International Handbook on Informal Governance
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International Handbook on Informal Governance

Edited by Thomas Christiansen and Christine Neuhold

Acknowledging that governance relies not only on formal rules and institutions but to a significant degree also on informal practices and arrangements, this unique Handbook examines and analyses a wide variety of theoretical, conceptual and normative perspectives on informal governance.
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Chapter 11: Informal Governance in International Relations

Thomas Conzelmann


Thomas Conzelmann INFORMALIZATION AS AN ASPECT OF GLOBAL POLITICS The intellectual landscape of the discipline of International Relations has traditionally been shaped by the dichotomous distinction between anarchy and order. Although the precise meaning of anarchy at the global level is contested, it has usually been conceptualized as the opposite of order – an order which in turn is seen to consist of structures of international authority and law (Milner 1991). The foundational debate between the realist and the institutionalist school in International Relations was about the possibility and likelihood of international law to constrain the logic of anarchy. In this debate, a pessimistic (‘realist’) view is confronted with a more optimistic (‘institutionalist’) one. Realists warned against what they saw as the ‘false promise of international institutions’ (see the title of Mearsheimer’s famous 1994 article) and argued that institutions could not live up to the expectations put in them. The institutionalist argument, on the contrary, was that international institutions make the interactions between states more stable and predictable and make the international system as a whole less war-prone. International law is seen as a constraint on the freedom of action of states, reining in aggressive, unlawful or simply self-interested policies (for example, Commission on Global Governance 1995; Held 1999; also see Zangl and Zürn 2004). In the context of this debate, the discipline of International Relations has long focused its attention on the potential and pitfalls of formal international law and institutions. In turn, informal governance at the global level...

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