School of Social and Political Sciences - Research Publications

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    Towards a 'pluralist' world order: creative agency and legitimacy in global institutions
    Macdonald, T ; Macdonald, K (SAGE Publications, 2020-06-01)
    This article addresses the question of how we should understand the normative grounds of legitimacy in global governance institutions, given the social and organizational pluralism of the contemporary global political order. We argue that established normative accounts of legitimacy, underpinning both internationalist and cosmopolitan institutional models, are incompatible with real-world global social and organizational pluralism, insofar as they are articulated within the parameters of a ‘statist’ world order imaginary: this sees legitimacy as grounded in rational forms of political agency, exercised within ‘closed’ communities constituted by settled common interests and identities. To advance beyond these statist ideational constraints, we elaborate an alternative ‘pluralist’ world order imaginary: this sees legitimacy as partially grounded in creative forms of political agency, exercised in the constitution and ongoing transformation of a plurality of ‘open’ communities, with diverse and fluid interests and identities. Drawing on a case study analysis of political controversies surrounding the global governance of business and human rights, we argue that the pluralist imaginary illuminates how normative legitimacy in world politics can be strengthened by opening institutional mandates to contestation by multiple distinct collectives, even though doing so is incompatible with achieving a fully rationalized global institutional scheme.
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    Liquid authority and political legitimacy in transnational governance
    Macdonald, K ; Macdonald, T (CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS, 2017-07-01)
    In this article we investigate the institutional mechanisms required for ‘liquid’ forms of authority in transnational governance to achieve normative political legitimacy. We understand authority in sociological terms as the institutionalized inducement of addressees to defer to institutional rules, directives, or knowledge claims. We take authority to be ‘liquid’ when it is characterized by significant institutional dynamism, fostered by its informality, multiplicity, and related structural properties. The article’s central normative claim is that the mechanisms prescribed to legitimize transnational governance institutions – such as accountability or experimentalist mechanisms – should vary with the liquid characteristics of their authority structures. We argue for this claim in two steps. We first outline our theoretical conception of political legitimacy – as a normative standard prescribing legitimizing mechanisms that support authorities’ collectively valuable governance functions – and we explain in theoretical terms why legitimizing mechanisms should vary with differing authority structures. We then present an illustrative case study of the interaction between liquid authority and legitimizing mechanisms of public accountability and pragmatic experimentalism in the context of transnational business regulation. We conclude by considering broader implications of our argument for both the design of legitimate transnational governance institutions, and future research agendas on transnational authority and legitimacy.
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    The liberal battlefields of global business regulation
    Macdonald, K ; Macdonald, T (CO-ACTION PUBLISHING, 2010-01-01)
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    Democracy in a Pluralist Global Order: Corporate Power and Stakeholder Representation
    Macdonald, K ; Macdonald, T (Cambridge University Press (CUP), 2010-01-01)
    Whereas representative democratic mechanisms have generally been built around preexisting institutional structures of sovereign states, the global political domain lacks any firmly constitutionalized or sovereign structures that could constitute an analogous institutional backbone within a democratic global order. Instead, global public power can best be characterized as “pluralist” in structure. Some recent commentators have argued that if global democratization is to succeed at all, it must proceed along a trajectory beginning with the construction of global sovereign institutions and culminating in the establishment of representative institutions to control them. This paper challenges this view of the preconditions for global democratization, arguing that democratization can indeed proceed at a global level in the absence of sovereign structures of public power. In order to gain firmer traction on these questions, analysis focuses on the prospects for democratic control of corporate power, as constituted and exercised in one particular institutional context: sectoral supply chain systems of production and trade. It is argued that global democratization cannot be straightforwardly achieved simply by replicating familiar representative democratic institutions (based on constitutional separations of powers and electoral control) on a global scale. Rather, it is necessary to explore alternative institutional means for establishing representative democratic institutions at the global level within the present pluralist structure of global power.