Following Frank Nullmeier’s review of “A Theory of Global Governance” (TOGG) in our previous blogpost, Michael Zürn responds to some of the remarks made by the author. Is TOGG deficient because it does not focus on decision shaping through global capitalism or on power relations between multinationals and child labor? No, he argues, because TOGG is a theory about the effects of the system of global political institutions and does not seek to answer questions about IR in general or provide a new theory of the World Society. Instead, it shows how extra-political relations of power and dominance impact the political system and become institutionalized therein. Lastly, the image of the Owl of Athena that only sets out at dusk is somewhat inaccurate as a comparison, Zürn claims. TOGG does not merely look backwards and assess the strength of Global Governance as it emerged in the 1990s – it examines why this system is on the brink of the abyss, while simultaneously asking for the conditions under which it may survive in the future. Read the whole German article here.
[Photo: Alex Radelich/unsplash]
For lack of a better term– or for reasons of inexactitude– scholars have zeroed in on the term ‘backlash’ to describe our current political moment. I would like to take some time to unpack this historically, and to offer some tentative thoughts on how to re-frame contestation as distinct from mere ‘backlash’. To begin with, a ‘backlash’ is defined as a strong negative reaction to a social or political development. It often harkens back to a fabled past and represents an attempt to reclaim a set of privileges. Images of segregationists in the American South come to mind. And yet, not all those who contest the current order are reactionary. In fact, many social movements are born from a desire to emancipate. The concept of a ‘backlash’ precludes this possibility. It articulates a subtle suspicion of those who would question prevailing orthodoxies, regardless of the substance of their critique or the manner with which they engage politically.
In framing contestation as a ‘backlash’ we accept the grand narrative of a liberal teleology. That is, the almost evangelical belief in a rules-based international order, which privileges markets and individual autonomy. For better or worse, we are told that there are no real alternatives. This is a lethal form of intellectual inertia: it sanitizes politics and immobilizes debate precisely when we need it most.
If you were to sit down and design a new international organization whose job it was to “maintain international peace and security,” and you came back with the design for the current United Nations Security Council, you would be handed your hat.
1975, Château de Rambouillet, 50 kilometers south-west of Paris. The heads of state and government of the six leading industrial countries gather for their first joint summit meeting. Today’s Group of Seven (G-7) was born. At its 44th summit, which took place at La Malbaie, Canada last week, the group saw a historic transition from careful policy coordination to undisguised political discord. From tensions over a possible readmission of Russia to President Trump’s instruction not to endorse the arduously negotiated communiqué – the gathering ended in a diplomatic fiasco. The more so as only one day later, on 10th June, China successfully orchestrated the inking of a joint summit declaration among members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which also counts Russia and, more recently, India and Pakistan, among its members. Is the West breaking apart while the East consolidates?