Academic journal article Global Governance

Global Governance to the Rescue: Saving International Relations?

Academic journal article Global Governance

Global Governance to the Rescue: Saving International Relations?

Article excerpt

OUR PURPOSE IN THIS ARTICLE IS TO PROVOKE AND PROPOSE. WE AIM TO PROVOKE a reaction from our colleagues who, at worst, have not yet awakened to the fact that international relations (IR) teeters on the edge of an abyss of irrelevance or, at best, have yet to be spurred to refresh a field much in need of revitalization. IR as an academic pursuit has become disparate and fragmented. Those of us in the field have ceased to pursue greater clarity in the way that we understand the world around us. Furthermore, we have failed as agents of change; that is, as purveyors of opinion and proposals about a better and fairer world order. As such, we no longer serve our students and those practitioners who seek our advice--or for those of us who take on policy jobs, we no longer push out the envelope of what is considered acceptable. We too seldom offer a set of tools for understanding how the world works, a grounding on which socially beneficial policy can be created, and a framework for thinking about change.

How we have arrived at this point is easier to explain than moving beyond it. We nonetheless have a proposal: to move back toward the future--to the table of grand disciplinary debate--by applying the not yet fully utilized concept of global governance.

Our argument unfolds in three parts. In the first part, we outline why and how IR teeters on the edge of an abyss. Here, we show that the field's precariousness is theoretical, methodological, pedagogical, and linguistic. In the second part, we offer a proposal for moving beyond the fragmentation and atomization that afflicts international relations. We suggest here that one way of encouraging reengagement is to return to debating grand questions that used to be the sustenance of IR. Questions come no grander than asking how the world is governed, how we have ended up with the global governance that we currently have, and what kind of order we ought to put in place to correct the myriad ills that afflict humanity and the planet that we so willfully neglect. Indeed, understanding the precise shape of the current world order is perhaps the fundamental question of international relations, but one on which we have tended to turn our backs in recent years. (1) Shunning big questions of world order has certainly not resulted because we have solved the riddle of how the world is governed or the concomitant puzzles of how power and authority are exercised, what the consequences of particular formations of organization and governance are, and how we might best engage in meaningful reform.

In the third part of this article, we argue that global governance--appro-priately and specifically framed to make it fit for purpose--offers an opportunity to return to these as well as other questions and, in so doing, to reinvigorate our fragmented and atomized field. We are, of course, not blind to the problems that global governance itself brings. It has rightly been criticized as a catchall term. Lawrence Finkelstein asked in the first volume of this journal, "what is global governance?" He provocatively replied, "virtually anything." (2) What we suggest, however, is that questions of global governance can be a catalyst for a rejuvenated field as long as we resist the temptation to fall back into our old habits of asking and answering questions within the intellectual silos that we now inhabit. We conclude by showing how we can move fruitfully beyond this to reclaim global governance's potential as a critical scholarly endeavor and--in our role as provocateurs--as the savior of IR.

The Edge of the Abyss

The field of IR--and those of us within it--should be proud of its success. Barely thirty years ago, "international relations" was a vague appellation that referred to those areas of political science that dealt with politics "beyond the border," or "over there," or "in foreign climes." Those who practiced it became members of our faculties, but they were somehow different--they did African and Asian politics; the communist world; and, in North America at least, European integration. …

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