A Multidisciplinary Analysis
- Leuven Global Governance series
Edited by Jan Wouters, Antoon Braekman, Matthias Lievens and Emilie Bécault
Chapter 2: Can we democratize global governance? Two guiding scenarios based on a narrative approach
Among the most abused terms in recent political and academic reflection, ‘global governance’ appears to share the same problem as ‘governance’: that of being an ‘empty signifier’ (Offe 2009). Global governance is usually described as the web of formal and informal practices that embrace states, international institutions, transnational networks, agencies (both private and public), non-state actors and so on, that ‘function, with variable effect, to promote, regulate or intervene in the common affairs of humanity’ (Held and McGrew 2002, 1). The academic debate on this topic is considerable and has crossed disciplinary boundaries involving political theorists, international lawyers, political scientists and international relations theorists (Held 1995; Archibugi and Held 1995; Rosenau 1992, 1995, 2004; Held and McGrew 2002). However, disagreement on the definition of global governance is the rule in this debate and focuses mainly on two aspects. First, there is no agreement on the extent to which global governance succeeds, as an explanatory category, in describing the global transformations that have followed the end of the Cold War. In particular, it is not clear whether global governance either breaks or supplements geopolitical modes of steering the world (Callinicos 2002; Rosenberg 2000; Gilpin 2002; Cox 1993; Keohane 2006).
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