Thank you for your thoughtful response to my article. I suppose my piece could be construed as pragmatic. I emphasize ‘classical humanism, in large part, to emphasize the importance of going back to the sources (in this case the sources of modern-day nation-state diplomacy). Just as the Renaissance humanists sought to broaden and strengthen their perspectives through analysis of original sources, I seek to present a perspective grounded in the foundations of a pragmatic and orderly international diplomacy. I will address your points in the order you bring them up in your response.
I can find myself agreeing with you to a point with regard to populism being somewhat idealistic. I would not, however, go as far as you do by calling it unrealistic. My emphasis is on balance between naturally-occurring elements in political systems. Populism has the problem that it can lead to the rise of demagogues. However, top-down cosmopolitan systems have their problems as well. I have seen cases in both the Roman Empire and many Chinese dynasties of emperors gradually becoming increasingly decadent as the power structures of the respective empires/dynasties centralize power at the top. Edward Gibbon, for example, does a fine job delineating the decline and fall of the Roman Empire by analyzing the Roman case. Every detail of his History may not be 100 percent accurate but the general themes, while they reveal Gibbon’s particular interpretation, do show the realistic power dynamics at play as the Roman Empire declined.
You mention that this is not the seventeenth century. While any fool would have to agree with this basic point, I must mention a point about human nature. At its core, human nature does not really change. Science and technology may change quite rapidly but human nature does not follow the same trajectory. Yes, there are surface-level changes and people of the past were quite different in notable ways, but human nature remains essentially the same. Studying political behavior, for example, from Aristotle to the present reveals certain universal behaviors which have always been central.
The conflicts of the seventeenth century as well as Grotius’s magnum opus serve as important milestones in the history of international relations. No one party had ultimate authority and the various sides had to act in a pragmatic fashion to end three decades of violent war. I am juxtaposing the foundations of modern international diplomacy with the current tensions between populist and globalist positions because both can be reduced, at some level, to the necessity of a pragmatic solution dealing with how to have a proper balance of power. It is my argument that both the populist and cosmopolitan positions are necessary but also have their extremes. Populism may lead to xenophobia and tribalism, but it is also a foundation for a patriotic and well-grounded state where the average person can feel he has representation. Politically, populism is not purely left nor right. In American history, the Populist Party of the late-nineteenth century was left-wing and agrarian. The Five Star Movement of contemporary Italy contains elements of both the left and right wing. I mentioned Bannon in my original article (though I am certainly not endorsing all or even most of his views). One thing I think he does have partially right is that the future will be populist. I say partially, again, because I think the point of balancing populism and globalism is to transcend the limits of populism, not to simply reject the global.
I would strongly disagree with your assertion that sovereignty has ‘outlived its usefulness.’ As an undergrad, I was far more sympathetic with such arguments. Reading the classics as they relate to politics, I have been increasingly convinced that alternatives are almost certainly not going to arise. Moreover, the rise of the nation-state coincides with a rise in stability which necessarily accompanies territorial sovereignty. In general terms psychologist Steven Pinker delineates a general decline in violence as people moved from tribes and medieval feudal states to nation-states. While his analysis is not perfect, it does a decent job mapping such trends. Sovereignty is an inevitability. The issues I concern myself with are how sovereignty should be organized at various levels in order to ultimately allow for the development of individual civil liberties so that people are as free from political constraints as possible. With regard to a pragmatic approach to constitutional government, I could go all the way back to Cicero’s arguments for a mixed constitution. He argued for using the best of the three systems (rule by one, rule by some, and rule by the people) to counter the worst elements of each. While globalism has much to offer, I would still maintain my position that it must be based in a bottom-up political structure. This necessarily gives a significant degree of power to countries. I would further argue for federalism within states, but this would be a discussion on its own (a topic for another day, perhaps).
A top-down solution has the benefit of efficiency but also massive drawbacks. In order to avoid a ‘Tower of Babel’-like situation, such a system would inevitably have to anchor itself with some type of bottom-up elements or risk becoming increasingly detached from the average person. In the Roman Empire, the emperors went from preserving the appearance of the structures of the republic under Augustus to wielding absolute power as decadent monarchs (Caracalla and Elagabalus).
I would argue that the Holy Roman Empire was rather like the modern European Union in that both gave the appearance of a greater unity to the uncritical observer than was/is really the case. The EU suffered a recent blow with Brexit because Brussels had been trying to expand EU power and influence outside the previous domain of economic development. The Holy Roman Empire did have quite a bit of staying power even after practical politics revealed an altogether different power structure. With that being said, the increasingly top-down bureaucratic structure of the EU is unlikely to continue much longer down the road. I would argue that the key to a stable Europe in the future is one based in populism but able to transcend mere populism. The EU would have been fine if it stuck to the domain of trade while respecting the territorial sovereignty of each member.
Defining sovereignty as planetary will only happen if an alien species threatens Earth. Human psychology includes a tribal element. It is something which will not be transcended. I would direct your attention here to the famous Robbers Cave Experiment. I would argue that the least objectionable solution rests with a balance which accommodates our natural tribal nature while directing our energies toward greater goals.