Who’s afraid of a world state? A global sovereign and the statist-cosmopolitan debate

Shmuel Nili*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Wary of quick statist dismissal of their proposals, cosmopolitans have been careful not to associate themselves with a world state. I argue that this caution is mistaken: cosmopolitans should see the vision of a world state as strategically valuable in exposing weaknesses in statist accounts, particularly of the Rawlsian variety. This strategic value follows if the only cogent arguments against a world state belong to non-ideal theory which assumes non-compliance, rather than to ideal theory with its core assumption of full compliance. If our only convincing reasons to reject a world state are non-ideal, then any liberal theory revolving around separate states must itself be considered a non-ideal theory. As a non-ideal theory, a statist law of peoples cannot be presented as an end-state, but is rather a transitional stage. Yet once seen as a transitional theory, the statist “realistic utopia” can no longer dodge the cosmopolitan charge that it is neither sufficiently realistic nor sufficiently utopian.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-263
Number of pages23
JournalCritical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2015


  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Ideal and non-ideal theory
  • Realistic utopia
  • Statism
  • World state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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