Expanding the politically possible

George Monbiot

By John Williams

A review of “The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order”, by George Monbiot, (Flamingo, £15.99)

Rare in this post-modernist age, this book proclaims itself to be a manifesto. Thus in “The Age of Consent” George Monbiot, the eco-socialist hero of the British Left, sets out an agenda for a genuinely democratic world, a world where everything has been globalised except democracy itself. Central to this agenda are such items as:

  • A bicameral world legislature, the first being directly elected, the second being composed of the United Nations General Assembly. The voting of such a bicameral legislature would be weighted in favour of the world’s poor.
  • The abolition of the UN Security Council, its voting rights being transferred to a democratised General Assembly.
  • The replacement of the IMF and the World Bank by an International Clearing Union system functioning along Keynesian lines.
  • A global trading regime enabling poor states to protect their products against encroachment from rich states and multi-national companies.

It is an agenda which federalists should ponder in the context of the challenges that globalisation pose to democracy.

This is because, confronting those who worship him on the left in his acceptance of the euro for example, Monbiot breaks political stereotypes. In doing so, he expands the politically possible. Unlike the vast majority of eco-socialists, his focus is on how power should be constitutionalised to underpin the link between the local and the global. Neither is Monbiot a stereotyped Marxist, although Marxism provides the frame of reference for his analysis.

The federalist in Monbiot reveals itself in the size of constituency, just large enough to encompass parts of two potentially enemy states, of his global parliament. Monbiot’s federalist instincts are re-enforced by his distinction between an international parliament, a parliament constituted from nation-states, and a global parliament, a parliament with an electorate that ignores national boundaries. Such a parliamentary set-up would, according to Monbiot, ensure the separation of the legislature from the executive in global terms, the power of the former over the latter lying in its moral authority.

The tragedy of Monbiot’s book lies in his concluding chapter. A rallying cry to the converted, its overt evangelism will trigger unnecessary withdrawal symptoms in potential converts.

This article was contributed by John Williams, who may be contacted at jhw@dircon.co.uk. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Federal Union.

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George Monbiot’s website

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