Towards a Global Polity

By Morten Ougaard; Richard Higgott | Go to book overview

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Global polity research

Characteristics and challenges

Morten Ougaard


Introduction

There is no clearly distinct group or school of research that identifies itself as 'global polity research'. Yet a number of scholarly contributions in international relations share some common characteristics that allow us to group them under this label. Most importantly, they share a focus on global politics as a much more interconnected and institutionalized whole than is recognized by more traditional state-centred perspectives. Most agree that even an embryonic world government or global state is still only a distant and uncertain, if not impossible and undesirable prospect, including those who introduce terminology to that effect (e.g. Luard 1990; Albrow 1996; Shaw 2000). Nevertheless, a seemingly growing number of researchers recognize that decisions are made and policies carried out with consequences for all or many countries through international and transnational structures and processes, and increasingly so. Consequently, researchers have begun to develop perspectives, concepts and theories that transcend the traditional distinction between domestic and international politics and direct attention to international and transnational political structures and processes in new ways. In this sense I would argue that a new research agenda has emerged. 'Global polity research' is used here to label these research efforts, whether or not the scholars in question would accept being pigeonholed as such.

This new agenda can and has been tackled in a variety of ways. Indeed, it is argued below that the global polity can be approached from a range of different paradigmatic positions and theoretical perspectives. Yet at a meta-theoretical level there is an agenda that poses common challenges, and in consequence all such perspectives have shared characteristics that set them apart from other approaches to international relations and world politics. This chapter will elaborate these points. First, two characteristics of the research topic that have important consequences for research strategy are pointed out, namely, that the global polity is both an emerging and singular phenomenon. It is argued that this has invited the application of concepts from comparative political analysis, and indeed general

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