Skip navigation
Hardcover | Out of Print | 316 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 1 illus. | April 2003 | ISBN: 9780262162159
Paperback | $4.75 Short | £4.95 | 316 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 1 illus. | September 2004 | ISBN: 9780262661881
Mouseover for Online Attention Data

Democracy's Dilemma

Environment, Social Equity, and the Global Economy


The realities of global economic integration are far more complex than many of its supporters or detractors acknowledge. One consequence of simplistic thinking about globalization, claims Robert Paehlke, is that we tend to focus on economic prosperity to the neglect of such other important considerations as environmental and social well-being. A first step toward righting this imbalance is the recognition that economic gains do not guarantee better lives or better communities and societies.Democratic societies face a dilemma. Global economic integration produces a need for global political integration. Without it, national, state, and local governments are under pressure to forego environmental protection and social programs in order to be competitive. At the same time, global governance presents problems because of its scale and its inaccessibility to citizens. This book describes the consequences of this dilemma--such as political cynicism and lack of democratic participation--and proposes ways of dealing with it.Paehlke seeks a middle ground between those who reject globalization and those who claim that it will create the best of all possible worlds. Because there is no returning to a world that is less economically, culturally, and politically integrated, he argues, we should make every effort to advance global cooperation and equity. He suggests specific interventions that could be built into international trade agreements, including global minimum wages and provisos that natural commodities from developing economies such as energy and forest cuttings not be allowed to decline in price relative to the manufactured goods of more advanced economies. He also suggests ways to improve domestic democratic effectiveness.

About the Author

Robert C. Paehlke is Professor and Chair, Environmental and Resource Studies Program, Trent University, Canada. He is the author or editor of four other books, including Environmentalism and the Future of Progressive Politics.


“A sophisticated and critical commentary on how global processes, like digitalization, neoliberalism, and consumerism, are destroying much of humanity's natural and social lifeworld.”
Timothy W. Luke, University Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
“Where most calls for a global democracy present a fairly utopian vision of a new world order, Paehlke pursues a more practical middle ground based on the existing nation-state system. Unlike other attempts, his work offers a way forward.”
Frank Fischer, Center for Global Change and Governance, Rutgers University
“With wit and verve, Robert Paehlke points us towards a new form of governance that goes beyond ‘humoring and wooing investors.’ And with a keen sensitivity to the multiple ironies of globalization, he shows how democratic politics can catch up with global markets, rein in electronic capitalism, and ensure that due political consideration is given to efficiency, equity, and ecological sustainability.”
Robyn Eckersley, Department of Political Science, University of Melbourne
“This is a very ambitious project. Paehlke characterizes the key features of the contemporary international political economy, projects where it is going, points to the problems associated with it, outlines their causes and consequences, and develops ways of bringing it to heel in the interests of social justice and environmental values. Much of the originality of the book lies in its moderation. Paehlke does not celebrate unrestrained economic globalization, nor is he an unremitting critic. Rather, he wants to fix it, or channel it in the right direction. He brings a distinctive voice to bear on some major debates about where the world is going.”
John S. Dryzek, Australian National University
“Democracy's dilemma is how to leaven one-dimensional economic globalization with social and environmental imperatives. Paehlke makes an ambitious and compelling case, laced with his trademark optimism, for a democratic pincer movement from above and below, designed to recapture 'the earth' from 'the globe.' This is an essential contribution from one of our most original and imaginative environmental thinkers.”
Andrew Dobson, Department of Government and Politics, Open University