Academic journal article Ethics & International Affairs

Deliberation and Global Governance: Liberal, Cosmopolitan, and Critical Perspectives

Academic journal article Ethics & International Affairs

Deliberation and Global Governance: Liberal, Cosmopolitan, and Critical Perspectives

Article excerpt

Recent decades have seen a proliferation of proposals within political theory and international relations to reform global governance institutions along democratic lines. (1) It is, though, increasingly possible to discern another related but distinct trend: proposals to reform these institutions by making them more deliberative. (2) In many cases these two aspirations--to enhance the democratic and deliberative character of global governance--go hand in glove, particularly when democracy itself is understood in deliberative terms. However, the sheer number of approaches that seek to open up governance to deliberative reason, contestation, or some other mode of public communication, coupled with the fact that not all of these approaches are characterized by their advocates as "democratic," suggests that it may be fruitful to focus specifically on the theme of deliberation. To that end, we address the emerging nexus between deliberation and global governance.

Three distinct approaches to deliberative global politics can be identified, which we label liberal, cosmopolitan, and critical. Although there is substantial diversity and disagreement within each paradigm, these labels mark out recognizable, albeit porous, boundaries in the intellectual terrain. Liberals aim to establish a shared basis for ongoing public reasoning among international actors, usually in the form of a minimum range of human rights, but do not equate this deliberative praxis with any broad-based democratization of global governance. Cosmopolitans, by contrast, are more optimistic about using deliberation as a basis for achieving democracy at global--or at least transnational--levels. And while critical approaches share this optimism, they focus more specifically on the democratic potential of deliberation within global civil society and its public spheres.

In what follows, we provide a critical discussion of each approach. Our aim is to map an emerging literature that is rich and promising, as well as complex and diverse. We highlight the strengths and weaknesses in liberal, cosmopolitan, and critical approaches with a view to encouraging their ongoing development. Our suggestion is that, despite their differences, all three approaches unite in identifying deliberation as a vital tool of critical reflection in the global realm. The principal interest that these deliberative approaches should hold for academic study and political practice is, therefore, that they foreground the currently underdetermined state of knowledge about legitimacy and power in global governance, while developing a theoretically rich and operationally relevant approach to dealing with that indeterminacy. In this way, we hope to provide a fulcrum for theorists of deliberative democracy, on the one hand, and scholars and practitioners of global governance, on the other, to openly contest both the communicative values and the political makeup of contemporary global governance. (3)

Such a venture is no doubt limited by its openness. Without a fixed idea of the "correct" standard(s) of deliberation, the scholar of the politics of global governance could well question the practical use of such reflective ventures. Equally, without a fixed idea of the case at hand--of either the deliberative principles or a neat definition of global governance--the philosopher could well wonder where their much prized "elegant argument" will come from. But, on our reading, the emerging nexus between deliberation and global governance demands that such disciplinary blinkers are removed (for the moment at least) in the hope of developing a politically relevant and philosophically reflective conversation. And the requirement for such a conversation can be seen in the complexity and nature of global governance itself.

Global governance "speak" has proliferated in recent years. In policy-making circles, governance emerged as both a technical managerial discourse of international organizations and, in the goal of "good governance," as a normative ideal for developing states to aspire to. …

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