International Financial Governance under Stress: Global Structures versus National Imperatives

By Geoffrey R.D Underhill; Xiaoke Zhang | Go to book overview

15

The legitimacy of international
organisations and the future
of global governance

JEAN-MARC COICAUD AND LUIZ A. PEREIRA DA SILVA

One way to examine global governance – that is, its present and future situation is to analyse international organisations (IOs). Given their important position and mandate in the international arena, they provide a convenient entry point of analysis. However, their number, variety of purposes and contradictions provide strong evidence against a vision of international socialisation seen as a natural and smooth process of progressive integration of states into a peaceful international society under the guidance of universal values and rules. The tension between goals, charts, intentions and realpolitik, far from being an object of naive lamentation or hypocritical contempt, is precisely the interesting empirical material with which one can study the components of their legitimacy. The main purpose of this chapter is to examine the legitimacy of international organisations where this tension plays a visible and important role. The examination will not only provide a good indication of their standing and evolution but also allow us to take stock of the present situation and explore the future of the international system and global governance.

This chapter contends that the legitimacy of IOs stems from an awareness and an acceptance of the need of mechanisms and institutions of global regulation for the common good. In turn, this awareness feeds a political rhetoric and a system of ethical values which are then ‘operationalised’ by the political ruling elites in nation states. In short, the Wilsonian principles after the Second World War became accepted by an increasingly large number of nation states, despite (and perhaps because of) the Cold War. While there was competition between ‘socialist’ and ‘capitalist’ systems to determine the ‘best’ economic system, all nations agreed that stability has to be preserved. There is more: the legitimacy of IOs also arises from what IOs do and how they do it. The key issue is the recognition that IOs carry a body of technical knowledge, international rules and procedures that can prove to be effective. Thus the legitimacy of IOs is also dependent on the interaction between the Wilsonian ideals and the observable capacity of IOs to enforce them. A corollary of our thesis is that a crisis of legitimacy in IOs emerges as soon as the perception of a divide between affirmed

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