To say that the idea of ​​a world government has been met with mixed reviews can be an understatement, to say the least. Many people dismiss this concept out of hand as a utopian fantasy or a recipe for dictatorship by misunderstood elites bent on world domination.

Even those that lie awake at night worrying about black helicopters and what happens in smoke-filled rooms stuffed with powerful special interests are quite rightly concerned about democratic accountability.

At a historic moment when democratic institutions around the world are experiencing a crisis of legitimacy and are being undermined by a rising tide of populism and xenophobia, arguing for world government is consequently becoming increasingly difficult.

The most promising example of institutionalized international cooperation now we have ever seen – the European Union – is in crisis and has develop into synonymous with dysfunction. Great Britain’s ill-advised decision to depart the EU only reinforces the belief that such projects have definitely left the historical agenda.

Paradoxically, nevertheless, some of the smartest people in the world proceed to argue that world government will not be only desirable, but is in truth a functional necessity that may inevitably be realized. The only query is when.

An off-the-cuff observer may very well be forgiven for feeling a little confused. Even those of us with a skilled interest in such matters can succumb to bouts of acute cognitive dissonance as we try to grasp what we – on this case, the human race – must do to survive in a civilized manner.

The reality is that some problems, reminiscent of climate change, simply can’t be solved by the isolated “communities of fate” which have dominated politics and governance for the last 4 or five hundred years.

The proven fact that all of us live inside the boundaries set by states is one of the hallmarks of modern political life. And this also determines existential diversity. Those born in Victorian Britain thought that they had won the lottery of life – or a minimum of those of the upper classes did.

Even now, individuals are willing to risk their lives to get to the “West” with its hidden promise of wealth, peace and social stability. It’s not hard to see why.

Some would say that this has all the time been the case: throughout history, life has all the time been difficult and unsure for a lot of – perhaps most – of the human race. Indeed, a compelling argument could be made that we, as humans, have collectively never had it so good.

Yet this relatively abstract way of eager about the human condition offers no more comfort to the people of Syria than to those in Sydney. For those of us fortunate enough to reside in such privileged enclaves of peace and prosperity, the query is whether or not now we have obligations beyond our borders.

Do now we have a duty to care about the fate of strangers whom we are going to never meet and whose lives appear only fleetingly, if in any respect, on our television screens?

On some level, the answer is clearly no. Unless you may have some religious belief that obliges you to care about the welfare of your neighbor, nobody can force us to care. It’s true that it’s a bit tiring to see kids blowing up night after night, but you may all the time literally and figuratively switch off.

But even when we adopt this quite comprehensible approach to problems about which we are able to do little, they are going to not disappear from the global political agenda and even from our consciousness. The fact is that we’re stuck with them.

The world truly is far more connected, interdependent and interactive than ever before. What happens in a single part of the world can really have an effect on one other part – even whether it is just an increasingly futile effort to isolate one part of the world from the problems of the other.

It is because of the global nature of many problems that some consider that world government, or a minimum of an increasingly effective process of global governance, have to be part of the way we conduct human affairs, nevertheless unlikely this will likely seem in principle.

It can also be becoming increasingly clear that even relatively trivial political issues reminiscent of taxes develop into unattainable to unravel without a high level of international cooperation beyond national borders.

However, even when we accept that transnational cooperation is a must to realize effective governance on every little thing from climate change to disaster relief to the management of countless areas of economic and social life, this is definitely much easier said, effectively and without controversy, than done .

Not only will some participants inevitably profit more from such initiatives than others, but some states also remain steadfastly against the very idea of ​​anything that undermines national sovereignty.

In East Asia, where I do most of my research, states have a long history of jealousy in protecting national sovereignty and little enthusiasm for the kind of cooperation that characterised the European Union in its heyday.

Indeed, many in Asia feel vindicated by what has recently happened to the EU and browse it as a warning about elite hubris relatively than the most vital attempt yet to transcend narrow national interests in pursuit of a more cosmopolitan common cause.

For international politics students like me, that is a real problem on each an mental and private level. Part of me thinks the case for greater international cooperation in the face of global problems is solely overwhelming and obvious.

But I’m also very accustomed to the empirical and historical records of Asia; it has created entrenched ideological and institutional obstacles to raised cooperation that may likely not be overcome in my lifetime – which is, understandably, the important focus of my attention.

So what should those of us who would love closer cooperation do in the face of such seemingly insurmountable, institutionalized obstacles? One answer may very well be to follow Antonio Gramsci, who said he was “a pessimist because of his intelligence, but an optimist because of his will.”

The development of forms of global citizenship, world government, and shared consciousness seem inherently unlikely at this historical moment. However, belief in the possibility of change is important, if just for our mental well-being.

(An earlier version of this text appeared on the Global Government Research Networklink text)

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