The goal of this article is to provide an overview of the literature on global governance, key elements for understanding its conceptualization, and a gateway to capture its multidimensionality. From this perspective, global governance is conceived as a framework of analysis or intellectual device to study the complexity of global processes involving multiple actors that interact at different levels of interest aggregation. The article is divided into four parts. The first section describes the origins, definitions, and characteristics of global governance. The second categorizes global governance based on different thematic areas where there is a confluence of governance practices, on the one hand, and the inclusion of a global level of interaction, on the other. The third discusses the different conceptual inquiries and innovations that have been developed around the term. Finally, the last part maps the different academic institutions that have focused their research on global governance and offer programs on this subject.
Roberto Domínguez and Rafael Velázquez Flores
Global Distributive Justice
Kevin K W Ip
Distributive justice, in its broadest sense, is about how benefits and burdens ought to be distributed among a set of individuals as a matter of right and entitlement. Political philosophers have traditionally assumed that principles of distributive justice apply only within the bounds of a given political community. However, this assumption has been rigorously challenged in recent years, as evidenced by the recent work on global distributive justice. Students of global distributive justice have paid considerable attention to how certain facts about the global domain might affect the grounds of their normative judgments. Therefore, it is important to focus on the application of distributive justice to certain global issues, including reparations for historic injustice, climate change, transnational trade, and natural resources ownership. These issues are inevitably global in scope, and they tend to have profound impacts on the well-being of individuals around the world.
April R. Biccum
The concept of “Global Citizenship” is enjoying increased currency in the public and academic domains. Conventionally associated with cosmopolitan political theory, it has moved into the public domain, marshaled by elite actors, international institutions, policy makers, nongovernmental organizations, and ordinary people. At the same time, scholarship on Global Citizenship has increased in volume in several domains (International Law, Political Theory, Citizenship Studies, Education, and Global Business), with the most substantial growth areas in Education and Political Science, specifically in International Relations and Political Theory. The public use of the concept is significant in light of what many scholars regard as a breakdown and reconfiguration of national citizenship in both theory and practice. The rise in its use is indicative of a more general change in the discourse on citizenship. It has become commonplace to offer globalization as a cause for these changes, citing increases in regular and irregular migration, economic and political dispossession owing to insertion in the global economy, the ceding of sovereignty to global governance, the pressure on policy caused by financial flows, and cross-border information-sharing and political mobilization made possible by information communications technologies (ICTs), insecurities caused by environmental degradation, political fragmentation, and inequality as key drivers of change. Global Citizenship is thus one among a string of adjectives attempting to characterize and conceptualize a transformative connection between globalization, political subjectivity, and affiliation. It is endorsed by elite global actors and the subject of an educational reform movement. Some scholarship observes empirical evidence of Global Citizenship, understood as active, socially and globally responsible political participation which contributes to global democracy, within global institutions, elites, and the marginalized themselves. Arguments for or against a cosmopolitan sensibility in political theory have been superseded by both the technological capability to make global personal legal recognition a possibility, and by the widespread endorsement of Global Citizenship among the Global Education Policy regime. In educational scholarship Global Citizenship is regarded as a form of contemporary political being that needs to be socially engineered to facilitate the spread of global democracy or the emergence of new political arrangements. Its increasing currency among a diverse range of actors has prompted a variety of attempts either to codify or to study the variety of usages in situ. As such the use of Global Citizenship speaks to a central methodological problem in the social sciences: how to fix key conceptual variables when the same concepts are a key aspect of the behavior of the actors being studied? As a concept, Global Citizenship is also intimately associated with other concepts and theoretical traditions, and is among the variety of terms used in recent years to try to reconceptualize changes it the international system. Theoretically it has complex connections to cosmopolitanism, liberalism, and republicanism; empirically it is the object of descriptive and normative scholarship. In the latter domain, two central cleavages repeat: the first is between those who see Global Citizenship as the redress for global injustices and the extension of global democracy, and those who see it as irredeemably capitalist and imperial; the second is between those who see evidence for Global Citizenship in the actions and behavior of a wide range of actors, and those who seek to socially engineer Global Citizenship through educational reform.
Global Commodity Chains and Global Value Chains
A commodity chain refers to “a network of labor and production processes whose end result is a finished commodity.” The attention given to this concept has quickly translated into an expanding body of global chains literature. Research into global commodity chains (GCC), and later global value chains (GVC), is an endeavor to explain the social and organizational structure of the global economy and its dynamics by examining the commodity chains of a specific product of service. The GCC approach first emerged in the mid-1980s from world-system research and was reformulated in the early 1990s by development scholars. The development-oriented GCC approach turned the focus of GCC analysis to actor-centered processes in the global economy. One of the initial criticisms facing the GCC approach was its exclusive focus on internal conditions and organizational linkages, lacking systemic attention to the effect of domestic institutions and internal capacity on economic development. Other critics pointed to the narrow scope of GCC research. With the huge expansion in global chains literature in the past decade—not only in volume but also in depth and scope—efforts have been made to elaborate the global chains framework and to render it industry neutral, as partly reflected in the adoption of the term “global value chains.” Three key research themes surround these recent evolutions of global chains literature: GVC governance, “upgrading,” and the social construction of global value chains. Existing literature, however, still has theoretical and methodological gaps to redress.
Global Governance and Feminist Activism
Competing narratives exist in feminist scholarship about the successes and challenges of women’s activism in a globalized world. Some scholars view globalization as merely another form of imperialism, whereby a particular tradition—white, Eurocentric, and Western—has sought to establish itself as the only legitimate tradition; (re)colonization of the Third World; and/or the continuation of “a process of corporate global economic, ideological, and cultural marginalization across nation-states.” On the other hand, proponents of globalization see opportunity in “the proliferation of transnational spaces for political engagement” and promise in “the related surge in the number and impact of social movements and nongovernmental organizations. Feminist involvement in global governance can be understood by appreciating the context and origins of the chosen for advancing feminist interests in governance, which have changed over time. First wave feminism, describing a long period of feminist activity during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, developed vibrant networks seeking to develop strong coalitions, generate broad public consensus, and improve the status of women in society. Second wave feminist concerns dominated the many international conferences of the 1990s, influencing the dominant agenda, the problems identified and discussed, the advocacy tactics employed, and the controversies generated. Third wave feminism focused more on consciousness raising and coalition building across causes and identities.
International Relations and Comparative Politics
Vidya Nadkarni and J. Michael Williams
Both the political science fields of International Relations (IR) and Comparative Politics (CP) developed around a scholarly concern with the nature of the state. IR focused on the nature, sources, and dynamics of inter-state interaction, while CP delved into the structure, functioning, and development of the state itself. The natural synergies between these two lines of scholarly inquiry found expression in the works of classical and neo-classical realists, liberals, and Marxists, all of whom, to varying degrees and in varied ways, recognized that the line dividing domestic and international politics was not hermetically sealed. As processes of economic globalization, on the one hand, and the globalization of the state system, on the other, have expanded the realm of political and economic interaction, the need for greater cross-fertilization between IR and CP has become even more evident. The global expansion of the interstate system has incorporated non-European societies into world politics and increased the salience of cultural and religious variables. These dynamics suggest that a study of cultures, religions, and histories, which shape the world views of states and peoples, is therefore necessary before assessments can be made about how individual states may respond to varied global pressures in their domestic and foreign policy choices.
Globalization and the Environment: There Must Be Some Way Out of Here
Ronnie D. Lipschutz and Felicia A. Peck
Even as globalization offers new opportunities to many and opens numerous political opportunities for social movements and other forms of political organizations, globalization also often disrupts existing forms of beliefs, values, and behaviors, as well as the global environment. The impacts of human activities on the global environment have become increasingly evident. Tangible evidence of global climate change is now becoming apparent in many places, as glaciers and permafrost melt, rainfall patterns change, and species move or die out. Indeed, the scale of human activity has seriously altered the biogeophysical state of planet Earth. The shifting patterns of industrial and intellectual production associated with globalization have also resulted in the relocation of environmental externalities from one country to another. The growth in global trade has made it easier to “export” negative environmental impacts to countries less able to afford strict regulation and less willing to impose it. Moreover, the “commodification of everything” has changed more traditional patterns of pollution and waste production in unforeseen ways, especially through cultural globalization—that is, the worldwide diffusion of high-consumption norms that put a premium on things. As such, there has been a growing turn toward efforts to use market tools and mechanisms to “globalize” environmental remediation. The three general categories for such “solutions” include the commodification of the “right to pollute”; ecological modernization, or reducing externalities throughout a commodity chain; and altering consumer preferences and motivating “virtuous” consumption.
Labor in the Global System
Anke Hassel, Henni Hensen, and Anne Sander
In the course of globalization, the locus of labor regulation has increasingly shifted toward the supranational level. However, the debate on global labor standards continues to be riddled by the question of the relationship between economic globalization and labor standards. This debate can be outlined along two main arguments: the liberal perspective, which sees a positive impact of globalization on working conditions worldwide, is opposed by those who claim a negative impact leading to a race to the bottom—a hypothesis based on the assumption that the liberalization of the international economic order intensifies competition, sharpens the fight for competitive advantages, and subsequently contributes to a downward spiral in wages and labor standards. In sum, the argument is that the effect of increased global competition leads to a growing worldwide inequality between high-skilled and low-skilled workers. One of the most significant new features of the internationalizing economy is labor migration. Low-qualified workers often migrate into hazardous conditions as they are not adequately integrated and protected in their host countries. Meanwhile, there are two major contested issues in the global labor governance debate: the debate around soft versus hard law and the relationship between labor rights and human rights. With the growing academic debate on international labor, a growing body of regulatory organizations and instruments has developed. Global labor is structured along three main lines: international (governmental) organizations and international standard setting; transnational labor movements and tripartite mechanisms; and private regulatory instruments such as Codes of Conduct (CoC) and multistakeholder initiatives.
Transnational Social Movements
Kenneth A. Gould and Tammy L. Lewis
Transnational social movements are defined as movements wherein members in at least two nations cooperatively engage in efforts to promote or resist change beyond the bounds of their nation. Over the last 20 years, research on transnational social movements has proliferated in tandem with rapid globalization. The scholarship draws upon research conducted by sociologists and political scientists on national social movements and extends it to a global level. Similar questions and concepts applied to national or subnational movements are now applied to transnational movements: Why do they emerge? What are their processes? What are their consequences? Concepts such as political opportunity structure, which have been used to analyze the timing and outcomes of national social movement organizations’ actions, are being extended to understand how the international political arena shapes movements. The majority of work has been case specific and focused on a handful of movements: the human and indigenous rights movements, the women’s movement, the labor movement, and the environmental movement. Over time, this theorizing moved beyond borrowing concepts intended to explain local and national movements to generate concepts and propositions unique to the particularities of local-global/transnational movements. One of the limitations of the work to date is the lack of comparative work and theoretical development. The next stage of research should build upon the empirical work that has been generated by assessing propositions comparatively.
International Organization and Health/Disease
Kelley Lee and Julia Smith
Human history has been shaped by shifting patterns of health and disease. Many of the factors influencing those patterns have spanned national borders, such as human and animal migration, armed conflict, colonization, trade and investment, globalization, and environmental change. International studies scholars’ interest in health and disease has slowly evolved over time. After World War II, international health cooperation was accepted as a key function of the United Nations system, with the creation of the World Health Organization (WHO). However, health was deemed a largely technical field, alongside the activities of international health organizations. The limited scholarship produced during the postwar period was largely descriptive of technical and legal issues. It was not until the 1970s, when debates emerged about the appropriate forms of health development assistance, concerns about large commercial interests, and the role of WHO, that scholars began considering the politics of international health cooperation. The Declaration of Alma Ata on Health for All, Essential Drugs List, and International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes were expressions of discontent in international health with a status quo perpetuating inequality among states. These initiatives then spurred accusations of “politicization” of WHO’s technical mandate, accompanied by the freezing of the organization’s budget. The study of international organizations and health began to apply critical theoretical approaches, locating health and disease within the liberal world order. From the 1990s onward, the proliferation of new institutional arrangements for international health cooperation prompted studies of this increasingly complex landscape. The term “global health” was coined to reflect the interplay of state and nonstate actors amid globalization, alongside the concept of global health governance (GHG). This encouraged scholarly exchange across international studies, social policy, law, and anthropology. International organizations with health-related impacts, such as the World Trade Organization, and powerful nonstate actors, such as foundations and commercial interests, were incorporated into GHG scholarship. Concurrently, new theoretical approaches to understanding collective action for global health emerged, notably realist notions of global health security, and social constructivist approaches to the framing of problems and solutions. Major disease outbreaks since the early 2000s, including SARS in 2003–2004, Ebola virus in West Africa in 2014–2015, and COVID-19 since 2020, have intensified scrutiny of GHG. The sharp rise in noncommunicable diseases alongside the globalization of market capitalism also drew growing attention. Amid renewed debate about WHO reform, analyses have focused on the lack of coherence among global health actors, weakness of legal and ethical frameworks for collective action, and inadequacy of resources.
Global democracy is a field of academic study and political activism concerned with making the global political system more democratic. This topic has become a central area of inquiry for established literatures including political philosophy, international relations (IR), international law, and sociology. Along with global justice, global democracy has also been critical to the emergence of international political theory as a discrete literature in recent decades. Global democracy is particularly concerned with how transnational decision-making can be justified and who should be entitled to participate in the formation of global rules, laws, and regulations. As democratic nations increase trade among themselves, policies like isolationism and nationalism make far less sense. Borders blur through free trade agreements and the creation of economic zones. As nations begin to take the interests of their partner nations into consideration when drafting laws and regulations, global democracy begins to take shape. However, due to globalization, the supposed alliance between democracy and the nation-state has come unstuck. The expansion of global connections has functioned in close cooperation with increased efforts to govern global affairs. Many scholars argue that increased transnational activity undermines national democracy. On the contrary, global democrats share the view that individuals should collectively rule themselves—to the extent that decision-making power migrates beyond the state, democracy should follow.
Alternative Global Governances
Global governance has become part of the international relations vocabulary. As an analytical category and as a political project it is a strong tool that illustrates the major complexities of world politics in contexts of globalization. The study of global governance has expanded and superseded traditional approaches to international relations that focus on relations among states. Moreover, the study of global governance and has included nonstate actors and their dynamics into a more intricate thematic agenda of global politics. However, global governance has become less a political space of deliberation and more of a managerial aspect of world politics because of some assumptions about reality, humanity, and the international community. It would appear that this is a result of the predominance of liberal thought in world politics after the end of the Cold War. Regardless of how diverse the approaches to global governance may appear, the ontological assumptions—that is, the beliefs about reality that are behind its definition, conceptualization, and implementation as political projects—are not neutral nor are they universal. These assumptions respond to specific appreciations of reality and are inherited from Western modernity. The problem with this is that claims to contemplate the interests of humanity as a whole abound in global governance institutions and arrangements, whereas in fact global governance is constructed by neglecting other possible realities about the world. The consequences of this conceptualization are important in the sense that global governance becomes a tool of exclusion. Only by taking into consideration the ontological difference through which global governance can reflect the complexities of a diverse world can one explore the importance of alternative governances as a way to consider how global orders can be approached. Such alternative global governances draw from ontological pluralism and conceive political global orders as based on the coexistence and negotiation of different realities.
A review of introductory international relations, international studies, and global studies textbooks reveals that each field defines itself differently: one in terms of its central focus on the diplomatic and strategic relations of states, the second more broadly by including transnational transactions of all kinds, and the third focusing on globalization as both an object of analysis and a lens through which to view nearly all phenomena. However, in reading past the definitional chapters there are clear overlaps—most notably with regard to each introductory textbook’s treatment of globalization. Close examination of recently published introductory textbooks and those well into multiple editions reveals that globalization is treated as a fundamental aspect of each of the three fields. While both International Relations (IR) and International Studies (IS) scholars have contributed significantly to further broadening of both IR and IS in order to become increasingly “global,” other scholars have moved to create a new field of study called Global Studies (GS). This new field of GS developed in the 1990s as scholars from multiple disciplines began to study the many dimensions of globalization. While globalization remains an essentially contested concept, most scholars accept as uncontroversial that it refers to the many strings that connect the world such that pulling on one string in one place will make a change somewhere else. Globalization’s central dynamics include interconnectivity, reconfiguration of space and time, and enhanced mobility. GS is the only field that places the contested concept of globalization at the center of its intellectual initiative.
Information Technologies and the Global Political Economy
Jeffrey A. Hart
Information and communications technologies (ICTs) constitute a potentially transformative force in world politics. The industries associated with these technologies are growing rapidly, and some have argued that their importance in the overall economy at both the national and global levels increased in recent decades. ICT industries include both goods producers and service providers. ICT manufacturing includes all the goods-producing industries that use semiconductor components, such as consumer electronics, the computer industry, the telecommunications equipment industry, and industrial and military electronics. Within each of these groups, there are sub-industries that specialize in particular segments of the market. The services side of ICTs is also very large in terms of revenues and employment, and is growing rapidly. ICT services include, among others, the software industry, telecommunications services, data processing, and web-based information services. Many scholars argue that the importance of ICT industries goes beyond the revenues and employment generated in the industries themselves, however. ICTs may also be transformative in that they reduce transaction and communications costs in the overall economy. They make possible new forms of organization of human activity, especially as globalization and digitalization is progressing rapidly in the recent decades. Such processes have attracted the attention of international relations scholars, as they have been focusing on international regimes governing ICT-related activities in the past decade.
The Rise of Linear Borders
Since roughly the late 19th century, international borders have generally been characterized by linearity, or the appearance as a series of one-dimensional points, connected by straight lines. Prior to this, various kinds of frontiers existed globally, some of them being more linear than others, but most included some kind of formal ambiguity. International relations (IR) often takes for granted the historical process which brought about the global linearization of borders, culminating in the late 19th century and still ongoing in ocean spaces and in outer space. But because cross-border relations are the main substance of inquiry in IR, many theories and areas of study in IR contain some perspective on that process, at least implicitly.
The Dependency Research Programme: Its Latin American Origins and Global Contemporary Applications
The dependency research program (DRP) provides an understanding of global capitalism from the perspective of postcolonial societies. Central concepts in international studies, such as the core/periphery, unequal exchange, and dependent development, were developed by scholars working from the DRP perspective. Its core assumptions were shaped by the intellectual and political debates among critical Latin American scholars working in the 1960s and 1970s—a period marked by deep processes of sociopolitical change. Although the origins of the DRP are rooted in Latin America, its development and influence is global in scope. Its ideas and concepts inspired other approaches and fields of research such as the World System Theory and the studies on the developmental state, and its core assumptions informed the works of researchers in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Since the early 2000s and especially after the global financial crisis of 2008, new works have been published drawing on the insights of the DRP. Most of this scholarship has focused on topics such as dependency and global production networks, dependent financialization, dependency and European integration, and the new situations of dependency brought about by the rise of China. Although the DRP has been criticized for lacking clear microfoundations, this article makes the case that by bringing sociopolitical coalitions to the fore and by identifying specific mechanisms of dependency, the DRP will continue being a viable and vibrant approach to explain global inequalities in the contemporary global political economy.
Globalization and the Global Political Economy
Ronen Palan and Angus Cameron
Like many other social scientific terms, the exact meaning of globalization has always been unclear. It does not have a single point of origin, but emerged in the mid to late 1980s in several disciplines. In the general sense, globalization is the increasing interaction of people through the growth of the international flow of money, ideas, and culture. It first manifested in media and cultural studies as early as the 1970s—the spread of TV, telephones, information and communication technology (ICT), and other media provided an enduring image of the technological “shrinking” of space, a defining trait of globalization. Advances in the means of transport (such as the steam locomotive, steamship, jet engine, and container ships) and in telecommunications infrastructure (including the rise of the telegraph and its modern offspring, the Internet and mobile phones) have been major factors in globalization, generating further interdependence of economic and cultural activities. In connection to the study of globalization, global political economy (GPE), or international political economy (IPE), is an academic discipline that analyzes economics and international relations. As an interdisciplinary field, it draws on a few distinct academic schools, most notably economics, political economy, political science, sociology, history, and cultural studies. Other topics that command substantial attention among IPE scholars are international trade, international finance, financial crises, macroeconomics, development economics, and the balance of power between and among states and institutions.
International Studies and the Global Community: Transforming the Agenda
Heidi H. Hobbs, Harry I. Chernotsky, and Darin H. Van Tassell
International Studies majors evolved as a reflection of broader trends toward internationalizing higher education in the United States. However, International Studies has historically lacked an integrative framework. In particular, it has been described as approximating “all things international” and the point at which multiple disciplines converge. This variation and lack of identity have resulted in the random ways International Studies programs have developed in terms of their core curricula, faculty, and variety of institutional homes. The search for an International Studies paradigm that can unite the various disciplines comprising the field has spawned a debate over globalization between the so-called hyperglobalizers, who emphasize the progressive erosion of the borders that have differentiated national economies and sustained the centrality of nation-states, and their critics, who point to the resilience and political endurance of the nation-state system and the continuing capacity of states to regulate the global economy. Another view, representing the third wave of globalization theory, suggests that globalization is an extremely complex phenomenon. One key element that should frame International Studies curricula is to foster an understanding of the multiple perspectives guiding perceptions and visions across the world. The core curriculum should adress the following issues: political awareness, economic understanding, cultural competency, international cooperation, and global citizenship.
Labor Migrations and the Global Political Economy
M. Scott Solomon
Cross-border migration of people from one country to another has become an increasingly important feature of the globalizing world and it raises many important economic, social, and political issues. Migration is overwhelmingly from less developed to more developed countries and regions. Some of the factors affecting migration include: differences between wages for equivalent jobs; access to the benefits system of host countries plus state education, housing, and health care; and a desire to travel, build new skills and qualifications, and develop networks. On a more economic standpoint, studies show that labor migration provides various advantages. Migrants can provide complementary skills to domestic workers, which can raise the productivity of both. Migration can also be a driver of technological change and a fresh source of entrepreneurs. Much innovation comes from the work of teams of people who have different perspectives and experiences. Furthermore, a convenient way to accommodate individual actors in the global economy is to view them as economically dependent workers rather than as citizens capable of bringing about social change. The economic globalization process has modified this perspective to some extent, with greater recognition of the integration of a diverse, but nationally based, workforce into production patterns that can span several sovereign jurisdictions and world regions.
Formal diplomatic recognition of “middle powers” began with the Congress of Vienna, but the concept gained increasing currency after World War II because medium-sized countries like Canada used it to distinguish themselves from smaller states and secure a relatively favorable position in the postwar order. Early definitions of middle powers focused on states that lacked the system-wide influence of great powers but whose resources and capacities were recognized as being more significant than those of small states. The term’s exact meaning remains contested, but early definitions capture three important dimensions of the concept. First, it is inherently relational, from both a material perspective and a social perspective, and often used as a residual category. Some scholars define middle-power status using material factors like geographic size or population, while others emphasize social roles and recognition, but all of these approaches focus on a state’s position, roles, and status relative to other states. Second, the middle-power concept is both state-centric and practitioner-adjacent. National policymakers invoke, reify, and continually reinvent the concept to achieve specific foreign policy objectives. Third, the middle-power concept is bound up with wider debates about global order. Middle powers were long conceptualized as good international citizens and champions of the liberal world order. The rise of “emerging” middle powers raises questions about their orientation toward existing global institutions. Going forward, the most pressing questions about middle powers and their foreign policy behavior will be linked to broader conversations about geopolitical change and the future of contemporary global governance arrangements.