than of commodities is central, also connects their arguments to the anti-historicist positions of Virilio and Agamben, to be discussed in Chapter 6 below.

(13) Hardt and Negri would insist that this ‘telos’ is not teleological, in that it is not some kind of pre-existing final cause governing the development of history.

(14) The category of ‘post-Marxism’ here does not just apply to the progressive theory of Hardt and Negri, but to other leftist critiques of cosmopolitanism that share Hardt (p.129) and Negri's distrust of humanitarianism and highlight instead the radical, disruptive potential of grassroots movements in global politics (see Walker, 1994, 1999; Baker, 2002; Mignolo, 2002; Calhoun, 2003).