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Global Governance and Legitimacy Problems

  • Michael Zürn


Whereas traditional institutions used to be seen as an international complement to a dominantly national paradigm, today's international institutions are an expression of political denationalization. The new international institutions are much more intrusive into national societies than the traditional ones. They increasingly contain supranational and transnational features and thus undermine the consensus principle of international cooperation. When society and political actors begin to comprehend this change, they begin to reflect on the features of a legitimate and effective political order beyond national borders. As a result, denationalization becomes reflexive and thus politicized. At the same time, the politicization of international politics harbours the potential for resistance to political denationalization, which increases the need – both from a normative and descriptive perspective – for the legitimation of such international institutions.



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1 See, e.g., Dahl, R. A., ‘A Democratic Dilemma: System Effectiveness versus Citizen Participation’, Political Science Quarterly, 109: 1 (1994), pp. 2334; D. Held, Democracy and the Global Order. From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Democracy, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1995; D. Archibugi, D. Held and M. Koehler (eds), Re-imaging Political Community. Studies in Cosmopolitan Democracy, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1998; F. W. Scharpf, Governing in Europe, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999; Zürn, M., ‘Democratic Governance Beyond the Nation-State. The EU and Other International Institutions’, European Journal of International Relations, 6: 2 (2000), pp. 183–221.

2 S. M. Lipset, Political Man. The Social Bases of Politics, London, Melbourne and Toronto, Heinemann, 1960, p. 77.

3 Cf. especially C. P. Kindleberger, The World in Depression. 1929–1939, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1973 and B. Eichengreen, Vom Goldstandard zum Euro. Die Geschichte des internationalen Währungssystems, Berlin, Klaus Wagenbach, 2000.

4 See R. O. Keohane, After Hegemony: Collaboration and Discord in the World Political Economy, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1984.

5 See J. G. Ruggie, ‘International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order’, in S. D. Krasner (ed.), International Regimes, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1983, pp. 195–231 and Ruggie, J. G., ‘Trade, Protectionism and the Future of Welfare Capitalism’, Journal of International Affairs, 48: 1 (1994), pp. 112.

6 Cf. e.g., D. Rodrik, Has Globalization Gone too Far?, Washington, DC, Brookings Institution, 1997; E. Rieger, and S. Leibfried, Limits to Globalization, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2002, and, as early as 1984, P. J. Katzenstein, Corporatism and Change. Austria, Switzerland, and the Politics of Industry, Ithaca, NY, and London, Cornell University Press, 1984. See Cameron, D., ‘The Expansion of the Public Economy, American Political Science Review, 72: 4 (1978), pp. 1243–61.

7 Ruggie, J. G., ‘Multilateralism. The Anatomy of an Institution’, International Organization, 46: 3 (1992), pp. 561–98; 571.

8 Cf. also R. O. Keohane and J. S. Nye Jr., ‘Introduction’, in J. S. Nye and J. Donahue (eds), Governance in a Globalizing World, Washington, DC, Brookings Institution, 2000, pp. 1–41; 26, who liken international politics to a club in which cabinet ministers negotiate behind closed doors without informing outsiders about the negotiation process.

9 Cf. B. Russett and J. R. Oneal, Triangulating Peace. Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organization, New York, W. W. Norton, 2001; Mansfield, E. D., Milner, H. V. and Rosendorff, B. P., ‘Why Democracies Cooperate More: Electoral Control and International Trade Agreements’, International Organizations, 56: 3 (2002), pp. 477513, and Pevehouse, J. C., ‘Democracy from the Outside-In? International Organizations and Democratization’, International Organization, 56: 3 (2002), pp. 515–49.

10 See M. Zürn, Regieren jenseits des Nationalstaates. Denationalisierung und Globalisierung als Chance, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1998, and M. Beisheim, S. Dreher, G. Walter, B. Gregor, Bernhard Zangl and M. Zürn, Im Zeitalter der Globalisierung? Thesen und Daten zur gesellschaftlichen und politischen Denationalisierung, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 1999.

11 The boundaries of social transactions are ‘the place where there is some critical reduction in the frequency of a certain type of transaction’ (K. W. Deutsch, Nationalism and its Alternatives, New York, Knopf, 1969, p. 99).

12 The data is taken from the World Treaty Index Research Programme; University of Washington.

13 Hirschi, C., Serdült, U. and Widmer, T., ‘Schweizerische Außenpolitik im Wandel’, Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft, 5: 1 (1999), pp. 3156; 40.

14 Since the beginning of the 20th century the number of newly concluded multinational environmental treaties and agreements has increased steadily. While up until the 1970s an average of five agreements were concluded every five years, this figure has increased five-fold since the 1980s (Beisheim et al., Im Zeitalter der Globalisierung?, op. cit. p. 351). The development of new international economic treaties and agreements reveals a very similar pattern (ibid., p. 353).

15 For a survey, see ibid.

16 See also Keohane, R. O. and Nye, J. S., ‘Transgovernmental Relations and International Organizations’, World Politics, 27: 1 (1974), pp. 3862, who introduced the term ‘transgovernmental relations’, and R. Cox, ‘Global Perestroika’, in R. Miliband and L. Panitch (eds), New World Order, London, Merlin Press, 1992, pp. 26–45; 30, who emphasized the significance of such networks in his work.

17 Slaughter, A. M., ‘The Real New World Order’, Foreign Affairs, 76: 5 (1997), pp. 183–97; 190.

18 See E. A. Parsons, ‘Protecting the Ozone Layer’, in P. M. Haas, R. O. Keohane and M. A. Levy (eds), Institutions for the Earth: Sources of Effective International Environmental Protection, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1993, pp. 27–73.

19 See M. Kahler, International Institutions and the Political Economy of Integration, Washington, DC, Brookings Institution, 1995.

20 B. Zangl and M. Zürn, Frieden und Krieg. Sicherheit in der nationalen und postnationalen Konstellation, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 2003, ch. 8.

21 Koremenos, B., Lipson, C. and Snidal, D., ‘The Rational Design of International Institutions’, International Organization, 55: 4 (2001), pp. 761–99.

22 These hypotheses follow a logic according to which the design of international institutions is largely determined by the underlying cooperation problem. See now Koremenos, Lipson and Snidal, ‘The Rational Design of International Institutions’, op. cit., and also Martin, L., ‘Interests, Power, and Multilateralism’, International Organization, 46: 4 (1992), pp. 765–92; M. Zürn, Interessen und Institutionen in der internationalen Politik. Grundlegung und Anwendungen des situationsstrukturellen Ansatzes, Opladen, Leske & Budrich, 1992 and Zürn, M., ‘Assessing State Preferences and Explaining Institutional Choice. The Case of Intra-German Trade’, International Studies Quarterly, 41: 2 (1997), pp. 295–320 for a theoretical elaboration of this perspective.

23 See Keohane, After Hegemony, op. cit.

24 See especially Burley, A. M. and Mattli, W., ‘Europe before the Court: A Political Theory of Legal Integration’, International Organization, 47: 1 (1993), pp. 4176 and K. Alter, Establishing the Supremacy of European Law. The Making of an International Rule of Law in Europe, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001, for convincing accounts of how the European Court of Justice – the best example of a supranational component within the overall institutional concept of the EU – was not the outcome of an intergovernmentally desired decision, but the unintended outcome of a number of developments.

25 A. Moravcsik differentiates between ‘pooled sovereignty’, where governments aim to make future decisions by majority within the context of an international institution, and ‘delegated sovereignty’, where supranational actors are authorized to make certain decisions themselves, regardless of interstate objections or unilateral vetos (A. Moravcsik, The Choice for Europe. Social Purpose and State Power from Messina to Maastricht, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1998, p. 67). See also A. Bogdandy, Supranationaler Föderalismus als Wirklichkeit und Idee einer neuen Herrschaftsform. Zur Gestalt der Europäischen Union nach Amsterdam, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 1999, for a constructive use of the term supranationality.

26 On national self-regulation cf. e.g., R. Mayntz and F. W. Scharpf (eds), Gesellschaftliche Selbstregelung und politische Steuerung, Frankfurt am Main and New York, Campus, 1995, and E. Ostrom, Governing the Commons. The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990. A. Cutler, V. Haufler and T. Porter (eds), Private Authority and International Affairs, Albany, NY, SUNY Press, 1999; A. Héritier (ed.), Common Goods. Reinventing European and International Governance, Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield, 2002, and R. Higgot, G. Underhill and A. Bieler (eds), Non-State-Actors and Authority in the Global System, London, Routledge, 2000, are important contributions on transnational self-regulation.

27 The discussions of Jon Elster, in particular J. Elster, Making Sense of Marx, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1985, ch. 1, and Jon Elster, Sour Grapes. Studies in the Subversion of Rationality, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, have contributed here. Cf. also a summary and in the context of international politics, Zürn, Interessen und Institutionen in der internationalen Politik, op. cit, pp. 40–62.

28 See especially Abbott, K. W. and Snidal, D., ‘Hard and Soft Law in International Governance’, International Organization, 54: 3 (2000), pp. 421–56 and other contributions to the special issue of International Organization on legalization, 54: 3 (2000).

29 Collisions between different international regulations are, with the exception of the European Court of Justice and the International Court of Justice, not settled with the help of courts that are independent of specific regimes. Most dispute settlement bodies are associated with one specific international regime, but in fact settle disputes that take place at the borders between different regulatory areas.

30 Correspondingly, in the 1990s alone, 40 new arbitration procedures were introduced ( Romano, C., ‘The Proliferation of International Judicial Bodies: The Pieces of the Puzzle’, New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, 31: 4 (1999), pp. 709–51; 723–8).

31 See the contributions in D. G. Victor, K. Raustiala and E. B. Skolnikoff (eds), The Implementation and Effectiveness of International Environmental Commitments: Theory and Practice, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1998.

32 See especially the work of Peter M. Haas: P. M. Haas, Saving the Mediterranean. The Politics of International Environmental Cooperation, New York and Oxford, Columbia University Press, 1990, and Haas, P. M., ‘Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination’, International Organization, 46: 1 (1992), pp. 135.

33 See also Woods, N. and Narlikar, A., ‘Governance and the Limits of Accountability: The WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank’, International Social Science Journal, 53: 170 (2001), pp. 569–83, who discuss the ‘new intrusiveness’ of international economic institutions particularly in the context of increased conditionality of granting credit and the increased sanctioning possibilities of international rules.

34 See the article by Miles Kahler in this issue.

35 See M. Keck and K. Sikkink, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1998 and T. Risse, A. Jetschke and H. P. Schmitz, Die Macht der Menschenrechte. Internationale Normen, kommunikatives Handeln und politischer Wandel in den Ländern des Südens, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2002.

36 Cf. the contributions in B. Kohler-Koch and R. Eising (eds), The Transformation of Governance in the European Union, London, Routledge, 1999, and M. T. Greven and L. W. Pauly (eds), Democracy Beyond the State? The European Dilemma and the Emerging Global Order, Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.

37 See e.g., A. Linklater, The Transformation of Political Community: Ethical Foundations of the Post-Westphalian Era, Columbia, SC, University of South Carolina Press, 1998 and Schmalz-Bruns, R., ‘Deliberativer Supranationalismus. Demokratisches Regieren jenseits des Nationalstaates’, Zeitschrift für Internationale Beziehungen, 6: 2 (1999), pp. 185244.

38 C. R. Beitz, Political Theory and International Relations, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1979, p. 165.

39 See U. Beck and W. Bonß, Die Modernisierung der Moderne, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 2001; U. Beck, A. Giddens and S. Lash, Reflexive Modernization. Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1997, and U. Beck, World Risk Society, Oxford, Blackwell, 1999.

40 U. Beck, Macht und Gegenmacht im globalen Zeitalter. Neue weltpolitische Ökonomie, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 2002, p. 364.

41 See U. Beck, Risikogesellschaft. Auf dem Weg in eine andere Moderne, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1986.

42 Ruggie, ‘Trade, Protectionism and the Future of Welfare Capitalism’, op. cit., p. 8.

43 As an example, normatively oriented economists like to point out that the constitutionalization of the free trade regime in particular – by which the strengthening of supranational components is also meant – has a legitimizing effect (cf. esp. Petersmann, E.-U., ‘Human Rights and International Economic Law in the 21st Century: The Need to Clarify Their Interrelationships’, Journal of International Economic Law, 4: 1 (2001), pp. 339, and R. Howse and K. Nicolaidis, ‘Legitimacy and Global Governance: Why a Constitution for the WTO is a Step too Far?’, in R. Porter, P. Sauve, A. Subramanian and A. Zampetti (eds), Equity, Efficiency and Legitimacy: The Multilateral System at the Millennium, Washington, DC, Brookings Institution, 2001, pp. 227–52, take a contrary stance, more in line with the argument developed here).

44 See R. Broad, Global Backlash: Citizen Initiatives for a Just World Economy, Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.

45 Kaldor, K., ‘ “Civilising” Globalisation? The Implications of the “Battle in Seattle” ’, Millennium, 29: 1 (2000), pp. 105–14; 105.

46 Gill, S., ‘Toward a Postmodern Prince? The Battle of Seattle as a Moment in the New Politics of Globalization’, Millennium, 29: 1 (2000), pp. 131–40; 134; and Howse and Nicolaidis, ‘Legitimacy and Global Governance’, op. cit., p. 235.

47 ATTAC Frankreich, ‘Mit Attac die Zukunft zurück erobern. Manifest 2002’, Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik, 47: 3 (2002), pp. 347–62; 349; translation MZ.

48 George, S., ‘Was ist Attac – und was nicht?’, Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik, 47: 4 (2002), pp. 419–30; 430. For the intellectual background of these movements see C. Leggewie, Die Globalisierung und ihre Gegner, Munich, C. H. Beck, 2003, ch. 1.

49 Woods and Narlikar, ‘Governance and the Limits of Accountability’, op. cit., p. 15. See also Marceau, G. and Pedersen, P. N., ‘Is the WTO Open and Transparent? A Discussion of the Relationship of the WTO with Non-governmental Organizations and Civil Society's Claim for more Transparency and Public Participation’, Journal of World Trade, 37: 1 1999, pp. 549, for a detailed account of the relationship of the WTO with NGOs.

50 Cf. A. Moravcsik, The Choice for Europe. Social Purpose and State Power from Messina to Maastricht, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1998; B. Zangl, Interessen auf zwei Ebenen. Internationale Regime in der Agrarhandels-, Währungs- und Walfangpolitik, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 1999 and Zürn, Interessen und Institutionen in der internationalen Politik, op. cit.

51 Cf. e.g., Bayne, N., ‘Why Did Seattle Fail? Globalization and the Politics of Trade’, Government and Opposition, 35: 2 (2000), pp. 131–51, and C. Warkentin and K. Mingst, ‘International Institutions, the State, and Global Civil Society in the Age of the World Wide Web’, Global Governance, 6: 2 (2000), pp. 237–57. In a project carried out at the Institute for Intercultural and International Studies (InIIS), Günter Metzges examines the significance of NGO networks by comparing two negotiation processes initiated by the OECD on international conventions – the Anti-Bribery Convention and the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (G. Metzges, Advocacy Networks als Einflußfaktor in internationalen Regimebildungsprozessen. Das MAI und die 1997 Anti-Bribery Convention, 2003). In these studies it is shown on the one hand that transnational protests were not the direct reason for the failure of the negotiations on the MAI and in Seattle. A careful comparison clearly reveals, however, that owing to the protests a context was developed for the negotiations which made intergovernmental compromise in the executive multilateralist tradition exceedingly difficult.

52 Metzges, ibid., argues convincingly that it is very difficult to account for this difference in outcomes in terms of power (the US was dominant in both cases), intergovernmental interest constellations (initially more supportive in the MAI case), or domestic preferences (which were originally less diverse in the MAI case). It seems that the different role of transnational policy networks made the decisive difference. While these transnational policy networks and the most important transnational NGOs were involved and had a say in the negotiations to the Anti-Bribery Convention right from the beginning, they were excluded from the MAI negotiations.

53 U. K. Preuß, Krieg, Verbrechen, Blasphemie. Zum Wandel bewaffneter Gewalt, Berlin, Wagenbach, 2002, p. 22.

54 L. Hooghe, ‘Europe Divided? Elite vs. Public Opinion on European Integration’, European Union Politics, 4: 3 (2003).

55 K. D. Wolf, Die Neue Staatsräson – Zwischenstaatliche Kooperation als Demokratieproblem in der Weltgesellschaft, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2000.

56 This seems to be especially true for European regulations that are perceived as undermining the welfare state, while the general public's support is stronger for regulations that stand for the resurrection of the welfare state on the European level (Hooghe, ‘Europe Divided?’, op. cit.).

57 See the case study by J. Neyer, ‘Domestic Limits of Supranational Law. Comparing Compliance with European and International Foodstuffs Regulations’, in C. Joerges and M. Zürn (eds), Governance and Law in Postnational Constellations. Compliance in Europe and Beyond, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, i.p., which was carried out in the context of a project on ‘Compliance in Postnational Constellations’.

58 C. Joerges, The Emergence of Denationalized Governance Structures and the European Court of Justice, ARENA Working Paper 16, Oslo, ARENA, 1996.

59 Leggewie, Die Globalisierung und ihre Gegner, op. cit., p. 112, seems to be quite sceptical about making international politics public. For him, it is the medial visibility of international meetings that has created the resistance. Making international politics public then would be the cause of, not the cure for, the problem of lacking societal support.

60 Cf. Zürn, Democratic Governance Beyond the Nation-State, op. cit.


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