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About this book

The world currently faces a number of challenges that no single country can solve. Whether it is managing a crisis-prone global economy, maintaining peace and stability, or trying to do something about climate change, there are some problems that necessitate collective action on the part of states and other actors. Global governance would seem functionally necessary and normatively desirable, but it is proving increasingly difficult to provide. This accessible introduction to, and analysis of, contemporary global governance explains what it is and the obstacles to its realization. Paying particular attention to the possible decline of American influence and the rise of China and a number of other actors, Mark Beeson explains why cooperation is proving difficult, despite its obvious need and desirability.

This is an essential text for undergraduate and postgraduate students studying Global Governance or International Organizations, and is also important reading for those working on Political Economy, International Development and Globalization.

Table of Contents

1. The Forerunners of Global Governance: A Brief History

Abstract
There are two initial things to consider in any discussion of global governance: first, can we agree on what it actually means? Second, even if it is a meaningful concept, when did it actually begin and how has it evolved over time? The next chapter takes up the theoretical debate in more detail, but for now it is worth repeating my provisional definition: the conscious, goal-oriented collective actions of state and nonstate actors to develop new responses to problems that are both transnational and beyond the capacity of individual governments or organizations to resolve. The rest of this chapter is dedicated to trying to establish when a more global approach to governance began to emerge, and how and to what extent a concomitant sense of interconnectedness among political actors has developed.
Mark Beeson

2. The Theoretical Debate

Abstract
Although some readers and many policymakers may be incredulous, theoretical debates about global governance are important for two principal reasons. First, given that the object of theory is to help us understand the world, theoretical developments are potentially illuminating. It might seem unnecessary to point this out, but one of the most common complaints about IR theory in particular is that it is not ‘relevant’ and/or accessible. This is possibly less of a problem for more narrowly conceived theories of governance, which are often self-consciously oriented toward problem-solving, but even debates about governance are not immune from criticisms about introspective self-absorption and irrelevance. But as Chris Reus-Smit (2012: 530) points out, ‘it is unclear why we should be any more concerned about this than physicists or economists, who take theory, even high theory, to be the bedrock of advancement in knowledge’.
Mark Beeson

3. The World the United States Made

Abstract
Any discussion of contemporary practices of governance at a global level has to pay particular attention to the role played by the United States since the Second World War. Whatever one may think about its impact, the international order that emerged half a century or so ago was one that was primarily made in America. ‘American hegemony’ has, for better or worse, been a decisive force in international affairs for longer than most people who are alive today can remember. Consequently, and without wanting to plunge into unfathomable epistemological waters, it is impossible to have an entirely ‘objective’ view about the United States and its hegemonic role in international affairs. Nevertheless, if we want to understand what is at stake as a consequence of the possible decline of the United States, the repudiation of its former leadership role under the erratic stewardship of Donald Trump, or the rise of China, then we need to unpack the way we were.
Mark Beeson

4. Contested Governance and the China Challenge

Abstract
Legend has it that Napoleon Bonaparte said that ‘China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world.’ As prescient statements go, it’s hard to beat. While we may now all have become relatively accustomed to the idea that China is once again a very significant power in world affairs, the story of how it achieved this bears repetition. China’s reemergence as the preeminent power in a region it has historically dominated is remarkable. What is even more important for the purposes of the present discussion, of course, is that China now seems capable of playing an international role of a sort that was simply impossible when it was at the height of its powers – and before European imperialism brought it to its knees. This chapter picks up the story of China’s remarkable development where we left it in Chapter 1. The twentieth century was one characterized by truly epic fluctuations in fortune for China, the consequences of which continue to reverberate through the twenty-first. The first part of this chapter sketches some of the more important aspects of this history, before concentrating in more detail on how China’s leaders managed to turn things around.
Mark Beeson

5. The Rise of the Rest?

Abstract
The rise of China may have attracted the most attention among policymakers and scholars of late, but it is not an isolated phenomenon. As we have seen, China’s position is not so much a ‘rise’ as a reemergence. Equally importantly, China is not the only state moving up the international hierarchy of states – now or in earlier periods. On the contrary, other powers have also ‘emerged’ at various times in recent history. What distinguishes the current moment in some observers’ opinion, however, is a more broadly based process: the ‘rise of the rest’ (Amsden 2001). This formulation is a convenient shorthand for the growing prominence of a number of states, especially the so-called BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), as well as a range of other ‘middle powers’, which are attempting to influence regional and even global governance processes. The concomitant rise of a new array of IOs in addition to the BWIs discussed in Chapter 3 is another important part of this story and expression of the evolving international order.
Mark Beeson

6. Regionalism in a Global Era

Abstract
One of the most striking features of the contemporary international system is the continuing prominence of, and interest in, regional organizations and even identities. Despite all the problems that are currently afflicting the European Union (EU), the increasingly nationalist tone of much political rhetoric around the world, and a general decline in confidence about the prospects for effective transnational cooperation, regions remain important. Many geographers, political scientists, and policymakers continue to believe that regions matter and are potentially part of any possible solution to many of the world’s problems (Fawn 2009; Acharya 2014; Jones and Passi 2017). Indeed, former European Commissioner for Trade and Director-General of the WTO Pascal Lamy (2012: 727) argues that ‘regional integration represents the essential intermediate step between the national and the global governance level’.
Mark Beeson

7. Governing the Global Economy

Abstract
The ‘global economy’ occupies an ambiguous place in the international system. Not only are there continuing doubts about just how global it actually is, but there are also growing differences of opinion about the way international economic activity could and should be managed. Such doubts have grown in the aftermath of the GFC of 2008. China has been an increasingly outspoken critic of the liberal form of ‘light touch’ regulation that was promoted by the United States and Britain in particular, but doubts about economic management predate the GFC. ‘Critical’ scholars of international political economy have long argued that the management of the international economic system is generally poorly done, in large part because it reflects the particularistic interests of privileged global elites, especially in the financial sector (Mügge 2011). The frequent outbreak of crises that have their origins in the financial sector would seem to confirm such claims.
Mark Beeson

8. Governing the Global Environment

Abstract
If there is one issue area that epitomizes both the necessity of and impediments to global governance it is managing the manifold consequences of climate change. At best, climate change is going to compel demanding forms of adaptation as the world’s environment changes as a consequence of global warming. At worst, it is increasingly recognized even by ‘traditional’ security specialists that climate change is likely to emerge as a growing source of insecurity and exacerbate many of the problems that are already destabilizing some of the poorest parts of the planet (Campbell et al. 2007). It is equally apparent that such problems can no longer be compartmentalized into zones of peace and conflict or affluence and poverty, as some imagined (Singer and Wildavsky 1993). On the contrary, as the recent influx of illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa demonstrates, when the very circumstances that support life – or a life worth living, at least – are thrown into doubt, people will vote with their feet, making conflict all the more likely (Parenti 2011). Consequently, the formerly privileged and insulated societies of Western Europe, North America, and the Antipodes may find themselves directly affected by the impact of environmental degradation.
Mark Beeson

9. Governing Global Security

Abstract
Security cooperation of any sort is, if much of the theoretical literature is to be believed, inherently unlikely. According to realists in particular, states are always concerned about their own security above all else, suspicious of their peers, and determined to do all they can to increase their power relative to that of potential rivals. The international system is, the argument goes, one characterized by zero-sum games and a Darwinian struggle for survival (Morgenthau 1973). Unsurprisingly, realists are skeptical about the prospects for cooperation and dismissive of the role of institutions, other than as instrumental mechanisms with which states can pursue what are ultimately national interests (Mearsheimer 1994/95). The best that can be hoped for is a durable balance of power in which stability is maintained by a rough equivalence in strategic resources (Walt 1985). Looking around the world today, it is hard to argue that realists have some persuasive evidence at their disposal in support of this rather gloom-inducing view of international relations.
Mark Beeson

10. The Future of Global Governance

Abstract
By this stage, the reader may be forgiven for thinking that this chapter looks rather pointless. After all, the previous chapters have gone into quite some detail about the problems confronting effective global governance – even for the declining numbers of people who still think it’s possible in theory and a good idea in principle. Paradoxically enough, however, some of the smartest people on the planet – or among international relations scholars, at least – think that not only is global governance possible and necessary, but world government is actually desirable and necessary, too. This concluding chapter considers some of these arguments in detail; it also considers what the world might look like without some form of ‘good enough’ global governance. The inescapable reality would seem to be that ‘we’ – in this case simply members of the human race – aren’t likely to survive without some type of effective global governance, or not in some form we might consider ‘civilized’ at least.
Mark Beeson
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