Political science as industry standard
27/05/2007 – by D+C | E+Z
The term “global governance” is one of today’s buzzwords of political science. The peace researcher Ernst-Otto Czempiel called it “governance without government“: the coordination of global, regional and national rules into a new set of rules to govern a new world, including the global economy.
One of the core questions in discussions on global governance is how the different rules for world trade, investment protection and workers’ rights, with their wide variety of participants, could interact so as to solve global problems.
This study by Holger Mürle promises to deliver an “empirical analysis” of such interaction. However, in reality the book – at the same time a doctoral thesis – rather raises the question of what exactly should be understood under “empiricism”. This is all very interesting from a philosophy of science viewpoint, but as far as understanding the effectiveness and opportunities of global rules is concerned, it has little relevance.
The clear structure and explicit questions set out in the book are initially impressive. Do the rules which stipulate liberalisation really dominate? Are they in fact as fragmented and incoherent as generally assumed? However, despite the clear definitions, Mürle fails to give an empirical response to these questions.
Instead he provides an account of the method he used, broken down to the last detail, with one definition after another. After finishing this tedious description, you could be forgiven for believing that the work of political science is comparable to that of defining standards for industry products.
Analysis of the WTO regime, the UN Global Compact or the OECD anti-money laundering rules, for example, does not venture past descriptions of the relevant standards and participants. The impact and political weight of these widely divergent rules remain unresolved.
However, it is not plausible to place international commercial law with its binding dispute resolution process on the same level as a purely declarative instrument such as the Global Compact.
Many of the conclusions are predictable. It may well be that some rules tighten controls while others dismantle them, but what foolows from that observation? The argument that non-government actors don’t play a role in setting the rules is unconvincing. Non-governmental organisations certainly cannot set binding standards, but what would international rules-setting by states and international organisations look like without civil society lobbying and campaigns?
The book provides at least a comprehensive overview of important agreements and institutions on the social and ecological aspects of world trade, and on stabilising the world financial system. It is a useful tool of reference on the subject. But from an analytical point of view the study is disappointing.