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  • Cited by 35
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

1 - Who governs the globe?


Academics and policymakers speak frequently about global governance but do so in the passive voice. They treat governance as structure or process. Global governance is “the sum of organizations, policy instruments, financing mechanisms, rules, procedures, and norms” or “the collective effort to identify, understand, and address worldwide problems that are beyond the capacity of individual States” (Najam et al. 2006; Club of Rome n.d.). Global governance is something that happens; no one, apparently, actually does it. Analysts rarely talk about global governors and have not made the agents in this process central to their analysis.

To the extent that international relations (IR) scholars do think about who global “governors” might be, they think about states. States, after all, are widely recognized political authorities. Their job is to govern. And they do govern, or try to, in many areas of global activity. They sign interstate treaties, create international law, and promulgate wide-ranging rules to initiate, regulate, and “govern” activity in desired ways.

States are by no means alone in this endeavor, however. The global policy arena is filled with a wide variety of actors – international organizations, corporations, professional associations, advocacy groups, and the like – seeking to “govern” activity in issue areas they care about. These actors are not merely occupying global structures. They are active agents who want new structures and rules (or different rules) to solve problems, change outcomes, and transform international life. Governors are thus engaged in processes that are both quintessentially political and dynamic, even transformational.

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