Skip to main content
×
×
Home

The social legitimacy of international organisations: Interest representation, institutional performance, and confidence extrapolation in the United Nations

  • LISA MARIA DELLMUTH and JONAS TALLBERG
Abstract

Social legitimacy is central to the effectiveness of international organisations (IOs). Yet, so far, we have little systematic knowledge about what drives citizens to support or oppose IOs. In this article, we isolate and assess three alternative explanations of social legitimacy in global governance, privileging interest representation, institutional performance, and confidence extrapolation. We test these theories in a multilevel analysis of citizen confidence in the United Nations (UN) using World Values Survey and European Values Study data, supplemented by contextual measures. The results grant support to the arguments that institutional performance and confidence extrapolation shape popular confidence in the UN, while offering little support for the explanation of interest representation. These findings challenge the predominant understanding that more democratic procedures lead to greater social legitimacy for IOs. Instead, the UN case suggests that the social legitimacy of IOs is based primarily on the organisations' capacity to deliver, as well as on citizens' general confidence in political institutions, which IOs may have little to do with and can do little to change.

Copyright
References
Hide All

1 Zürn, Michael, Binder, Martin, and Ecker-Erhardt, Matthias, ‘International Political Authority and Its Politicization’, International Theory, 4:1 (2012), pp. 69106 .

2 O'Brien, Robert, Goetz, Anne M., Scholte, Jan A., and Williams, Michael, Contesting Global Governance: Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

3 Hobolt, Sara B., Europe in Question. Referendums on European Integration (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

4 Clark, John, Globalizing Civic Engagement. Civil Society and Transnational Action (London: Earthscan, 2003).

5 See, for example, Held, David and Koenig-Archibugi, Mathias (eds), Global Governance and Public Accountability (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005); Zürn, Michael, ‘Democratic Governance beyond the Nation-State: The EU and Other International Organizations’, European Journal of International Relations, 6:2 (2000), pp. 183221 ; Scholte, Jan A. (ed.), Building Global Democracy? Civil Society and Accountable Global Governance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

6 See, for example, Moravcsik, Andrew, ‘Is There a “Democratic Deficit” in World Politics? A Framework for Analysis’, Government and Opposition, 39:2 (2004), pp. 336–63; Keohane, Robert O., Macedo, Stephen, and Moravcsik, Andrew, ‘Democracy-Enhancing Multilateralism’, International Organization, 63:1 (2009), pp. 131 .

7 See, for example, Gabel, Matthew, ‘Public Support for European Integration: An Empirical Test of Five Theories’, Journal of Politics, 60:2 (1998), pp. 333–54; Hooghe, Liesbet and Marks, Gary, ‘Calculation, Community and Cues. Public Opinion on European Integration’, European Union Politics, 6:4 (2005), pp. 419–43; Boomgaarden, Hajo G., Schuck, Andreas R. T., Elenbaas, Matthijs, and de Vreese, Claes H., ‘Mapping EU Attitudes: Conceptual and Empirical Dimensions of Euroscepticism and EU Support’, European Union Politics, 12:2 (2011), pp. 241–66.

8 See, for example, Norris, Pippa, ‘Global Governance and Cosmopolitan Citizens’, in Nye, Joseph S. Jr. and Kamarck, Elaine (eds), Governance in a Globalizing World (Washington DC: Brookings, 2000), pp. 155–77; Ecker-Erhardt, Matthias, ‘Cosmopolitan Politicization: How Perceptions of Interdependence Foster Citizens Expectations in International Institutions’, European Journal of International Relations, 18:3 (2012), pp. 481508 .

9 See, for example, Nullmeier, Frank, Biegon, Dominika, Nonhoff, Martin, Schmidtke, Henning, and Schneider, Steffen (eds), Prekäre Legitimitäten: Rechtfertigung von Herrschaft in der post-nationalen Konstellation (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2010); Bernstein, Steven, ‘Legitimacy in Intergovernmental and Non-State Global Governance’, Review of International Political Economy, 18:1 (2011), pp. 1751 ; Zaum, Dominik (ed.), Legitimating International Organizations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

10 Hurd, Ian, After Anarchy: Power and Legitimacy in the United Nations Security Council (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007); Martin Binder and Monika Heupel, ‘The Legitimacy of the UN Security Council: Evidence from Recent General Assembly Debates’, International Studies Quarterly, article first published online on 13 May 2014.

11 Edwards, Martin S., ‘Public Support for the International Economic Organizations: Evidence from Developing Countries’, Review of International Organizations, 4:2 (2009), pp. 185209 .

12 Johnson, Tana, ‘Guilt by Association: The Link between States' Influence and Legitimacy of Intergovernmental Organizations’, Review of International Organizations, 6:1 (2011), pp. 5784 .

13 Weber, Max, Economy and Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978 [orig. pub. 1922]); Suchman, Mark C., ‘Managing Legitimacy: Strategic and Institutional Approaches’, Academy of Management Review, 20:3 (1995), pp. 571610 .

14 Hurd, Ian, ‘Legitimacy and Authority in International Politics’, International Organization, 53:2 (1999), pp. 379408 .

15 Buchanan, Allen and Keohane, Robert O., ‘The Legitimacy of Global Governance Institutions’, Ethics and International Affairs, 20:4 (2006), p. 407 .

16 See, for example, Fallon, Richard H., ‘Legitimacy and the Constitution’, Harvard Law Review, 118:6 (2005), pp. 1787–853; Buchanan and Keohane, ‘The Legitimacy of Global Governance Institutions’.

17 This is not the exclusive way of conceptualising the relevant public of an IO. For a study of IO legitimacy that uses member states as the relevant public, see Hurd, After Anarchy.

18 Scharpf, Fritz, Governing in Europe: Effective and Democratic? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); Hobolt, Sara B., ‘Citizen Satisfaction with Democracy in the European Union’, Journal of Common Market Studies, 50:S1 (2012), pp. 88105 ; Schmidt, Vivien. A., ‘Democracy and Legitimacy in the European Union Revisited: Input, Output, and “Throughput”’, Political Studies, 61:1 (2012), pp. 222 .

19 See, for example, Nullmeier, Biegon, Nonhoff, Schmidtke, and Schneider, Prekäre Legitimitäten; Boomgaarden, Schuck, Elenbaas, and de Vreese, ‘Mapping EU Attitudes’.

20 Hurd, After Anarchy, pp. 66–9.

21 See, for example, Armingeon, Klaus and Ceka, Besir, ‘The Loss of Trust in the European Union during the Great Recession since 2007: The Role of Heuristics from the National Political System’, European Union Politics, 15:1 (2014), pp. 82107 ; Harteveld, Eelco, van der Meer, Tom, and de Vries, Catherine E., ‘In Europe we Trust? Exploring three Logics of Trust in the European Union’, European Union Politics, 14:4 (2013), pp. 542–65.

22 Scharpf, Governing in Europe; Held, David, Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995); Bernstein, ‘Legitimacy in Intergovernmental and Non-State Global Governance’.

23 O'Brien, Goetz, Scholte, and Williams, Contesting Global Governance; Tarrow, Sidney, The New Transnational Activism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

24 Lindberg, Leon N. and Scheingold, Stuart A., Europe's Would-Be Polity: Patterns of Change in the European Community (Eaglewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1970); see also Hooghe, Liesbet and Marks, Gary, ‘A Postfunctionalist Theory of European Integration: From Permissive Consensus to Constraining Dissensus’, British Journal of Political Science, 39:1 (2009), pp. 123 ; Zürn, Binder, and Ecker-Erhardt, ‘International Political Authority’.

25 Hobolt, ‘Citizen Satisfaction with Democracy’.

26 Keohane, Robert O. and Nye, Joseph S., ‘The Club Model of Multilateral Cooperation and Problems of Democratic Legitimacy’, in Porter, Roger B., Sauvé, Pierre, Subramanian, Arvind, and Zampetti, Americo Beviglia (eds), Efficiency, Equity, and Legitimacy: The Multilateral Trading System at the Millennium (Washington DC: Brookings, 2001), pp. 264–94; Stone, Controlling Institutions.

27 Note that citizens who are well represented may also recognise that these favours come at someone else's expense. However, we find it more likely that disadvantaged citizens are dissatisfied with differentiated representation than advantaged citizens, and therefore formulate the hypothesis in positive terms.

28 Bernauer, Thomas and Gampfer, Robert, ‘Effects of Civil Society Involvement on Popular Legitimacy of Global Environmental Governance’, Global Environmental Change, 23:2 (2013), pp. 439–49.

29 See, for example, Bäckstrand, Karin, ‘Democratizing Global Environmental Governance? Stakeholder Democracy after the World Summit on Sustainable Development’, European Journal of International Relations, 12:4 (2006), pp. 467–98; Saurugger, Sabine, ‘The Social Construction of the Participatory Turn: The Emergence of a Norm in the European Union’, European Journal of Political Research, 49:4 (2010), pp. 471–95.

30 Boutros-Ghali, Boutros, ‘Keynote Address to the 47th DPI/NGO Conference’, Transnational Associations, 47:6 (1995), p. 345 .

31 Steffek, Jens, Kissling, Claudia, and Nanz, Patrizia (eds), Civil Society Participation in European and Global Governance: A Cure for the Democratic Deficit? (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2008); Tallberg, Jonas, Sommerer, Thomas, Squatrito, Theresa, and Jönsson, Christer, The Opening Up of International Organizations: Transnational Access in Global Governance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

32 Steffek, Kissling, and Nanz, Civil Society Participation.

33 Sweet, Alec Stone and Thatcher, Mark, ‘Theory and Practice of Delegation to Non-Majoritarian Institutions’, West European Politics, 25:1 (2002), pp. 122 ; Hawkins, Darren G., Lake, David A., Nielson, Daniel L., and Tierney, Michael J. (eds), Delegation and Agency in International Organizations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

34 Zürn, Binder and Ecker-Erhardt, ‘International Political Authority’.

35 Newton, Kenneth and Norris, Pippa, ‘Confidence in Public Institutions: Faith, Culture or Performance?’, in Pharr, Susan J. and Putnam, Robert D. (eds), Disaffected Democracies: What's Troubling the Trilateral Countries? (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), p. 61 ; see also Gibson, James L., Caldeira, Gregory A., and Spence, Lester Kenyatta, ‘Measuring Attitudes Toward the United States Supreme Court’, American Journal of Political Science, 47:2 (2003), pp. 354–67.

36 See, for example, Gabel, ‘Public Support for European Integration’; Harteveld, van der Meer, and de Vries, ‘In Europe we Trust?’.

37 Ecker-Erhardt, ‘Cosmopolitan Politicization’.

38 Hooghe and Marks, ‘A Postfunctionalist Theory of European Integration’; Zürn, Binder, and Ecker-Erhardt, ‘International Political Authority’.

39 Hurd, After Anarchy, p. 67.

40 Hooghe and Marks, ‘Calculation, Community and Cues’, pp. 421–2; Hurd, After Anarchy, p. 68.

41 Stone, Randall, Controlling Institutions: International Organizations and the Global Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

42 Putnam, Robert, Making Democracy Work. Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Uslaner, Eric M., The Moral Foundations of Trust (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

43 Rothstein, Bo, Social Traps and the Problem of Trust (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

44 Torgler, Benno, ‘Trust in International Organizations: An Empirical Investigation Focusing on the United Nations’, Review of International Organizations, 3:1 (2008), 6593 .

45 Anderson, Christopher J., ‘When in Doubt, Use Proxies: Attitudes Toward Domestic Politics and Support for European Integration’, Comparative Political Studies, 31:5 (1998), pp. 569601 ; Rohrschneider, Robert, ‘The Democracy Deficit and Mass Support for an EU-Wide Government’, American Journal of Political Science, 46:2 (2002), pp. 462–75; Muñoz, Jordi, Torcal, Mariano, and Bonet, Eduard, ‘Institutional Trust and Multilevel Government in the European Union: Congruence or Compensation?’, European Union Politics, 12:4 (2011), pp. 551–74; Harteveld, van der Meer and de Vries, ‘In Europe we Trust?’; Armingeon and Ceka, ‘The Loss of Trust in the European Union’.

46 Harteveld, van der Meer and de Vries, ‘In Europe we Trust?’, p. 561.

47 Armingeon and Ceka, ‘The Loss of Trust in the European Union’. Other research in this tradition refines or reverses the logic of this basic argument. Several contributions find that more knowledgeable or cognitively mobilised people rely less on heuristics from domestic politics (for example, Hobolt, ‘Citizen Satisfaction with Democracy’). Others hypothesise and find support for the reverse logic: low levels of support for national political institutions feed into greater support for the EU, which appears as a saviour from malfunctioning domestic politics ( Sánches-Cuenca, Ignacio, ‘The Political Basis of Support for European Integration’, European Union Politics, 1:2 (2000), pp. 147–71).

48 Schmidtke, Henning and Schneider, Steffen, ‘Methoden der empirischen Legitimationsforschung: Legitimität als mehrdimensionales Konzept’, in Geis, Anna, Nullmeier, Frank, and Daase, Christopher (eds), Der Aufstieg der Legitimitätspolitik: Rechtfertigung und Kritik politisch-ökonomischer Ordnungen (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2012), pp. 225–44.

49 Gallup International Association, Voice of the People. ICPSR04636-v1 (Zürich: Gallup International Association, 2005).

50 See Table A1 in Appendix A. Tables A2 and A3 in Appendix A provide summary statistics of and correlations between these variables. All material necessary to replicate the analyses in this article are published on the authors' homepages.

51 Appendix B gives an overview of the question wordings for all questions used to code the individual-level variables, as well as the coding of the answer categories.

52 See Caldeira, Gregory A. and Gibson, James L., ‘The Etiology of Public Support for the Supreme Court’, American Journal of Political Science, 36:3 (1992), pp. 635–64; Bühlmann, Marc and Kunz, Ruth, ‘Confidence in the Judiciary: Comparing the Independence and Legitimacy of Judicial Systems’, West European Politics, 34:2 (2011), pp. 317–45.

53 Norris, Pippa (ed.), Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Governance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); Norris, Pippa, ‘Confidence in the United Nations: Cosmopolitan and Nationalistic Attitudes’, in Esmer, Yilmaz and Petterson, Thorleif (eds), The International System, Democracy and Values (Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2009), pp. 1749 .

54 United Nations, ‘UN Security Council Members’ (2012), available at: {http://www.un.org/sc/members.asp}.

55 Hurd, Ian, ‘Legitimacy, Power, and the Symbolic Life of the U.N. Security Council’, Global Governance, 8:1 (2002), pp. 41–4.

56 United Nations, ‘Integrated Civil Society Organizations System’ (2011), available at: {http://esango.un.org/civilsociety}.

57 See, for example, Jamal, Amaney and Nooruddin, Irfan, ‘The Democratic Utility of Trust: A Cross-national Analysis’, Journal of Politics, 72:1 (2010), pp. 4559 .

58 The correlation between Perceived UN problem-solving and UN confidence is low (r=.08), indicating that these two variables capture distinct phenomena.

59 United Nations, ‘Regular Budget and Working Capital Fund. U.N. Committee on Contributions’ (2012), {available at http://www.un.org/en/ga/contributions/budget.shtml}.

60 Cf. United Nations, ‘Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly (A/RES/64/248)’ (2010), available at: {http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=a/res/64/248}.

61 See Pippa Norris, ‘Global Governance and Cosmopolitan Citizens’.

62 In contrast, see Jung, Jai K., ‘Growing Supranational Identities in a Globalising World? A Multilevel Analysis of the World Values Surveys’, European Journal of Political Research, 47:5 (2008), pp. 578609 .

63 Solt, Frederick, ‘Economic Inequality and Democratic Political Engagement’, American Journal of Political Science, 52:1 (2008), pp. 4860 .

64 Cf. Caldeira, Gregory A. and Gibson, James L., ‘The Legitimacy of the Court of Justice in the European Union: Models of Institutional Support’, American Journal of Political Science, 89:2 (1995), pp. 356–76.

65 Torgler, ‘Trust in International Organizations’.

66 This measure captures the extent to which people rely on each other, also on those that they do not personally know, and is distinct from Government confidence, which taps confidence in specific actors and institutions, such as politicians, officials, and organisations. Cf. Brehm, John and Rahn, Wendy, ‘Individual-Level Evidence for the Causes and Consequences of Social Capital’, American Journal of Political Science, 41:3 (1997), pp. 9991023 .

67 Gleditsch, Kristian S., ‘Expanded Trade and GDP Data’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 46:5 (2002), pp. 712–24. Data are derived from Jan Teorell, Marcus Samanni, Sören Holmberg, and Bo Rothstein, ‘The Quality of Government Dataset, Version 6 April 2011’, University of Gothenburg: The Quality of Government Institute, (2011), available at: {http://www.qog.pol.gu.se/data/qogstandard dataset/}.

68 Teorell, Samanni, Holmberg, and Rothstein, ‘The Quality of Government Dataset’.

69 Torgler, ‘Trust in International Organizations’.

70 Puchala, Donald, ‘World Hegemony and the United Nations’, International Studies Review, 7:1 (2005), pp. 571–84.

71 Goldstein, Harvey, Multilevel Models in Educational and Social Research (London: Charles Griffin, 1987).

72 The model is estimated using gllamm in Stata. Using this model requires testing whether the covariate effects are constant across categories. A test of this ‘parallel regression’ assumption suggests that this assumption is reasonable given the data at hand. Rabe-Hesketh, Sophia and Skrondal, Anders, Multilevel and Longitudinal Modeling Using Stata (Texas: Stata Press, 2008).

73 Cf. Rabe-Hesketh and Skrondal, Multilevel and Longitudinal Modeling.

74 We calculate the intra-class correlation as follows: .

75 Norris, ‘Global Governance and Cosmopolitan Citizens’; Furia, Peter A., ‘Global Citizenship, Anyone? Cosmopolitanism, Privilege and Public Opinion’, Global Society, 19:4 (2005), pp. 331–59.

76 See Table A1 in Appendix A.

77 See, for example, Gabel, Matthew and Scheve, Kenneth, ‘Estimating the Effect of Elite Communications on Public Opinion Using Instrumental Variables’, American Journal of Political Science, 51:4 (2007), pp. 1013–28.

78 Cf. Ai, Chunrong and Norton, Edward C., ‘Interaction Terms in Logit and Probit Models’, Economic Letters, 80:1 (2003), pp. 123–29; Berry, William D., DeMeritt, Jacqueline H. R. and Esarey, Justin, ‘Testing for Interaction in Binary Logit and Probit Models: Is a Product Term Essential?’, American Journal of Political Science, 54:1 (2010), pp. 248–66. The response probabilities for the interaction plots are calculated following Wooldridge, Jeffrey M., Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel Data (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011), p. 505 , equation 15.88, and implemented in Stata by revising the code suggested by Brambor, Thomas, Clark, William R., and Golder, Matt, ‘Understanding Interaction Models: Improving Empirical Analyses’, Political Analysis, 14:1 (2006), pp. 6382 .

79 See, for example, Norris, ‘Global Governance and Cosmopolitan Citizens’; Hooghe and Marks, ‘Calculation, Community and Cues’.

80 Heckman, James J., ‘Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error’, Econometrica, 47:1 (1979), pp. 153–61.

81 Bernstein, ‘Legitimacy in Intergovernmental and Non-State Global Governance’, p. 61.

82 Zürn, Binder, and Ecker-Erhardt, ‘International Political Authority’.

83 Tallberg, Sommerer, Squatrito, and Jönsson, The Opening Up of International Organizations.

84 Cf. Hurd, After Anarchy.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×
Type Description Title
UNKNOWN
Supplementary materials

Dellmuth and Tallberg Supplementary Material
Supplementary Material

 Unknown (4.9 MB)
4.9 MB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 19
Total number of PDF views: 403 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1263 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd July 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.