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 The study of global governance has expanded and superseded traditional approaches to international relations that focus on relations among states.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.
The English School, or society of states approach, is a threefold method for understanding how the world operates. According to English School logic, there are three distinct spheres at play in international politics, and two of these are international society and world society—the third being international system. On the one hand, international society (Hugo Grotius) is about the institutionalization of shared interest and identity amongst states, and rationalism puts the creation and maintenance of shared norms, rules, and institutions at the centre of international relations (IR) theory. This position has some parallels to regime theory, but is much deeper, having constitutive rather than merely instrumental implications. On the other hand, world society (Immanuel Kant) takes individuals, non-state organizations, and the global population as a whole as the focus of global societal identities and arrangements, and revolutionism puts transcendence of the state system at the centre of IR theory. Revolutionism is mostly about forms of universalist cosmopolitanism. This position has some parallels to transnationalism but carries a much more foundational link to normative political theory. International society has been the main focus of English School thinking, and the concept is quite well developed and relatively clear, whereas world society is the least well developed of the English School concepts and has not yet been clearly or systematically articulated.
Critical geopolitics is concerned with the geographical assumptions and designations that underlie the making of world politics. The goal of critical geopolitics is to elucidate and explain how political actors spatialize international politics and represent it as a “world” characterized by particular types of places. Eschewing the traditional question of how geography does or can influence politics, critical geopolitics foregrounds “the politics of the geographical specification of politics.” By questioning the assumptions that underpin geopolitical claims, critical geopolitics has evolved from its roots in the poststructuralist, feminist, and postcolonial critique of traditional geopolitics into a major subfield of mainstream human geography. This essay shows that much of critical geopolitics problematizes the statist conceptions of power in social sciences, a conceptualization that John Agnew has called the “territorial trap.” Along with political geography more generally, critical geopolitics argues that spatiality is not confined to territoriality. The discursive construction of social reality is shaped by specific political agents, including intellectuals of statecraft. In addition to the scholarship that draws empirically on the rhetorical strategies of intellectuals of statecraft, there is also a rich body of work on popular geopolitics, and more specifically on resistance geopolitics or anti-geopolitics. Another emerging field of inquiry within critical geopolitics is feminist geopolitics, which shifts the focus from the operations of elite agents to the constructions of political subjects in everyday political practice. Clearly, the heterogeneity of critical geopolitics is central to its vibrancy and success.
Karen A. Rasler and William R. Thompson
There are various approaches, both simple and complex, to systemic conflict. The simpler ones include balance of power, polarity, concentration, polarization, and democratization. More complex systemic approaches to conflict range from power transition and relative power cycle to leadership long cycle and world-systems. Some of these programs continue to generate scholarly interest and produce new findings, while others have been beset with little activity. Yet, none of these research programs have captured enough scholarly attention to be fully “mainstreamed.” That is, they have not been co-opted as central interpretations of international politics. The theoretical literature on simpler approaches to systemic conflict persists today but was more common prior to the mid-1970s. Since systemic analyses were not well developed in the first two or three decades after World War II, scholars grappled with what systemic analyses meant. One question is whether we should differentiate between a global system and its multiple regional subsystems. Complex systemic research programs have declined in analytical popularity after peaking in the 1980s, in large part because perceptions of the world situation changed in the 1990s. Whether “traditional” system dynamics will regain its lost status in light of the globalization processes perceived to be at work remains unclear, but there is cause for optimism about the future contributions of systemic theory as research programs in this area have expanded to include new topics and issues, along with new theoretical developments in other areas that will be pertinent to systemic perspectives.
The World Ocean, the interconnected system of oceans and major seas on Earth, faces a major governance failure that has produced a series of catastrophic systemic changes to the marine food web and the water column across all scales. As each era passes, ocean sustainability has become less of a priority compared to economic extraction, though there were many institutions forged in the post-War period, and these are explained, concluding with the development of a purposefully weak effort to protect biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdictions. Fisheries are systematically mismanaged, and there are now serious concerns for large-scale, even global, fishery collapses. Longstanding pollution issues like oil pollution have improved, but a new class of “invisibles”—carbon dioxide, heat, nitrogen, and plastics—offer growing threats. The solution to these problems must be integrated, comprehensive, and ambitious—something the Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction language does not promise.
Kyle M. Lascurettes and Michael Poznansky
International relations scholars of all stripes have long been interested in the idea of “international order.” At the most general level, international order entails some level of regularity, predictability, and stability in the ways that actors interact with one another. At a level of higher specificity, however, international orders can vary along a number of dimensions (or fault lines). This includes whether order is thin or thick, premised on position or principles, regional or global in scope, and issue specific or multi-issue in nature. When it comes to how orders emerge, the majority of existing explanations can be categorized according to two criteria and corresponding set of questions. First, are orders produced by a single actor or a select subset of actors that are privileged and powerful, or are they created by many actors that are roughly equal and undifferentiated in capabilities and status? Second, do orders come about from the purposive behavior of particular actors, or are they the aggregated result of many behaviors and interactions that produce an outcome that no single actor anticipated? The resulting typology yields four ideal types of order explanations: hegemonic (order is intentional, and power is concentrated), centralized (order is spontaneous, but power is concentrated), negotiated (order is intentional, but power is dispersed), and decentralized (order is spontaneous, and power is dispersed). Finally, it is useful to think about the process by which order can transform or break down as a phenomenon that is at least sometimes distinct from how orders emerge in the first place. The main criterion in this respect is the rapidity with which orders transform or break down. More specifically, they can change or fall apart quickly through revolutionary processes or more gradually through evolutionary ones.
Ronald Deibert and Rafal Rohozinski
The internet is commonly defined as “a worldwide network of computer networks that use the TCP/IP network protocols to facilitate data transmission and exchange.” A related term is “cyberspace,” which has a broader connotation suggestive of the virtual worlds that emerge from the internet, including chat rooms, three-dimension game environments, and online forums. A primary feature of internet governance is self-regulation. From content to protocols to addressing schemes, numerous networked forms of self-regulation have helped govern the internet. One of the issues of significance to internet governance has to do with the governance processes associated with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the politics associated with the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS). Other questions arising from internet governance include those relating to cybercrime, internet security, surveillance and privacy, and the idea of network neutrality. One problem that needs to be addressed with regard to internet governance is that there is no single regime for internet governance inasmuch as there are several multiple and overlapping governance domains—what W. H. Dutton calls the “mosaic” of internet governance. Future research should focus on whether to consolidate around a single regime with a single global governing body, as well as how to control the “arms race” on the internet.