Prof. Dr Jens Steffek

Senior Research Fellow


Prof. Dr Jens Steffek joined the research group 'Global Cooperation and Polycentric Governance' in September 2019 as a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre until August 2020.


Research Project at the Centre

Global Standards of Good Governance

This new research project on standards of good governance builds upon my past inquiries into norms and practices of global cooperation. Over the last years, I have explored justificatory narratives of global governance, in particular of the functionalist, technocratic variety. This line of research will come to a close with the completion of a monograph entitled "Global Machinery: International Organizations as Technocratic Utopia", covering the history of technocratic international thought from 1850 to the present day. My new line of research on global governance is inspired by some observations from that project. What I found was a shift in technocratic international thought from a broadly Weberian ideal of formal organizations (what Weber called “Fachbürokratie”) towards the de-centered, indirect rule of standards or best practices, operationalized through benchmarks and quantifiable indicators. In this context, global governance is becoming increasingly reflexive, in the sense that it aspires to shape the very processes of governance, local, national and transnational ones alike. We observe a sustained attempt by public and private actors, mostly based in the West, to promote their ideals of “good governance” as standards on a global scale. The purpose of my project is to study, in a systematic and comparative fashion, the emergence, spread, implementation and contestation of global standards of governance, understood as procedural standards that pertain to issues such as participation, transparency, accountability or evaluation. My project has three main objectives. First, to explore how standards of governance emerge and how they spread across borders; second, to understand how standards of governance are implemented in practice and how compliance with them is negotiated; third, to study the contestation of standards that may follow from it.

Current Projects

  • The history of technocratic international thought
  • Discursive shifts in international relations theory


01/2010 – today

Technische Universität Darmstadt

Institut für Politikwissenschaft

Professor of Transnational Governance

09/2018 – 12/2009

Jacobs University

School of Social Sciences and Humanities

University Lecturer in Political Science

02/2003 – 08/2008

Universität Bremen

Sonderforschungsbereich "Staatlichkeit im Wandel"

Wissenschaftlicher Assistent

11/2002 – 01/2003

Universität Bremen

Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter

09/1998 – 06/2002

European University Institute

Department of Social and Political Science

PhD student

Research Interests

  • Global governance
  • International organizations
  • History of international thought
  • Democratic theory
  • International law


  • International Studies Association (ISA)
  • European International Studies Association (EISA)
  • International Political Science Association (IPSA)
  • Deutsche Vereinigung für Politikwissenschaft (DVPW)

A selection of publications

2019 Prussians, Nazis and Peaceniks: Changing Images of Germany in International Relations, Manchester: Manchester University Press (ed., with L. Holthaus, in press)

2019 ‘The Limits of Proceduralism: Critical Remarks on the Rise of ‘Throughput Legitimacy’, Public Administration, Online first,

2018 ‘The Social-democratic Roots of Global Governance: Welfare Internationalism from the 19th Century to the United Nations’, European Journal of International Relations 28(1): 106-129 (with L. Holthaus)

2018 ‘Deliberation and Global Governance’ in: Chris Brown and Robyn Eckersley (eds.) Oxford Handbook of International Political Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 440-452.

2017 ‘International Organizations and Bureaucratic Modernity’ in: Richard N. Lebow (ed.) Max Weber and International Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 119-142

2016 ‘The Copenhagen Turn in Global Climate Governance and the Contentious History of Differentiation in International Law’, Journal of Environmental Law 28(1): 37-63 (with J. McGee).

2016 ‘Experiments in International Administration: the Forgotten Functionalism of James Arthur Salter’, Review of International Studies 42(1): 114-135 (with L. Holthaus).

2015 ‘Fascist Internationalism’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies 44(1): 3-22.

2015 ‘The Output Legitimacy of International Organizations and the Global Public Interest’, International Theory 7(2), 263-293.

2015 ‘The Cosmopolitanism of David Mitrany: Equality, Devolution, and Functional Democracy beyond the State’, International Relations 29(1): 23-44.     

2014 Jenseits der Anarchie: Weltordnungsentwürfe im frühen 20. Jahrhundert, Frankfurt am Main: Campus (ed., with L. Holthaus).

2010 ‘Public Accountability and the Public Sphere of International Governance’ Ethics & International Affairs 24(1): 45-67

Seminars and Conferences

Conference organized: ‘Praxis as a Perspective on International Relations and Law. Friedrich Kratochwil and his Critics’, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt / Cluster of Excellence “Normative Orders”, 12/13 July 2019 (with G. Hellmann).

Guest Lecture: ‘The Timeless Appeal of Technocracy in Global Governance’, International Geneva Luncheon, organized by the Graduate Institute, the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) and the Canton and City of Geneva, Maison de la Paix, Geneva, 12 March 2019.

Guest Lecture: ‘The Timeless Appeal of Technocracy in Global Governance’, University of Cambridge, 25 January 2019.

Guest Lecture: ‘The Timeless Appeal of Technocracy in Global Governance’, Edinburgh Law School, 23 January 2019.

Conference participation: ‘100 years since World War I – Lessons learnt for the future of Europe’, Multiple Regions House, Brussels, 19 September 2018.

Conference participation: ECPR General Conference, Hamburg, 22-25 August 2018.

Guest Lecture: ‘Internationale Organisationen und die bürokratische Moderne‘, Deutsche Universität für Verwaltungswissenschaften / Speyer, 3 July 2018.

Conference participation: ‘Ethical Leadership in International Organizations: Concepts, Narratives, Judgment and Assessment’, Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights, University of Helsinki, 7-8 June 2018.

Guest lecture: 'Technokratische Legitimationsnarrative internationaler Organisationen', Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, 9 May 2018.

Conference participation: 59th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, San Francisco, 3-7 April 2018.

Workshop participation: ‘Access and Exclusion in Global Governance’, IBEI and ESADE, Barcelona, 11-12 January 2018.