Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series
Edited by Kees van der Pijl
Chapter 8: Standardizing services: transnational authority and market power
When asked in 2007 which fields of standardization will be the most active in the coming years, Alan Bryden, former Secretary General of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), was straightforward in stating that ‘one of our biggest challenges is precisely how to address the service sector’ (interview with the author). While standards supposedly lead to greater rationality and coherence in distinct industries and services, all of them also give rise to ongoing struggles in complex configurations of power involving multiple actors including multinational corporations, organized interests and state regulators. This chapter relies on global political economy approaches that uncover the power relations exercised on a transnational basis in the area of service standards. It assumes that the process of globalization is not opposing states and markets, but a convergence of processes involving both of them, with new patterns of formal and informal power and regulatory practices arising at the intersection of the two. Of these, standards are a key aspect.
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