Global Cooperation Research Papers

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Rethinking the Legitimacy of Global Governance. On the Need for Sociological Research and Philosophical Foundations

by Dirk Peters

With commentaries by Frank Gadinger and Daniel Gaus

Global Cooperation Research Papers 2, Duisburg 2013

Download full paper [Reprint 2016]

What would constitute a legitimate global order? Dirk Peters argues that current research on this issue is one-sided: it takes Western democracy as a universal standard and focuses discussion on how aspects of democracy can be applied at the global level. But instead of promoting a universal standard, says Peters, research needs to listen to the actors involved in global governance. There can be no legitimate global order without taking into account what these actors regard as legitimate, and this will not necessarily be a model based on Western democracy. This point of view is endorsed by Frank Gadinger, who proposes a methodological technique from sociology to facilitate empirical research in this area. By reconstructing the arguments that 'ordinary actors' employ in the global political arena, we can reveal what they consider legitimate. Daniel Gaus, by contrast, takes issue with Peters's critique of democracy as a universal standard. Peters may well be correct in contending that Western democratic institutions are not suitable as a basis for legitimizing global politics, says Gaus, but the very act of listening to the governed, and making their conceptions of legitimacy the yardstick of legitimate governance, is itself a democratic endeavour.

Keywords: Crises of legitimacy, global governance, research methodology, philosophy, normative concepts, pragmatic sociology

The Authors

Dirk Peters is Research Fellow at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt.

Frank Gadinger is Head of Research Unit ‘Paradoxes and Perspectives of Democratisation’ at the Centre for Global Cooperation Research (KHK/GCR21).

Daniel Gaus is Researcher at the Institute for Political Science at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main.

Editorial Board
Dr Rainer Baumann
Dr Frank Gadinger
Dr Volker Heins
Dr Silke Weinlich

Editorial Office
Martin Wolf
Tina Berntsen

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