News from the Centre

European Consortium for Political Research, Hamburg Congress (montage: GCR21)

Between Fragmentation and Cooperation: Centre's Research at the ECPR Conference

06.09.2018 Members of the Centre's research groups broached issues of global governance at this years' ECPR General Conference in Hamburg. The European Consortium for Political Research hosts conferences that represent the broad scope of research in political science (and beyond). Global governance has become increasingly specialized and differentiated into different governance fields, characterized by co-evolutive processes of internal fragmentation and cooperation. This emerging governance space is populated by competing authorities, establishing hegemonic combinations that may face significant delegitimating critiques in the face of underlying instabilities. On a panel 'Between Fragmentation and Cooperation: Towards a Comparative

Analysis of Trajectories of Transnational Governance Fields', organized and chaired by the Centre's Director Sigrid Quack, various issue areas relevant to the Centre were touched upon. Micheline van Riemsdijk from Uppsala Universitet and a current fellow at the Centre, did an assessment of the global compacts on migration currently being developed by the UN. A common global governance framework does not (yet) exist here, while the protection of migrants and refugees fall under different UN conventions and agencies. Complexity is enhanced by the fact that international migration is also governed at the regional scale, for example in the European Union, where van Riemsdijk identifies a Europeanization of asylum and migration policies as evident in the Dublin Convention.

Franz Maulshagen, another current fellow of the Centre, focused on 'Scientific Uncertainty in Climate Change Governance' (CCG) and from a history of science perspective, looked back into the past, discussing examples of how CCG has handled the problem of scientific uncertainty. Scenario planning historically emerged as a key tool in dealing with - and communicating - uncertainties. He thus provided vivid examples of how findings from epistemic communities are presented in a related policy field.

Katja Freistein, research group leader at the Centre, - on another panel - takes this point even one step further. Scrutinizing quantification as a practice of bureaucratic representation she investigates the autonomisation of quantified knowledge in international development organisations and related bureaucracies. Drawing on sociological organisation studies and sociology of knowledge approaches, Freistein identifies ritualistic aspects as well as a social function of quantified bureaucratic knowledge, thereby enhancing our understanding of the path dependent nexus between epistemic production and institutional policy.

Sigrid Quack observes functional differentiation of governance as an emerging response to the complexity of the global economy and world polity. These processes of differentiation and coordination continue within and across transnational issue fields. Quack draws on pragmatist institutionalism to conceptualize transnational governance as an open-ended process of institution building. These trajectories should be reconstructed from the longitudinal study of sequences of interactions between actors and institutions within governance fields, such as labor, forestry, accounting and open access. Taking the time - or process - dimension more serious, shall give room for a newly informed debate on the effectiveness and legitimacy of transnational governance.

Ultimately, this debate will have to take issues of deliberation and contestation of these governance spaces into account. Jan Aart Scholte, the Centre's co-director, contributed to a panel on 'Old and New Authorities in Internet Governance', focusing on the IANA transition*, which reveals reduced though still notable legitimated dominance of the United States Government (USG) in global Internet governance. Scholte identifies a 'complex hegemony' here, a side by side of 'hegemonic material structure' and 'ideational structure': according to him, 'together they form a powerful hegemonic combination'. This sort of unstable equilibrium is a strong indicator that further change in hegemonic structure and contributing factors is likely.

Discussions are continued at the Centre. Ideas and further contributions are welcome.

* IANA = The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, for explanation, see Wikipedia.