In this research group we analyse transnational governance by state and non-state actors, with a view to a set of normative questions currently discussed in political theory. The link between these two strands of research is the concept of legitimacy. Legitimation (as process) and legitimacy (as its result) are the conceptual places where facts and norms meet, in that the empirical validity of a political order here becomes dependent on evaluations of its rightness and appropriateness. Taking the notion of legitimacy as our conceptual anchor we seek to develop a critical perspective on the governance of political problems and conflicts with a transnational dimension. We are currently focussing on three broad topics:

We are interested in traditional and novel ways of legitimating international governance, in particular those discourses that are not referring to principles of democratic participation and control as a justificatory resource.

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Such alternative legitimating accounts may be found in the functional justification of international organisations with a narrow, technical mandate. We do not suppose that theirs is a mere ‘output’-oriented type of legitimation, centring on the tangible results of international governance. Rather, the discourse refers to a technocratic mode of governance that has some characteristic features, such as reliance on scientific expertise, the rule of law, the requirement to give reasons for decisions etc. More on this line of research can be found here [link zur englischen Projektbeschreibung good functional governance]

One of the possible links between technocratic and democratic justifications of governance is civil society participation.

Emanating from a deliberative conception of democracy, it is often argued that civil society actors can contribute to the legitimacy of governance by transporting the concerns of citizens directly to the sites of global policy-making, and by contributing to the creation of a transnational public sphere. From a more functional perspective it is argued that civil society participation can deliver important input to enhance the quality of governance and its results. Over the last years, Jens Steffek has published a number of books and articles on the subject, critically scrutinizing the empirical record. We are currently discussing the consequences of an intense cooperation between public and private actors for the democratic quality of governance, in particular resulting problems of equal access.

A good number of debates over the legitimacy of transnational governance currently are focussing on questions of social justice.

This is not a new phenomenon, as a brief look at the discussion of a ‘new international economic order’ in the 1960s and 70s shows. International organizations, however, have always been struggling with such demands for global distributive justice, for a lack of resources and their emphasis on regulatory issues. Our work in this area is targeting the evolution of the international climate regime that seems to be eliminating the last remnants of ‘redistributive multilateralism’, and current changes in the normative infrastructure of global governance that the rise of emerging powers from the global South is (allegedly) bringing about.