Research Unit 3

Global Governance Revisited

More information on Unit 3

Which impact does a growing heterogeneity of political and professional cultures have on global governance?

Global Governance research is an interdisciplinary field of study. It transcends classical inter-state approaches in International Relations by recognising both the pervasive effects of globalisation in almost all policy fields and the growing importance of international organisations, civil society, and business actors. The field borrows from research on governance on lower levels of analysis and brings together insights from regime analysis, global administrative law, and from research on the growing complexities of state-society relations. From a governance perspective, political steering is not confined to statist/hierarchical modes of exercising control. In today’s world, both the state-society and the domestic-foreign distinctions are increasingly blurred.

This perspective begs important analytical and normative questions. Analytically, if traditional/inter-state approaches are inadequate to understand global politics, it is important to both study how the world is being governed in the absence of a world government and to explain the evolving patterns of governance. Normatively, it is imminent to ask which norms, rules and institutions are necessary to adequately address current and future global challenges.

The Unit tackles these questions by critically revisiting global governance. It pays special attention to two caveats of existing research: the inclusion of non-Western perspectives on world order, and the implications of a diversification of political and professional cultures for international negotiations. Most leading theorists have been from OECD countries and many observers have, at least implicitly, projected future developments based on the hitherto dominance of the OECD world. In light of the demise of Western hegemony, it is necessary both to recognise the importance of the non-Western world and to take into account the repertoire of ideas and insights it offers. In addition, it can be generally observed that non-state actors ranging from civil society to the business community are increasingly involved in arrangements of negotiating and implementing international agreements. This may have repercussions both for diplomatic conduct and the organisational cultures prevalent among those different groups of non-state actors. 

In order to avoid any essentialist notions of culture, it is crucial to thoroughly analyse the reciprocal effects of political and professional cultures, and the evolving patterns of transnational interaction and legal plurality. The Unit thus asks which impact a growing heterogeneity of political and of professional cultures has on global governance and vice versa. Empirically, research in this Unit gives special consideration to three policy fields: climate change, the global financial crisis and the tensions between sovereignty and intervention.

In doing so, the Unit is in continuous exchange with the three neighbouring units. The review of existing knowledge on global governance will be done in collaboration with Unit 1, which focuses on the fundamentals of cooperation in a broader fashion. In the same vein, the Unit adds to the analysis of global cultural conflicts and transcultural cooperation done within Unit 2 and makes use of its humanities-based insights in transcultural interaction. With Unit 4, this Unit shares the determination to study the implications of political culture in an applied fashion, as well as the concern for problems of legitimacy and perspectives of a democratisation of governance.

In sum, the Unit on “Global Governance Revisited” sets out to adjust and to further our knowledge in Global Governance research in light of global and systemic risks, cultural differentiation and the rise of new powerful actors in world politics.