Global Governance

Authored by: Ole Jacob Sending

Routledge Handbook of International Political Sociology

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415732253
eBook ISBN: 9781315446486
Adobe ISBN: 9781315446479


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James Rosenau was central in establishing global governance as a theme or field of study. He introduced the concept of ‘spheres of authority’ as an analytical tool to explore world politics without unduly privileging state actors (Rosenau 1992). This conceptualization built on an earlier argument drawn both from the pluralist tradition to point to the role of non-state actors in world politics (Nye and Keohane 1971), and also from world systems analysis (Wallerstein 1974) in an effort to move away from the state as a historically given and fixed unit of analysis in world politics. Moreover, Craig Murphy (1994) and others early on established a Gramscian inspired line of research on the historical evolution of global governance (cf. Hewson 1994). But it was arguably the Commission on Global Governance that placed the term on the political, and subsequently on the scholarly, agenda more broadly. The Commission defined global governance as

the sum of many ways individuals and institutions, public and private, manage their common affairs. It is a continuing process through which conflicting or diverse interests may be accommodated and co-operative action taken. It includes formal institutions and regimes empowered to enforce compliance, as well as informal arrangements that people and institutions either have agreed to or perceive to be in their interest.

(1995: 4) The Commission was established by the so-called Stockholm Initiative and supported by UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to address opportunities and challenges of globalization. The definition of governance as the “process through which conflicting or diverse interests may be accommodated” has a distinct progressive focus, and the report highlighted the potential to harness the power of non-state actors to guide developments in a particular – and decidedly liberal – direction.

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