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date: 16 August 2017

Theoretical Underpinnings of a Global Social Contract

Summary and Keywords

In modeling a global social contract, theoretical underpinnings are provided, drawing from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract and John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government. The thoughts of these two great philosophers regarding democracy have been insufficiently examined, reflecting the constraints of life in 17th- and 18th-century Geneva and England, respectively. It is on this basis that their ideas may be adapted to what may be called global democracy in the dawn of the new millennium. The key drivers of their concepts of democracy were empathy and compassion (for Rousseau) and human reason and pragmatism (for Locke). Given the technological, economic, political, social, and cultural environments at the dawn of the new millennium, captured by accelerated globalization and digitalization, transnational direct democratic and transnational representative democratic models of a global social contract are feasible and justified (see Inoguchi & Lien, 2016). To illustrate this dramatic change, a contrast is made between the years 1912 and 2016–1912 when Normal Angel forecast the advent of peaceful years ahead and 2016, at the time of this writing.

Keywords: global social contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Locke, direct democracy, representative democracy, global citizens’ preferences, sovereign states’ participation in multilateral treaties, modeling, global quasi-legislation, empirical international relations theory


Presented here are some theoretical underpinnings of modeling a global social contract with two datasets—the World Values Survey and the Multilateral Conventions Survey.

Social contract theory is most prominently and perennially associated with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke. Rousseau’s Social Contract and Locke’s Two Treaties of Government were penned from quite contrasting angles. The social contract is formed between the ruler and the ruled, between the state and citizens.

Rousseau (1712–1778), a native son of Geneva and accustomed to how the city republic was run, envisioned the social contract in a communitarian way. In other words, people knew one another, and consensus was formed in debating issues face to face with compassion. Geneva was inhabited by 20,000 to 25,000 people when Rousseau was born. In contrast, Locke (1632–1704) viewed the social contract in a utilitarian fashion. Locke lived in England during an era when the country had a population of 5 to 6 million and king and nobility were engaged in a bitter contest as to who had the greater authority and power with regard to property, tax, and religion. The War of the English Succession (1688) and the Bill of Rights (1689) resulted in the end of the monarch holding absolute power. After which, slowly but steadily, utilitarian legislative politics evolved in the country—utilitarian in the sense that gains and losses with each legislative ideas were calculated by contesting groups and compromises were crafted.

Is a global social contract possible? In Rousseau’s words, such a contract becomes possible through the compassion of global citizens; for Locke, such a global contract is achievable only through reason and pragmatism, with sovereign states representing national citizens.

Of course, there has not been any world government. Nor has there been a world assembly except the feebly-powered United Nations General Assembly. But following and extending Rousseau’s and Locke’s logics to the world, it can be shown that envisioning a global social contract is possible and that empirically validating or invalidating such ideas is feasible. Rousseau’s idea of a global social contract has been made possible through Immanuel Kant’s moral imperative, Sigmund Freud’s unconsciousness, and, more recently, neuroscientific findings pointing to the empirical reality of compassion by globally ubiquitous digitalization. Locke’s idea of a global social contract has been made possible by means of global quasi-legislation such as the United Nations Security Council (five permanent and veto-exercising members and the rest), the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015, and the Permanent Court for Arbitration on the South China Sea.

Two Metaphors of Democracy

Of all the philosophers of modern democracy, Rousseau and Locke have perhaps the largest reading audience than any other philosopher in history and thus may be considered most influential in the 21st century. Judith Shkler (1973) notes that while Rousseau did not invent the concept of the volonté générale (the general will), he disseminated the idea behind it most widely. Similarly, John Dunn (2005) notes that while Locke did not monopolize the concept of representative democracy, he was the philosopher-giant who made the concept of democracy popularly used with the 2000 year long inter regime.

Indeed, direct democracy and representative democracy are two key, pervasive concepts in the study of democracy. Three threads of studies of democracy can be found in the fourth quarter of the 20th century and in the first quarter of the 21st.

First, political science theories produced a bundle of concepts related to democracy unfolding in the United States and the rest of the world, mostly in the third quarter of the 20th century. Among these concepts are pluralist democracy, liberal democracy, direct democracy, and communitarian democracy (Barber, 2004; Budge, 1996; Dahl, 2006; Putnam, 2000).

Second, those self-reflective and critical theories emerged in the fourth quarter of the last century, many of which lean toward being critical, but they do not necessarily question the assumption of democracy embedded in national territorial sovereign states and civil societies. They tend to focus on the enhancement of civil society vis-à-vis the state. Democratic maturity often means the resilience of a civil society (Badie, 2000; Habermas, 1991).

Third, the first quarter of the 21st century saw the emergence of theories influenced by the rise of digital communication on the one hand and the burst of transnational communications, business transactions, social movements, and organizations on the other. The marriage of the second and third threads sometimes has produced theories emphasizing the negation of democracy, as it was understood before the onslaught of digitalism and transnationalism (Keane, 2009; Mair, 2013; Rosanvallon, 2008).

Of importance here is the fact that Rousseau and Locke have survived throughout the centuries largely because of their writing style. Their style was immensely influenced by the historical and cultural contexts of Switzerland and England in the 17th and 18th centuries. Switzerland was peripheral on the world stage because it was provincial and parochial as well as distant from the Vatican and from the major powers in Europe. England, too, was peripheral, for it, too, was provincial, parochial, and distant from the Vatican and the major world powers, including Istanbul. Laurence Whitehead (2002) correctly points out that out of the peripheral societies of Switzerland, England, and Sweden emerged European democracy. The reason, much less discussed, is that the Vatican had less influence on these countries than on France, Spain, and geographical entities in Germany and Italy. The equilibrium between secular and sacred was first achieved in these countries.

Three factors enabled Rousseau and Locke to write their respective philosophies in ways that would be easily regarded as being insufficiently articulated in the 21st-century context. (1) Their philosophies were based on a demographically sparse society; (2) the influence of religion was waning as secularism was on the rise; and (3) territorial sovereign states were slowly consolidated in various parts of Europe, while traditional communities and associated political institutions were kept largely intact.

With regard to the first factor, the size of the population was important. As already mentioned, Switzerland was a nation of fewer than 1 million during these two centuries, and England, 5 to 6 million. Nation-building efforts were slow during Rousseau’s and Locke’s time, and traditional political institutions were alive and thriving.

Second, the conception of the sacred and the secular turned the tide dominance of the sacred against the thereto for pervasive in the 17th and 18th centuries. In medieval Europe, the sacred was exalted above all, while the secular hardly was allowed to surface. With the advent of the Renaissance came the slow erosion of religion’s long dominance over science. The debate between realism (traditional theology) and nominalism (spearheaded in England by William of Ockam) in Christian theology slowly gave nominalism more weight, thus separating politics from religion.

Third, in the period before the Industrial Revolution, international, transnational, and/or supranational phenomena were not uppermost in the minds of most people.

Direct Democracy by Rousseau

Rousseau’s writings contain self-contradictions. On the one hand, he argues for the human yearning for freedom. On the other hand, he espouses the perfect fusion of the individual and the state (Azuma, 2014, p. 35). The first proposition is not difficult to accept. After all, for Rousseau, a student of the Encyclopedistes on the eve of the French Revolution, freedom was a much revered core value (Diderot, & Jean le Rond d’Alembert [1751–1772]). The second proposition, according to Rousseau, is resolved by introducing the all-mighty concept of reason. In the time of the French Revolution, reason replaced God; God’s role in human lives was waning, and so human reasoning now prevailed—or so thought, for instance, Robespierre, who carried out his dictatorship in the name of the revolution. Rousseau himself even argued that “when the state decrees death, a citizen should unconditionally obey that imperative” (cited by Azuma, 2014, p. 11). The Kantian moral imperative and Robespierresque revolutionary passion were linked.

One should recall that Rousseau was born in Geneva, where direct democracy was practiced (Barber, 2004). The prerequisites of direct democracy include the following:

  1. 1. A relatively small number of residents in geographical small vicinities.

  2. 2. Relatively dense daily interactions among residents/members of a community.

  3. 3. The relative isolation of a community from similar communities and free from political and religious influences.

Among Rousseau’s vast writings are his discussion of Corsica and Poland. But his mode of discussion for Corsica and Poland differs greatly from the one he used to discuss Geneva. For Rousseau, Corsica and Poland did not have the high level of direct democracy he saw in Geneva. After all, “the will of the state is equivalent to the unified will of citizens, and it is infallible by definition” (cited by Azuma, 2014, p. 11).

As Azuma maintains, for Rousseau animal compassion was a more important driver of human action than human reason. This point differentiates Rousseau from both the Encyclopedistes and Locke, who considered reason and human reasoning a key driver. This point is clear in many of Rousseau’s writings other than the Social Contract. Among these writings are New Heloise, Origins of Human Inequality, and Emile (cf. Farr & Williams, 2015).

The question that now arises is, “What happens to the Rousseauesque world when digitalization and globalization accelerate”?

Digitalization means the instantaneous, massive, often customized, and even possibly intractable communication tools and bodies. The Economist magazine notes that the social network has turned itself into “one of the world’s most influential technology giants” (2016, p. 18). As Azuma maintains, this is the Rousseauesque world unfolding itself in front of your eyes! What has led some of us to conclude that Rousseau’s alleged lack of sufficient articulation as to how the general will is formed out of citizens’ preferences can be said to be resolved once Rousseau’s thinking about the general will is far more strongly based on the theory of animal compassion? Rousseau’s concept of compassion differs entirely from the concept of reason and human reasoning.

Representative Democracy by Locke

In clear contrast to Rousseau’s line of thinking, Locke bases his thinking on reason and human reasoning. Locke lived in a time when England’s political life was transitioning. The political climate was so charged that for a while Locke left England, fearing that his writings had placed his life in danger. Fortunately, English politics thereafter evolved in a way that Locke had envisioned. That is, the king’s authority was stabilized and legitimized through the Declaration of Right at Bill of Rights of 1688, 1689 (the so-called Glorious Revolution), a contract between the king and the parliament. The Catholic Church’s authority and influence in England were reduced.

The Bill of Rights paved the way for representative democracy in England, which was made possible by the following.

  1. 1. The consolidation of the separation of the secular from the sacred making compromise with Catholic forces outside England, i.e., Wales and Scotland, and using forces Catholic’s in Ireland.

  2. 2. The day of the despotic English kings, as envisioned by Thomas Hobbes for the initial phase of a sovereign territorial state formation, was almost over.

  3. 3. England’s prosaically implemented legislative politics steadily evolved, with the parliament becoming the focal point of government. As a result, England had become the model of representative democracy,

Legislative politics as envisioned by Locke is quintessentially English in the sense that the parliament is the platform of politics where members are selected from the gentry and a more inclusive class representation (entrepreneurs and workers) in England as well as peripheral areas of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland through democratic elections.

Of all the democratic politics, representative democracy is most widely practiced in the 21st century. Search for frequency on Google, accessed on April 13, 2016, has enabled one to have representative democracy registered 1,360,000, while direct democracy is registered 4,400,000 (accessed April 13, 2016). Perhaps far more numerous references are being made to direct democracy because of the latent and manifest dissatisfaction with the current forms of representative democracy.

Global Quasi-Legislation Without a World Assembly

Legislation at the national setting has four aspects: representation, debating, logrolling, and voting at committee and plenary settings. National differences are great. But in order to contrast differences between national and global legislative processes and outcomes, the following characterization may suffice.

It is important to stress that global legislation shares many of the same aspects as legislation in the national setting, though with many variations. In global legislative processes, representation takes many forms: sovereign state, transnational nongovernmental organization, transnational social movement and through opinion poll and social networking service.

In small legislative processes, debating takes place through noninstitutionalized and institutionalized forms: debating within the international organization, debating through newspapers, magazines, television, and so on.

In addition, in global legislative processes, logrolling takes place at many levels through both formal and informal means, such as formal diplomatic compromise and noncompromise, logrolling in international organization, and the like.

In global settings, voting takes place without the use of a formal institutionalized parliament because no such body exists. Nevertheless, quasi-parliamentary functions are served by various bodies such as the United Nations Security Council and the Executive Committee of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

In sum, global legislation takes place at many levels: local, national, regional, international, transnational. The formal institutionalized parliamentary body does not exist. Nevertheless, various international and transnational organizations and social movements perform such functions. For this reason, it is called quasi-legislation.

Legislatived Outcomes

Outcomes at the national level take the form of parliamentary legislation of bills to laws through committee and plenary meetings. Laws take the form of rule-making and aspirational calling. Some have regulative aspects, whereas others focus on normative aspects without either awarding or punishing. Outcomes at the global level take the form of multilateral treaties, conventions, declarations, and resolutions. Multilateral treaties and conventions are signed primarily by sovereign states; Declarations and resolutions, however, are issued mostly through the collective wills of participants in various international gatherings.

Legislative Effects in a Longer Term

Effects in the national setting in a longer term tend to have strong binding power. Effects in the global setting tend to vary. Quasi-legislative outcomes are highly dependent on legislative environments at legislation. Bonding and binding power is variable of the strength of passion, interest, and power of participants in quasi-legislative processes.

Transnational Direct Democracy

For Rousseau, empathy and compassion are bound to be felt when human sufferings are witnessed. With today’s advances in digital communication and artificial intelligence, a transnational digital democracy is not easily envisaged (cf. Rosanvallon, 2008; Kriesi et al., 2013). Transnational domains are categorized as transnational communication, transnational movements, transnational organizations, and transnational transactions.

Transnational Communication

The days are long gone when the International Postal Union prevailed in international communication. Now the Internet has quite taken over. The Internet, as we all know, is fast and instantaneous. Now that the communication mode is physical rather than digital, DHL has taken over. With the seamless networks of delivery of physical entities such as letters and documents with the help of Google Earth, the DHL, a global logistic service company, has come a long way from the time when the Internet was regarded as an inappropriate vehicle for communication. Needless to say, hazards like terrorist attacks cannot be precluded. The fast and dense transnational communication increases the degree to which direct democracy is felt as real. To make transnational direct democracy a real phenomenon at least as perceived by the majority, direct participation is key. For that to take place frequently and with cheap costs, air flight networks, financial costs, and flight hours make differences. Transnational service has become very frequent and a lot cheaper. Flight hours have not changed materially because technological innovations for jet aircraft have not made much progress during the last 50 years. At the same time, the introduction of low-priced flights has made air travel more accessible to people. In all, the progress in transnational communication, especially participation, has moved transnational direct democracy a step or two forward.

Transnational Social Movements

Russell Dalton (2015) entitled his latest book, The Civic Culture Transformed: From Allegiant to Assertive Citizen registers the steady change in political culture of world citizenry from fairly allegiant to family assertion. Sidney Tarrow’s (2011) Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics chronicles the spectacular rise of social movements in which people take direct action. In China, collective protest action is a frequent occurrence. For example, from 2003 to 2012, the South China Morning Post and People’s Daily reported that social unrest in China rose steadily from 43 incidents in 2003 to 784 in 2012. This marks a great increase in protest activities in China (Ong, 2015, pp. 345–359). In other words, direct democracy has grown in China.

Transnational Organizations

Multilateral treaties are one of the key bases of transnational organizations. Legitimated by multilateral treaties and conventions, some transnational organizations have grown as an institutional body; others may not. The number of transnational organizations has increased at a phenomenal rate since 1945 l (Le, Mikami, & Inoguchi, 2014). These organizations are of two types: aspirational yearning and rule-making. The aspirational yearning type resolves to achieve a certain set of goals as if they were part of transnational social movements. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is such an example. It seeks to address the gaps between the developing south and the industrial north. With time, in tandem with the per capita income level in the developing south, UNCTAD has toned down its fervent political rhetoric. This rhetoric focuses on rule-making and regulations among sovereign states, which are normally manned by professional experts specialized in science, technology, medicine, nuclear energy, development, and finance. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is dominated by experts in nuclear energy who monitor nuclear energy production. While it helps to utilize nuclear-generated energy production together with sovereign states’ representatives, it defines rules and regulations whereby the prospect for nuclear nonproliferation would hopefully diffuse. In this way, the IAEA functions as the platform for transnational direct democracy in a narrowly limited, yet highly specialized, domain.

Transnational Transactions

Business used to consist of transactions of goods and services. Until 1985, external trade of goods and services occupied about 90% of business transactions. Through the Plaza Accord negotiated by the Group of Seven in 1985, which devalued the dollar against other currencies, currency trade became the main stream of making business externally. This size goods and service trade other the size of currency trade has been some one hundreds over 30 years. But making huge profits from currency trade and taking the best advantage of hourly changes in currency exchange rates and losses with the sophisticated machines of carrying out such operations has gone to the extreme. As a result of deliberate exaggeration or underestimate of currency exchange rates, currency trade has become a key driver of the world economy. Some now say that capitalists have ended their useful and progressive role, while speculators who manipulate the currencies of the world with a huge amount of money in hand reign supreme (Mizuno, 2014). Speculators of the world are latently united in the sense that each other’s moves in the currency markets can be regarded as if transnational direct democracy were being conducted.


Summarizing national and transnational direct democracy and its aspects, three mechanisms—initiative, referendum, and recall—are embedded in direct democracy in order to conduct investigations and reassessments of those executive incumbents as to what initiators regard as illegal, immoral, and otherwise inappropriate actions. A certain number of signatures are required to start the process. In transnational settings, varieties of rules are determined. A good example is the president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.

Transnational Representative Democracy

Subnational Local Elections

In envisioning transnational representative democracy, subnational local elections loom increasingly large (Barber, 2014). Most pronounced are mayors’ summits where key leaders of global cities discuss and prescribe key issues of global importance. They may be regarded representatives of global cities. Although their agreements and prescriptions do not have any binding power, the fact that the mayors of the world’s largest cities perceive and act together concerning what they see as problems of global importance provides fresh, and possibly useful, perspectives and insights because their cities often confront structural or acute problems. Also, the mayors of the world’s big cities are often leaders who have had illustrious careers and have made exemplary achievements. In addition to being considered for what they say and how they act, these individuals should be closely examined by an electorate from all walks of life (Jain, forthcoming). No less important are subnational local elections. Such local characteristics are often noted subnationally rather than nationally. The riots that took place at Haryana Pradeshi in 2016 by protestors who, demanding government jobs, cut off the water supply were part of a collective protest and not an election protest. Participants in riots are exerting enormous influence on the present and future of New Delhi and India (The Economist, 2016a, pp. 21–22).

National Election

Transnational representative democracy has been mostly characterized as encompassing national representatives acting as delegates of sovereign states. Hence, summit meetings of national leaders and their policy thrusts are highlighted on these occasions. National political leaders make trips abroad with incredible frequency. Prime Minister Eisaku Sato (1964–1972) did not travel abroad for the first year of his tenure because he was apprehensive that disquieting actions might occur at home in his absence. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (2006–2007 and 2012–today) made over 50 trips abroad from 2012 to the end of 2015. He has been to the capital cities of over 30 countries. Those cities have accommodated various multilateral meetings: the UN General Assembly, the Asia Pacific Economic Conference, the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Plus Three (Japan, China, South Korea), and so on. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s participation in transnational representative democracy has been very extensive indeed. How Japanese citizens elected the Liberal Democratic Party in the 2012 and 2014 general elections, and thus indirectly chose Shinzo Abe as Prime Minister, is an interesting question to examine empirically. Do the citizens of Japan believe that Shinzo Abe is an apt leader in this age of transnational representative democracy?

Regional and International Platforms

Transnational representative democracy also functions when platforms of deliberating and deciding on major policy issues are provided. Some of these platforms are regional and international in scope. Those platforms often start modestly, but over time they grow in importance. In other words, with the increase in the number of participants and the consolidation of rules and practices, such platforms can become regional and international organizations with a great deal of resources, staffs, legitimacy, and power. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is one example. China has been a prime driver of this organization. The East Asia Summit encompassing the ASEAN plus three (China, Japan, and South Korea) and two (Australia and India) is another example. Japan has been a prime mover of this organization. Initiating a platform and then institutionalizing it means that those initiators are members in good standing which is important in transnational representative democracies. When so many platforms are created, describing the characteristics of the kind of platforms potential users would like to see is no less important. Why, for instance, was Yahoo defeated by Google as a platform?

Nongovernmental Organizations

In the transnational representative democracy, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) matter a great deal. The United Nations began in 1945 as an organization with a small number of sovereign states. When it was designed and constructed on the river side of the Hudson, architects thought membership would reach the 50s by the end of the 1950s and the 100s by the end of the 1960s. Neither of these estimates proved correct: membership ultimately exceeded these estimates by an enormous amount. In the 1940s and 1950s, Asia, along with Latin America, was a key member producer of the UN. In the 1960s, Africa and the Middle East played a similar role. In the 1970s and beyond, NGOs attained no less important a role in the United Nations. Membership in the UN now totals some 190-odd sovereign states. NGOs have contributed fresh and daunting perspectives, as well as new energy and power outside the UN organizations. Symbolic of the growing power of the NGO is its role in social movements such as the movement to ban landmines headed by Jody Williams (who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1997).

Summarizing of national and transnational democracy, legislators have the power to force the executives headed by a prime minister to resign if they can mobilize the majority votes. Executive bodies headed by a prime minister can call for a general election whereby all legislators face election or reelection. In transnational settings, there has apparently been no such incidence. One artificial setting provides an example. Gallup International, pollstars united worldwide, annually sends a questionnaire to respondents in about 50 countries. In 2012, the question asked was: “When the United States exerts influence on matters of global importance, some people are thinking that not only American citizens but also citizens of other countries should have voting rights in U.S. presidential elections. Do you agree or disagree? Choose one: Agree very much; agree; neither agree nor disagree; disagree; disagree very much.”

Kenya, Afghanistan, and China were in the top three which responded “agree very much” or “agree.” But in no way is implementation of their wishes possible.

WIN-Gallup International conducted a similar global poll in August and September 2016 (WIN-Gallup International, 2016). The difference of the percentage of respondents choosing Trump and Clinton (i.e., #Trump minus #Clinton) comparatively reveals how 44 countries which were surveyed by WIN-Gallup International were emergently favorable to Trump is: Russia (23%), China (–9%), the United States (–7%), India (–22%) (cf. Inoguchi, 2017).

Comparison of Global Politics between 1912 and 2016

If this article had been penned a century ago, say in 1912 when Normal Angel published a book entitled The Great Illusion: A Study of the Relation of Military Power to National Advantage, what would been the reader’s reaction? Norman Angel’s book was initially applauded but was finally deemed a disappointing work when the largest war ever waged in the world erupted in 1914. Angel envisaged that the steady if slow development of economic transactions across nations would prevail in the world, resulting in an idealized liberal peace much like Immanuel Kant had envisioned a century earlier in his Perpetual Peace. Ironically, his vision of world peace turned out to be a great illusion. Economic interdependence did not advance until the end of the Second World War, a war that ravaged the entire world, killing over 60 soldiers and sailors people every year during the eight years it lasted (1938–1945).

One century following the First World War, in 2016, economic interdependence in terms of transactions of goods and service trade has stalled and stagnated at a high level, especially after 2008, when the Lehman Brothers-originated great recession began. In stark contrast, currency trade grew substantially and has remained at its very high level since 1986. A comparison of 2016 to 1912 shows that the level of economic interdependence in terms of free trade has risen astronomically. This astronomical increase, attributable to the expectation of increases in currency trade, as distinguished from goods and services trade, constitutes a noteworthy difference. Furthermore, the level of interdependence has proliferated, moving from more narrowly confined economic interdependence to a wide range of human activities. If one focuses on western Europe, one of the core geographical areas of world prosperity in the 20th century, the development of interdependence from mostly goods and services trade across borders to many other areas across borders is most pronounced. First, an energy community was constructed to share its meager energy resources. Second, free trade among selected countries was implemented. Third, free movement of men and women was implemented across borders among selected countries, including the so-called Schengen Five, namely, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg. Fourth, free transactions of foreign currencies have been implemented since 2000 by the Maastricht Treaty among selected countries which now use the euro as their national and international currency.

The third point of free movement of men and women needs a special note. Globally, free movement of men and women across borders has increased substantially. That is in part because the European Union, especially Germany and some northwestern European countries, have accommodated refugees and immigrants. Other countries have been moving in the same direction, though not on a scale comparable to that of the European Union.

What can one say about global legislation? Immanuel Kant said that in signing and ratifying agreements and treaties, similar-minded nations would contribute to peace, along with more free trade and more democracy. Global legislation means that global citizens’ preferences are transformed into global legislative products called multilateral treaties. Since global legislative processes and outcomes are qualitatively very different from national legislative processes and outcomes, the term “quasi-legislative processes and outcomes” is used here.

There are two theoretical agendas for global quasi-legislative processes and outcomes. First, it is important and absolutely necessary to show evidence systematically and scientifically, on the basis of extant empirical data that global citizens’ preferences and global quasi-legislative outcomes more or less match. Second, it is important and absolutely necessary to show that multilateral treaties are shaped by sovereign state actors whose political regime characteristics influence legislative outcomes.

On the first task, the overall broad match between global citizens’ preferences and sovereign states’ participation in multilateral treaties has been empirically ascertained in the Inoguchi and Lien article (2016). The second task is to see what type of national regime with national characteristics makes the difference.


The global social contract project with theoretical underpinnings is provided by deploying two metaphors of two of the world’s greatest philosophers, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke. Empirical evidence shows that both logics have been proved to function: (1) Global citizens’ preferences on norms and values as represented by the World Values Survey (Welzel, 2013) and sovereign states’ participation in multilateral treaties as represented by the Multilateral Treaties Survey (Le, Mikami, & Inoguchi, 2014) work in tandem. In other words, the key dimensions of the citizens’ data and the states’ data are more or less parallel: the emancipative versus protective dimension is reasonably correlated with agile versus cautious participation; the sacred versus secular orientation and the global commons versus individual citizens’ rights orientation run more or less in parallel. The correlation coefficients between the citizens’ preference scores and the states’ participation scores are reasonably high. Giving further credence is the finding that the states’ locations on these key dimensions provide quite succinct and excellent snapshot-like profiles. For example, Sinic East is, as a whole, cautiously agile and well mixed between global commons orientation and the national interest orientation. The United States, one of New West, i.e., new settler regions of North America and Australia, manifests a good mix of emancipative and protective orientation as well as a significant religious and secular orientation.

Surprisingly, the two metaphors of democracy can be extended to a global contract with different drivers: compassion accentuated by digitalized globalization and reason and pragmatism producing multilevel and multilayered quasi-legislative processes and outcomes.

A few problems must be tackled head on, however. First, there is the problem of data. Citizens’ preference data on the World Values Survey have covered about 90% of the world population, and yet it would be ideal if the number of questions on norms and values would grow more while being sensitive to changing human environments. Second, there is the problem of concepts. The participation of sovereign states needs deeper analysis in the area of what might be called the states’ treaty behavior. Each of 158 sovereign states and each of the 10 geoculturally similar groups (modified Welzel, 2013; Le et al., 2014 groups) need to be scrutinized further toward deeper understanding of treaty behavior (Inoguchi & Lien, 2016).

In the longer term, since the time of Rousseau, Locke, Kant, and Freud, through the era of globalization and digitalization, the idea of a de facto global social contract has turned out to be an excellent idea on which more empirical data and more deeper concepts need to be crafted.


An earlier version was presented at the First Pacific Peace Science Conference at Doshisha University, Kyoto, July 2–3, 2016. Comments received there from Eric Gartzke (University of California, San Diego), Benjamin Goldsmith (University of Sydney), Takeshi Iida (Doshisha University), Koji Kagotani (Osaka University of Economics), Shuhei Kurizaki (Waseda University), Vally Koubi (ETH Zurich), and Hossein Nourani (Hitotsubashi University) are gratefully acknowledged. Yoshinobu Yamamoto (University of Niigata Prefecture) has made constructive critical comments on an earlier draft. William Thompson has generously and critically led me to revise my earlier draft.


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