A Multidisciplinary Analysis
Leuven Global Governance series
Edited by Jan Wouters, Antoon Braekman, Matthias Lievens and Emilie Bécault
Chapter 9: Reconceptualizing the challenges for theories of democracy
Writing in 1999, the American political scientist Robert Dahl sounded a note of caution on the possibility of bringing democracy into international institutions: ‘Can international organizations, institutions, or processes be democratic? I argue that they cannot be’ (Dahl 1999, 19). In this chapter we shall keep this quotation in mind as an essential normative warning when drawing some provisional conclusions on the complex relationship between global governance and democracy. As shown in several chapters of this volume, mapping governance in the transnational arena is a difficult task because of the huge variety of governmental and non-governmental practices that compose the evolving and multifaceted picture of global governance. The specific case studies presented in the empirical chapters of this book are a confirmation of this complex picture. However the same difficulty presents itself when theorizing about democracy in global governance. As shown in Chapters 1 and 2, bringing democracy and democratic theory within this scenario leads to very different theoretical and political recipes. Furthermore, in this chapter we do not aim at presenting a model for the democratization of global governance. Rather, we deal with the possible relevance of three key concepts of democratic theory for global governance: legitimacy, representation and accountability. In so doing, we subscribe to the general narrative of this book that sees a context-sensitive and bottom-up relationship between global governance and democratic government.
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