ABSTRACT

Financial and economic crisis, the threats from disease pandemics, preventing climate change and protecting individuals from violence, amongst many other things, all seem to require some form of global co-operation: some attempt to manage, regulate and control these issues and processes that threaten states, economies, societies and individuals. In some ways this is not novel. The idea that global actors ought to find ways to deal with common challenges has been a long-standing argument within international relations, and there are some important historical examples where forms of institutionalised co-operation have been developed. But in the contemporary period there seems to be a growth in the number of these challenges as a result of both the increasing integration of the global economy and the growing significance of new kinds of actors on the world stage. The ongoing global financial crisis demonstrates this very clearly. In recent years it has become commonplace to label efforts to manage these issues forms of ‘global governance’. While the term has become very popular in the academic study of international politics and in international public policy circles, there are intense disputes about what it might mean, what is involved in it, whether it really works and, in the end, what we should make of it. Is global governance something to be embraced as the best solution to global problems in a complex global age, or something to be feared as it erodes state sovereignty, and privileges some actors and some values above others? This book makes no pretence to have provided any simple answers to these questions. What it does do is bring together a series of essays that explore the different ways in which events, issues and processes are managed, regulated and controlled in contemporary international politics, in the belief that a collection of this kind provides some necessary material for reflecting on these larger questions. The rest of this introduction tries to provide some background and context for the case studies that follow. It looks at the rise of global governance as a term of both academic and international public policy debate, at what might be meant by the term and at some of the questions that arise when we start to think about its significance in contemporary international politics.