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The Political Legitimacy of Global Governance Institutions: A Justice-Based Account
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science.
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

One of the most prominent political developments in recent decades is the expansion and strengthening of global governance institutions (GGIs). Our lives are increasingly governed by rules for trade, fiscal and monetary standards, intellectual property law, and norms of good governance, developed and overseen by global institutions. An important task for contemporary political theory in relation to this development is to seek to clarify the normative issues arising for and from these institutions. In particular, it is important to clarify how the problem of political legitimacy should be understood in the context of GGIs: if, and in virtue of what, there is a problem of political legitimacy in global governance institutions, what the nature of this problem is, and what political legitimacy should be thought to require in this setting. Traditionally, the problem of political legitimacy is understood as arising as a consequence of the kind of coercive power and authority exercised by the state over its citizens. Coercive power, it is standardly presumed, requires a special defense because it stands in tension with individual freedom and autonomy. As a result, state power is legitimate only if heightened normative demands are satisfied. This thesis advances the view that a similar problem arises in the context of GGIs. Despite that GGIs lack strong enforcements capabilities and coercive powers in a strict sense, and despite that they may facilitate inter-state cooperation and produce benefits for states and individuals that would be lost without them, there are problematic forms of power vested in these institutions that gives rise to demands for special justification. The background conditions in the global political economy creates a situation in which states and individuals find themselves dependent on, and vulnerable to, decisions made in global institutions. In an important sense, these relationships of dependency give rise to constraints on freedom that are prima facie normatively problematic and that require justification, the thesis argues. Thus, a problem of political legitimacy is generated at the global level. The thesis argues that in order to be legitimate GGIs must fulfill duties of justice. Only if the distribution of resources and opportunities that GGIs give rise to through their rules, policies and programs, pass an appropriate justifiability test can the constraints of freedom they give rise to be legitimate. In this way, important duties of distributive justice are generated at the global level as a consequence of the need to justify existing global governance institutions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Political Science, Stockholm University , 2016. , 273 p.
Stockholm studies in politics, ISSN 0346-6620 ; 169
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-133972ISBN: 978-91-7649-521-6 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7649-522-3 (print)OAI: diva2:974150
Public defence
2016-11-11, hörsal 8, hus D, Universitetsvägen 10 D, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2016-10-19 Created: 2016-09-25 Last updated: 2016-10-10Bibliographically approved

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Westergren, Martin
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