World Rule: Accountability, Legitimacy, and the Design of Global Governance

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Dilemmas from climate change to financial meltdowns make it clear that global interconnectedness is the norm in the twenty-first century. As a result, global governance organizations (GGOs)—from the World Trade Organization to the Forest Stewardship Council—have taken on prominent roles in the management of international affairs. These GGOs create and promulgate rules to address a host of pressing problems. But as World Rule reveals, they struggle to meet two challenges: building authority despite limited ability to impose sanctions and maintaining legitimacy while satisfying the demands of key constituencies whose support is essential to a global rulemaking regime.

Through a novel empirical study of twenty-five GGOs, Jonathan GS Koppell provides a clearer picture of the compromises within and the competition among these influential institutions by focusing attention on their organizational design. Analyzing four aspects of GGO organization in depth—representation and administration, the rulemaking process, adherence and enforcement, and interest group participation—Koppell describes variation systemically, identifies patterns, and offers explanations that link GGO design to the fundamental challenge of accountability in global governance.

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Editorial Reviews

Rawi Abdelal

“Jonathan Koppell’s World Rule is essential reading for scholars, managers, and policy makers interested in the rules that underpin the global economy. Koppell authoritatively and convincingly explains the origins of the dense network of global rules and elucidates their effects on both markets and practices. His theoretical insights into the politics of organizations are profound.”
Ian Hurd

“This ambitious book puts the broad universe of international rulemaking into perspective—from Internet names to banking regulation to international trade. Koppell makes a sensitive argument for the importance of accountability in all manner of organizations that make international decisions and regulations. His detailed accounts of specific international standards form the foundation for a compelling argument that legitimacy and accountability are at the heart of international governance.”
Todd LaPorte
“This study of ‘global governance organizations’ is very important—both in analytical and policy terms. It targets an increasingly complex, interdependent institutional domain that weaves public, private and nongovernmental sectors together in ways that have been largely invisible to and confounding for students of public organizations. As unique as it is forward looking, this book brings a wide-ranging, powerful, conceptual, and empirical approach to expansive and problematic institutional phenomena. No one in the profession is more aptly situated in experience and conceptual acuity to advance our understanding and policy humility concerning ‘world rule.’ A must for students of complex organizations and public policy.”

"A serious and important contribution to the understanding of the growing emergence of world government. . . . This is an essential read for followers of international relations theory."--Choice

"A serious and important contribution to the understanding of the growing emergence of world government. . . . This is an essential read for followers of international relations theory."--Choice
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226450988
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2010
  • Pages: 392
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan GS Koppell is Director of the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University where he also holds the Lattie and Elva Coor Presidential Chair. He is the author of The Politics of Quasi-Government: Hybrid Organizations and the Dynamics of Bureaucratic Control and was for ten years on the faculty of the Yale School of Management.

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Read an Excerpt

World Rule

Accountability, Legitimacy, and the Design of Global Governance


Copyright © 2010 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-45099-5

Chapter One

Introduction: The Organization of Global Rulemaking

Leaders gathered at the Group of Twenty (G-20) summit in April 2009 did not emerge with a plan to reorder the world economy as some had hoped or feared. In the wake of the global financial crisis, however, the participants did agree that the interconnectedness of the financial system necessitates global oversight. The form and function of international institutions was vague, as one would expect, but national regulatory efforts seemed futile in the absence of global coordination. Only a month later, the outbreak and quick spread of swine flu demonstrated that financial calamities are not unique in this regard.

Many of the most pressing problems confronting humanity require a global response (Weiss and Daws 2007, 4; Held and McGrew 2002). The causes and effects of climate change are distributed worldwide. Political unrest spills easily across borders, shaking seemingly stable institutions. Fluctuations in commodity prices cause unforeseen ripples in the markets for essential foods in seemingly remote corners of the world. Natural disasters often prompt mass emigrations, taxing the resources of neighboring countries. This is the unavoidable reality of the twenty-first century.

And yet, even as the need for global institutions is widely recognized, skepticism regarding international organizations remains deep. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly is routinely charged with incompetence and fecklessness (e.g., Bayefsky 2007; Hawkins et al. 2006, 3). And perhaps most damningly, it is dismissed as irrelevant (Morgenthau and Thompson 1993; Waltz 1993; Gilpin 2002; Huntington 1973). Because the UN and other international organizations lack the coercive tools needed to compel obedience, critics say, they depend upon the goodwill of those they ostensibly control. This is a polite way of calling them useless.

Strangely, international organizations are concomitantly chastised for their unchecked power and lack of accountability, a critique that bundles several complaints in a single accusation (Chesterman 2008). The International Monetary Fund (IMF), an institution singled out by the G-20 leaders as a linchpin of future global financial oversight, is a frequent target of protesters' ire. Critics express unhappiness with the inaccessibility of the policymaking process to the general public, the apparent imbalance of influence among members, and the opacity of operations. It is often said that international organizations suffer from a "democratic deficit" (Keohane and Nye 2003; Falk and Strauss 2001; Verweij and Josling 2003; Porter 2001; Bodansky 1999). This phrase, seemingly linked genetically with global governance, is an all-encompassing indictment.

The persistence of both charges is puzzling but informative. How can global governance organizations (GGOs) be simultaneously accused of irrelevance and injustice? If international organizations don't matter, why would anyone care whether they are unaccountable? The criticisms may reflect poor performance by international organizations, but more profoundly, they reveal the multiplicity of demands and pressures facing the organizations generating rules for the world (Barnett and Finnemore 1999). In a single editorial regarding the requirements of a new global financial regulator, for example, Sir Howard Davies (2008) made the following two points:

[T]here is a big problem of legitimacy. The Financial Stability Forum, which sits at the center of the system (without much formal authority), includes the Netherlands and Australia but not China or India. Ten of the 13 members of the Basel Committee, which sets bank capital ratios, are from Europe; there is only one Asian member. The crisis presents a good opportunity to make these bodies more representative. If we do not allow China to participate in making the rules governing finance, how can we expect it to obey them?

[T]he new system needs to move faster. It took the Basel Committee the better part of a decade to design the Basel II standards that banks are just beginning to implement. That's right: These guidelines on leverage and capital are already out of date before coming into service. Regulatory clocks must be speeded up. (Davies 2008, emphasis added)

Each point is compelling, but in combination they are highly problematic. Including a broader range of constituencies is normatively and politically appealing, but it obviously will not speed up the standard-generating process. Indeed, it would almost certainly slow things down quite a bit.

Such internally contradictory imperatives make for a thorny administration problem, one that cannot be solved without leaving some (or all) interested parties less than completely satisfied. The tension between the normative expectations facing governance organizations and the practical demands of building and maintaining authority in the transnational context is the central theme of this book. The undemocratic features of global governance organizations are cast not as unsightly blemishes to be surgically removed but as evolved attributes that allow global rulemaking organizations to survive and function effectively in a difficult environment. To some, the implications of this conclusion may be unpalatable. Bureaucratic adaptations are required that are not merely unfamiliar but potentially at odds with some core beliefs regarding the requirements of legitimate democratic governance, including equity, impartiality, and disinterestedness (Rothstein and Teorell 2008). Effective international organizations will never fully satisfy normative expectations cultivated in the domestic context or even those moderated for the transnational context (Barnett and Finnemore 1999; Buchanan and Keohane 2006; Hurd 1999; Dahl 1999; Keohane 2002). Global rulemakers that do meet traditional norms of democratic legitimacy will struggle to wield meaningful authority. This is the uncomfortable reality of global governance.

Interlocking Questions

Two seemingly independent issues are addressed in this book. First, why do global rulemaking bodies look the way they do? There are many organizations undertaking the fundamentally similar task of crafting international rules, and yet they look very different from each other. How do we account for variation in their organizational design and rulemaking processes? Second, why do all of these organizations seem incapable of operating in a manner that does not engender criticism for accountability shortcomings? It turns out that these questions are inextricably linked. The same forces that shape GGOs also make accountability elusive. Indeed, the architecture of global governance is both a response to and cause of the accountability challenge.

The emphasis on the organizational design and administration of contemporary GGOs differentiates this study from many contemporary treatments of international organizations. Particularly distinctive is the idea that an understanding of accountability for global governance organizations can be broadened through an analysis of their structure. Most discussions of accountability for international organizations emphasize one of two approaches. One, international relations scholars often argue that normative expectations imported from the domestic arena are inappropriate in the transnational context. So they offer a novel or modified definition of "accountable" or "democratic" better suited to the environment. Two, analysts of accountability then offer organizational designs that will better satisfy normative expectations of democratic legitimacy (Keohane and Nye 2003; Grant and Keohane 2005; Benner et al. 2004). Such approaches treat accountability as a problem to be solved. We simply need to build a better mousetrap, so to speak, to get accountable global governance.

Here, the approach to understanding the accountability shortcomings of GGOs comes from the opposite direction. Existing organizations are examined with the goal of determining why these entities fall short of accountability expectations. By understanding variation in the design of GGOs, it is argued, the root imperatives causing the accountability deficits will be uncovered.

The conclusion offered herein, that the alleged failures of accountability spring directly from the inherent conflicts among the demands of global governance, is based on an empirical examination of twenty-five functioning GGOs. This set of organizations has been limited to bodies that develop, promulgate, and implement rules on a global scale. Treating this heterogeneous subpopulation of international organizations, essentially regulatory in character, as a class is a distinctive feature of this study. To some, it may seem implausible to herd specialized agencies of the United Nations into the same corral with nongovernmental standards-generating bodies, but the observed variation in approach to representation, rulemaking, enforcement, and interest group participation does indeed cut across conventional dividing lines.

Methodologically, the study combines quantitative and qualitative approaches. A systematic coding of structural and procedural features of each global rulemaking organization was carried out to build a unique dataset. This information is complemented by qualitative data gathered through interviews, providing a sense of the dynamics within the realm of each organization. In a sense, this study assumes an evolutionary perspective. Inferences are drawn from the collective characteristics of the population that has survived and thrived. It is not argued that all extant global governance organizations are, by definition, optimal. Rather, the goal is to ascertain whether patterns in the distribution of characteristics reveal drivers of organizational design.

The first three chapters lay the foundation. Two theoretical cornerstones are addressed at the outset, the many meanings of accountability and the tension between organizational legitimacy and authority. The empirical analysis is set up in chapter 3, which explains the selection of organizations included in the sample and introduces the key variables. In chapters 4–7, variation in GGO approaches to structure, rulemaking, adherence, and interest group participation are examined to uncover any patterns and determine whether the accountability challenge offers an explanation. In each chapter, analysis of the observations of GGO characteristics allows the identification of general GGO "types," providing a sense of the alternative approaches to balancing competing imperatives, different solutions to the accountability challenge. This analytic approach is carried through to the final chapter, wherein three overarching models of global governance are identified drawing upon the types identified in chapters 4–7. These three models of global governance—classical GGOs, cartel GGOs, and symbiotic GGOs—combine features in different ways to meet variants of the shared accountability challenge. Thus this book reveals similarity where it may not have been apparent and offers an underlying theory to explain variation: GGOs must create and implement rules to satisfy highly varied constituents, keep members (nation-states and/or nongovernmental entities) committed to participation, and do both without the coercive tools associated with the governmental bodies typically charged with such tasks.

It is important to be clear about what this book is not. This is not a replacement for the previous work on the international organizations discussed in these pages. For each individual organization included in this book, there are enlightening studies that dig into their history and relevant policy matters. The goal is not to provide a better understanding of any single organization. Readers who know a lot about one of the twenty-five included organizations are not likely to learn anything new about that single organization. The insight offered here concerns the entire class of GGOs. The dynamics of each GGO are undeniably unique in ways that will be glossed over here, just as studies of human behavior obscure the differences that make any generalization inapplicable to some individuals. Experts on, say, the World Intellectual Property Organization or the International Accounting Standards Board may justifiably take issue with the generalizations applied to "their" entities because this analysis attempts to draw comparisons among very different organizations.

Neither is this book an exhaustive digestion and response to the substantial international relations literature regarding international organizations or global governance. Instead, it provides a different theoretical lens through which empirical findings are analyzed, an organizational perspective that is underrepresented in the contemporary literature. Other frameworks of interest are engaged when appropriate but it is not a goal here to substantiate or debunk any one theory. This book complements multiple theoretical approaches to the study of global governance and offers data to test the hypotheses of those who have examined these issues.

Finally, although an explanation for the accountability failures of global governance organizations is offered, the book is neither defeatist nor a rationalization of accountability shortfalls. It offers a realistic assessment of GGOs against a backdrop that accurately reflects the constraints they face. It is a caution in the face of efforts to draw blueprints for more accountable global governance. The undemocratic features of global governance organizations are revealed by the analysis contained herein to be not random attributes but key elements of their strategies for survival and effectiveness. To some extent, in other words, GGOs are unaccountable by necessity. If meeting the demands of effective global governance compromises democratic administration, those demanding more transnational accountability will be disappointed or satisfied only by a very weak incarnation of global governance (Held 2004; McGrew 2002b).

This chapter is divided into three sections. First, contemporary global governance is sketched and a case is made for its significance. Second, the case is made for examining global governance from an organizational perspective. Third, the logic of global governance is explored as a foundation for discussion of the architecture of GGOs.

The Emerging Reality of Global Governance

Protesters may assail GGOs for their perceived failures to consider the interests of the world's citizens, but many academics merely shrug their shoulders. In the world of political science, the principal vice of GGOs is irrelevance (Kerwer 2005). Realists and their kin view international politics as fundamentally about relationships among states. National governments remain the key actors and to the extent that GGOs have any consequence, it is epiphenomenal (Drezner 2007). That is, the outcomes created by GGOs are merely the operationalization of bargains among powerful states (Ikenberry and Kupchan 1990; Mearsheimer 1995; Waltz 1993; Huntington 1973).

There is evidence to support this perspective, including this study of global governance. There are no proclamations of a postnational world to be found in these pages! Still, the state-centric view seems overly reductionist. It assumes that national governments are unitary actors with the time, ability, and desire to create and impose preferred positions across the full spectrum of policy domains. Or, in the alternative, it assumes that the effects of rules generated by global governance organizations are utterly trivial, mere details within broad parameters set by the world's great powers. Both assumptions are misplaced (Keohane and Nye 1974).


Excerpted from World Rule by JONATHAN GS KOPPELL Copyright © 2010 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations

CHAPTER 1. The Organization of Global Rulemaking
The Emerging Reality of Global Governance
What the Design of Global Governance Organizations Tells Us
The Logic of Global Governance
Plan of the Book

CHAPTER 2. Accountability and Legitimacy-Authority Tension in Global Governance
Five Concepts of Accountability
Disentangling Legitimacy and Authority
Complementary and Conflicting Demands
What Makes GGOs Different?

CHAPTER 3. Introduction to the GGO Sample and Their Core Characteristics
Sorting Out the Universe of Organizations
GGOs Included in This Study
Core Characteristics of GGOs

CHAPTER 4. Structure and Administration of GGOs
Six Variations in GGO Structure

CHAPTER 5. Rulemaking in Global Governance Organizations
Variation in GGO Rulemaking
Patterns of Global Rulemaking

CHAPTER 6. The Riddle of Global Adherence
Variations in Global Adherence Regime
Patterns of GGO Adherence
Implications of Adherence Approach

CHAPTER 7. Interest Groups and Global Governance
Transnational Interest Group Variation
Patterns of Interest Group Variation
GGO Authority and the Satisfaction of Interest Groups

CHAPTER 8. Cooperation and Competition in Global Governance
Global Governance as a Competitive Marketplace

CHAPTER 9. Conclusion: Models of Global Governance and Accountability
Putting It All Together: Three Models of Global Governance

APPENDIX A. List of Interview Subjects

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