Global Governance and Democracy
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Global Governance and Democracy

A Multidisciplinary Analysis

Edited by Jan Wouters, Antoon Braekman, Matthias Lievens and Emilie Bécault

Globalization needs effective global governance. The important question of whether this governance can also become democratic is, however, the subject of a political and academic debate that began only recently. This multidisciplinary book aims to move this conversation forward by drawing insights from international relations, political theory, international law and international political economy. Focusing on global environmental, economic, security and human rights governance, it sheds new light on the democratic deficit of existing global governance structures, and proposes a number of tools to overcome it.
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Chapter 9: Reconceptualizing the challenges for theories of democracy

Alessandro Mulieri, Antoon Braeckman and Tim Heysse


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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