Democracy, Legitimacy, and Global Governance


What property (or properties) render international institutions and law legitimate, such that those over whom they claim jurisdiction ought to defer to their directives rather than acting on their own judgment? In this essay I critically examine Tom Christiano’s treatment of two possible answers to this question: global democracy, and an institution’s or legal regime’s capacity to enhance its subjects’ responsiveness to the reasons for action that apply to them. While Christiano rightly rejects the inference from affected interests to global democracy, his argument elides the fundamental reason we ought to do so, namely that at present the degree of cross-border interdependence does not rise to the level where it is possible for citizens of different states to treat one another justly only by submitting to a common legal order that substantially erodes state sovereignty. International law and institutions can enjoy some legitimacy on instrumental grounds, however, even if they are neither democratic nor the product of agreement in free and fair conditions.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2016, RACO. This article first appeared in Law, Ethics and Philosophy 4, (2016): 200-12. https://www.raco.cat/index.php/LEAP/article/view/321414

Please note that downloads of the article are for private/personal use only.

The authors transfers a non exclusive rights of distribution, public communication and reproduction of his or her work for publication in Law, Ethics and Philosophy (LEAP) and inclusion in databases in which the journal is indexed.

Lefkowitz, David. “Democracy, Legitimacy, and Global Governance”. Law, Ethics and Philosophy 4, (2016): 200-12.