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Eleni Tsingou co-edited special issue of Review of International Political Economy

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on the theme of 'Legitimacy and Global Governance'

 
02/15/2011

on the theme of 'Legitimacy and Global Governance'

The special issue includes an original piece by Eleni Tsingou and co-author and co-editor James Brassett from the University of Warwick, original articles by Steven Bernstein, Daniel Muegge and Lena Rethel, and a special discussion forum including contributions by Robert Keohane, Jan Aart Scholte, Furio Cerutti and Kishore Mahbubani.

In the introduction to the special issue, we argue that legitimacy stands out as a novel and potentially important contribution to the emerging policy and academic debates about global governance.

In the context of widespread critical reaction to the prevailing global economic and financial governance arrangements and the emergent securitized form that globalization has taken in the wake of 9/11, there are clear reasons to question the legitimacy of global governance – be it institutions, practices or inter-subjective meanings. In the absence of clear lines of over arching-authority the discourse of legitimacy may be a substantial boon to the eking out of more democratic futures.

We argue that there is a certain Trojan horse quality to legitimacy which means that it can act as a pragmatically useful route into policy making debates.

On a reformist understanding at least, legitimacy can provide a benchmark from which to begin attaching larger principles of accountability, procedural fairness, and on some readings justice to the theory and practice of global governance.

However, and drawing on the more critical approaches found within International Political Economy, we suggest that a recognition of the phenomenon of legitimization at work within capitalist social relations may require a degree of caution and reflexivity on the part of scholars.

This constitutive dynamic can be read as cautionary tale for the more normative approaches to global governance, but in pragmatic fashion, it need not be read as undermining. Quite the reverse in fact, we see it as politicizing via the identification of further (more radical) challenges and questions.

Practices of global governance can be legitimized via a web of related concepts and rationalities. These might include the notion of the sovereign individual, an agent inscribed with the capacity for choice.

Within the context of global governance such concepts can be aggregated and administered for via the delineation of correct standards of financial citizenship or financial literacy.

Thus, financialization can become a centrally and performatively legitimized policy position for the institutions of global governance. In such a context the very possibility of asking the question of legitimacy is undermined by the contestability of the subject: legitimacy of what, for whom and according to what criteria?

Moreover, an effect of discussing the legitimacy or otherwise of institutions like the IMF, the World Bank or the WTO acts to confer a degree of normative but possibly also moral importance on these institutions in the first place.

It also serves to reduce discussions of the legitimacy of global governance to debates about international economic management.

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