Governance in a Disenchanted World

Governance in a Disenchanted World

The End of Moral Society

Helmut Willke

This book expounds the idea of a disenchanted world composed of nation states and global functional systems. The nation state is losing some of its regulatory prerogatives and, at the same time, extending its legitimacy base in ‘chains of legitimacy’ to transnational institutions. There is neither a global democracy nor a global government. Therefore, establishing alternative forms of legitimacy, accountability and participation in a secular world seem mandatory. Helmut Willke examines the resurgence of moral reasoning in global affairs, pushed by various fundamentalisms, that indicates a real danger of a regression of democracy. The separation of private morals and public policies, the book argues, remains the basis of global aspirations of democracy.

Chapter 8: Outlook: Governance in a Disenchanted World

Helmut Willke

Subjects: business and management, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, organisation studies, public management, economics and finance, corporate governance, politics and public policy, public administration and management, public policy


More than a decade ago Susan Strange anticipated the present dilemma of governance by observing ‘a widespread popular disbelief in the power of the individual state to plan the economy or to protect the citizen from the impact of change in the world market economy. Politicians still make speeches pretending that they have the answers to economical and social problems’ (Strange 1995: 291). She identified three main dynamics affecting the nation state – a shift in power from states to markets, asymmetries in state power, and gaps in government – and she derived from these trends the need for figuring out which non-state authorities besides the state ‘really do exercise authority in world society and economy and with what political, social and economic consequences’ (Strange 1995: 305). This is exactly the program of analyses which shift their focus from government studies to studies of governance, including new actors, new configurations and new governance forms in their repertoire of concerns. In addition to these considerations an underlying if insidious uncertainty is emanating from the revulsions of a decade of religious and moral fundamentalisms. The glaring failure of governments and corporations to live up to their moral assertions, as depicted by an endless sequence of scandals and frauds, does not seem to discourage the abuse of morals for political and public relations purposes. We are witnessing a coincidence of hype about morals, hypermorality, a hypertrophy of morals (Arnold Gehlen) on the one hand and a corresponding sarcasm on the parts of a misled public....

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