Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Multilalteralism and the limits of global governance

By Richard A. Higgott


Global governance (GG) is an over-used and under-specified concept. The search for meaningful use is a reflection of the growing despair over the mismatch between the over-development of the global economy and the under-development of a comparable global polity. For the global policy community, driven largely by economic theory, the delivery of public goods via collective action problem solving leads to what I call GG Type I. By contrast, scholarly interest, driven by normative (often cosmopolitan) political theory and focussing on issues of institutional accountability, greater citizen representation, justice and the search for an as yet to be defined global agora leads to a rather loose GG Type II. But, using the IMF and the GATT-WTO as case studies, the paper argues that without the enhancement of GG Type II, the prospects of the continuance of GG Type I—via the economic multilateralism of the 20th century Bretton Woods Institutions (IMF and WB), the WTO—will become unsustainable. It will do so for at least three reasons. \ud \ud The nature of what constitute ‘public goods’ in the 21st century global economy is strongly contested. Both the ability and political will of the US to play the role of self-binding hegemon, under-writing multilateralism, is problematic to say the least. \ud \ud Resistance amongst the world’s ‘rule takers’ to a hegemonic global order is growing.\ud \ud It is not necessary to accept ’Clash of Civilisation’ style arguments to recognise that this is also, in part at least, an ideological contest with security implications of the kind that have dominated the international agenda in the early years of the 21st century. But, perhaps more importantly, it is also a practical-cum-policy issue over the contested nature of what actually constitute ‘global public goods’ in the 21st century. In this context it is appropriate to ask questions about alternative forms of global governance espoused by advocates of G-20 style activities. The paper concludes with an introductory comparative analysis of this evolving economic initiative and the existing economic institutions

Topics: HC, JZ
Publisher: University of Warwick. Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation
Year: 2004
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2004a) ‘Growth requires painful choices, not platitudes’, The Financial Times,
  2. (1993). (ed) ‘Multilateralism: the Anatomy of an Institution’,
  3. (2004). (ed) Global Governance: Critical Concepts in Political Science.
  4. (2001). (ed) Global Justice, doi
  5. (2003). (ed) Mondialisation et Governance Mondiale,
  6. (2002). (eds.) Democratising Global Governance, Basingstoke: Palgrave Bank doi
  7. (1999). (eds) Approaches to Global Governance Theory, doi
  8. (2004). (eds) Governance in a Global doi
  9. (2002). (eds) Multilateralism and US Foreign Policy: Ambivalent Engagement, doi
  10. (1999). (eds) Private Authority and International Affairs, doi
  11. (2001). (eds) The Other Davos: The Globalization of Resistance to the World Economic System, London: Zed Books. 38 Howse, Robert and Nicolaidis, Kalypso
  12. (2001). A Costly Pursuit of Free Trade’, doi
  13. (2004). A New World Order, doi
  14. (1992). A World Economy Restored: Expert Consensus and the Post War Anglo-American Settlement’, doi
  15. Aart
  16. (2002). Ambivalent Multilateralism and the Emerging Backlash: The IMF and the WTO’, in Patrick Stewart and Shephard Forman,
  17. (2003). American Exceptionalism and International Organisations: Lessons from the 1990s’, doi
  18. (2003). American Exceptionalism: The New Version, doi
  19. (2002). ASEAN Plus Three: Emerging East Asian Regionalism?’ doi
  20. (2003). Behind the Scenes at the WTO: The Real World of Trade Negotiations, doi
  21. (2003). Bilateral Treaties are a Sham’, The Financial Times,
  22. (2004). Building the Normative Foundations of a Global Polity, doi
  23. Commission of the European Communities (2003) The European Union and the United Nations: The Choice of Multilateralism,
  24. (2000). Contested Globalisation: The Changing Context and Normative Challenges’, doi
  25. (2000). Courting Disaster: The US Takes a Stand’,
  26. (2002). Deepak (2002) (ed) Governing Globalization: Issues and Institutions, doi
  27. (2003). Deliberately Democratizing Multilateral Organization’, doi
  28. (1995). Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Global Governance, doi
  29. (2003). Democratising the Global Economy: The Role of Civil Society,
  30. (2003). Developing Countries: Victims or Participants Their Changing Role
  31. (2004). East Asia: From Purity to Pragmatism—Changing Attitudes Towards Bilateral and Regional Trading Arrangements’,
  32. (1999). Economics, Politics and International Political Economy: The Need for A Balanced Diet in an Era of Globalisation’, doi
  33. (2003). Exploring Alternative Theories of Economic Regionalism: From Trade to Finance in Asian Co-operation’, doi
  34. (2002). Feasible Globalisations’, doi
  35. (2003). Financial Governance and the Public Sphere: Recent Developments’, Montreal,
  36. (2004). From Executive to Cosmopolitan Multilateralism’, in David Held and Daniel Konig Archibugi (eds) Taming Globalisation: Frontiers of Governance,
  37. (2004). Global Economic Govenance at the Crossroads: Replacing rhe G-7 with the G-20’, Policy Briefing 131, Washington DC: The Brookings Institution.
  38. (2004). Global Governance and Democratic Accountability’, in David Held and Daniel Konig-Archibugi, Taming Globalization: Frontiers of Governance,
  39. (1999). Global Public Goods, doi
  40. (2000). Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture, doi
  41. (2002). Globalisation and Its Discontents, doi
  42. (1999). Globalization and Global Governance, London: The Royal Institute of International Affairs.
  43. (1999). Governance as Theory: Five Propositions’, doi
  44. (2002). Governance in the New Global Order’, in David Held and Anthony McGrew (eds) Governing Globalization: Power, Authority and Global Governance,
  45. (2003). Governing as Governance, doi
  46. (2002). Governing Globalization: Power, Authority and Global Governance, doi
  47. (2004). How doe we get there from here?’ Summary, Session II: The G20 at Leader’s Level,
  48. (1997). Interests, Institutions and Information: Domestic Politics and International Relations, doi
  49. (1982). International Regimes, Transactions and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the doi
  50. (2002). Introduction’ in John G. Ikenberry (ed) America Unrivalled: The Future of the Balance of Power, doi
  51. (2002). Is There a Democratic Deficit in World Politics? A Framework for Analysis,
  52. Making the IMF and the World Bank More Accountable’, doi
  53. (2001). Multi-Level Governance and European Integration, doi
  54. (2004). Multilateral Organisations after the US-Iraq War of 2003,
  55. (2002). Multilateralism and its Discontents: The Causes and Consequences of US Ambivalence’,
  56. (2003). Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, doi
  57. (2002). Rethinking the Politics of Globalisation: Theory, Concepts and Strategy, doi
  58. (2003). Reviving the WTO Doha Development Agenda: Eight Modest Proposals’,
  59. (2003). Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions, doi
  60. (2002). Sovereignty, Rights and Justice: International Political Theory Today, doi
  61. (1999). Sovereignty: Organised Hypocrisy, doi
  62. (2003). State Power and the Institutional Bargain: America’s Ambivalent Economic and Security Multilateralism’, doi
  63. (2002). Taming Economics, Emboldening International Relations: The Theory and Practice of International Political Economy in an Era of Globalisation’, in Stephanie Lawson (ed) The New Agenda for International Relations,
  64. (1998). The Asian Crisis: High Debt Model versus the Wall Street-Treasury-IMF complex’,
  65. (2003). The Caravan to Cancun’, doi
  66. The Case for Globalisation’, The Financial Times, May 8 (CHECK) Woods, Ngaire (2001a) ‘Who should govern the world economy: the challenges of glolbalisation and governance’,
  67. (2001). The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World, 1700-2000, doi
  68. (1996). The Changed World Economy’, Foreign Affairs, doi
  69. (2003). The Compulsive Empire, Foreign Policy, doi
  70. (2002). The Democratic Deficit in the Institutional Relationships for Regulating Global Finance’.
  71. (2004). The Disturbing Rise in Poverty and Inequality: Is it All a Big Lie?’ in David Held and Daniel Konig Archibugi (eds) Taming Globalisation: Frontiers of Governance,
  72. (2004). The G-20 and the World Economy’ Speech to the Deputies of the G20,
  73. (1997). The Liberal Moment: Modernity, Security, and the Making of Postwar International Order, doi
  74. (2002). The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, doi
  75. (2000). The New Sovereigntists: American Exceptionalism and its False Prophets’, doi
  76. (2002). The Parallel Summits of Global Civil Society: an Update’,
  77. (2001). The Political Economy of the World Trade System: The WTO and Beyond, doi
  78. (2000). The Securitisation of US Foreign Economic Policy in East Asia: Bilateralism and Securitisation’, Critical Asian Studies, forthcoming ------- and Phillips,
  79. (2003). The United states and the International Financial Institutions: Power and Influence within the World Bank and the IMF’, doi
  80. (2001). The WTO, the IMF and the World Bank’, Accountable to Whom?
  81. (2003). Trade and Global Civil Society: The Anti Capitalist Movement Revisited’, Global Civil Society,
  82. (1993). Trading Free: The GATT and US Trade Policy, doi
  83. (2004). Transfer Agents and Global Networks in the “Transnationalisation” of Policy’, doi
  84. (2003). Unholy Trinity: The IMF, World Bank and the WTO, doi
  85. (1990). What Washington Means by Policy Reform', in John Williamson (ed) Latin American Adjustment, How Much Has Happened? doi
  86. (2002). World Financial Orders, doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.