Multilateralism in Global Governance

Formal and Informal Institutions

by Assel Tutumlu (Volume editor) Gaye Güngör (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 270 Pages


The aim of this edited volume is to bring back multilateralism in global governance research by going beyond the state-centric and formal models of multilateralism of the 1990s and deeper into the informal private agents and structures of global governance. The volume is situated within the third generation scholarly research tying together disparate efforts from various disciplines, such as International Relations, Public Administration, International Law and International Political Economy under the overarching theme of multilateralism approached from the three different angles: normative dimensions of global governance, issue-areas, such as migration and international trade, as well as the limits of multilateralism.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Abbreviations
  • “Why Revisit Multilateralism?” Gaye Güngör & Assel Tutumlu
  • Part I: Normative Dimensions of Multilateralism in Global Governance
  • “Five Democratisation Myths” Assel Tutumlu
  • “The European Union as a (Global) Security Provider: From “Old” to “New” Regionalism?” Ana Isabel Xavier
  • Part II: Multilateralism Today: Changing Patterns and Issue-Areas
  • Section 1. International Trade and Investment Regulation
  • “Global Trade Governance and Informal Voluntary Standards: the Socio-Normative Analysis of Legitimacy of the ISO” Anna Aseeva
  • “The Tensions between Internal and External Multilateralism in the Case Law of the Court of Justice of the European Union Concerning International Agreements” Pola Cebulak
  • “Global Investment Governance Architecture: the Case of UNCTAD” Gaye Güngör
  • “Multilateralizing Regionalism: the Cases of the EU (+36) and ASEAN (+6)” Suat Öksüz
  • Section 2. International Migration
  • “Refugee Governance in the Middle East and North Africa by the Arab League” Zeynep Şahin Mencütek
  • “A Bio-political Governance: The European Union’s Policy on Irregular Transit Migration at the Borders” Nefise Ela Gökalp Aras
  • Part III: The Limits of Multilateralism
  • “The Rivalry between Turkey and Iran in the Middle East Region” Bülent Uğrasız
  • “Global Governance and International Security Organizations: the OSCE and NATO” Çiğdem Üstün

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Gaye Güngör & Assel Tutumlu1

Why Revisit Multilateralism?

This volume intends to revive the much neglected and highly misunderstood concept of the 1990s, multilateralism, and situate it within the global governance research. In a recent commentary for the journal Governance, David Coen and Tom Pegram (2015) called for a third generation global governance research effort. We hear this call to bring multilateralism back in. By creating the first attempt at the third generation research in multilateralism, we want to go beyond the distinction of multilateralism vs global governance and trace how the former works within the latter. In other words, our goal is not to vindicate multilateralism as a useless concept compared to the benefits of global governance, as many second generation scholars have done; rather we seek to identify processes and issue-areas where multilateralism works within the structures of global governance and to map its contemporary limitations. This conceptual synergy is especially important today, when there is substantial variation in the extent to which multilateral commitments persist, both across issue-areas and over time. Understanding these interactions require close study of political alignments within specific issue-areas as well as systematic comparative analysis of patterns across them.

History of the Term

There were piecemeal efforts by International Relations (IR) scholars to give multilateralism the status it deserves. Specifically, a group of international regime scholars resurrected it in the early 1990s. These first generation governance scholars limited multilateralism to arrangements involving only states. The literature on multilateralism written in the 1990s took its cue from international regime theory and neoliberal institutionalism seeking to explain institutionalized (formal) intergovernmental co-operation within multilateral fora. Multilateralism was defined as one of the various organizing forms or principles chosen by states to base their interactions. The state was considered as the sole entity (Ruggie 1992; Martin 1992).

The first generation research distinguished between institution of multilateralism and multilateral institutions (Ruggie 1992; Caporaso 1992; Keohane 1990). ← 11 | 12 → An organizing principle of the former was distinguished from the latter by three properties: indivisibility, generalized principles of conduct, and diffuse reciprocity (Ruggie 1992). Indivisibility refers to the sharing of responsibility among units. Trade interdependence, commitment to the liberal principles and democracy required states to adopt common set of values and policies. Generalized principles of conduct, the second component of multilateralism pointed to a unified action against third parties. Multilateralism in the 1990s was characterized by the changing institutional structures away from Cold War competition into more regionally-specific international institutions. Countries left outside these arrangements were penalized. Thus, research exploring the generalized principles of conduct pointed to the discriminatory principles of regional free trade agreements (Bhagwati 1992, 1996; Bhagwati and Krueger 1995; and Bhagwati and Panagariya 1996a, 1996b). The third component of institution of multilateralism related to diffuse reciprocity, which implied the importance of long-term relative gains rather than short-term absolute gains. This mentality was visible at the start of creation of the European Union. Everyone understood that unification process may be hard, but the relative long-term gains will be plentiful. These three properties were treated as a coherent ensemble, which is itself indivisible, rather than as additive, detachable indicators of multilateralism.

However, for the first generation scholars multilateralism not linked to the theories of governance. As early as the year 1992, James Caporaso lamented about this neglect: “Why has the concept of multilateralism not played a more prominent role in theories of international relations? Why is multilateralism neglected in international relations theory?” (Caporaso 1992, 599–600). In other words, global governance as a theoretical concept that emphasizes the changing role of the state in coordinating and steering international norms and institutions is much broader than the first generation multilateralism scholars have imagined it to be. Global governance involves both state and non-state actors at different levels (Kooiman 2003; Pierre 2000) making it hard to identify the boundaries between public and private actors’ role in the process of governing at the global level (Stoker 1998). As a result, probing into the assumptions behind these questions, Caporaso answered: “One possible reason for the paucity of theory concerning multilateralism is that there may be so little multilateralism in practice” (Caporaso 1992, 600) when we try to distinguish the term from global governance norms and practices. Indeed, we would agree with Caporaso: notwithstanding the rhetoric of multilateralism, the commitment to multilateralism as defined by state-centric first generation scholars was scant. Instead, theories of international regimes dominated International Relations Theory. Global governance mechanism defined as an international regime ← 12 | 13 → had strong theoretical roots in popular Neoliberal Institutionalism, which said that the declining power of states due to interdependent global economies creates a unified way of normative thinking, such as Washington Consensus (Robinson 1990), and a unified practice of Embedded Liberalism (Ruggie 1992) that steers economic policies of states to favouring free market principles and integration. In such environment states simply had no chance of practicing much of multilateralism since their policies were determined from above by international neoliberal regime of global governance.

Hence, the second generation scholars shifted the language and perspective away from multilateral institutions, towards global governance. Governance as a theoretical concept emphasized the changing role of the state in its ability to regulate, coordinate and steer public policies, which by then involved both state and non-state actors at different levels (Kooiman 2003; Pierre 2000). There are several definitions of governance, but they all agree on the blurred boundaries between public and private actors role in the process of governing (Stoker 1998) Yet, we would argue, neither the scholarly interest in, nor the practice of multilateralism has wavered since the publication of Caporaso’s article. The second generation global governance scholars from three disciplines as diverse as International Relations, International Law and European Public Policy took up from where the first generation left off and mapped the emergence of new forms of public and private global governance principles and mechanisms (Rüland 2012; Forman and Segaar 2012; Busch 2007; Telò 2014). In addition, they have criticized regime theorists for assuming that global governance is somehow unified and coherent entity (Wendt 1992). Instead, second generation scholars showed that states faced several opportunities to address global policy problems on their own (Ramo 2004) through various forms of formal interstate cooperation within public multilateral fora. Yet, each effort remained within the limits of own discipline making research activities disparate. For the next generation of global governance research to succeed in clearly illustrating the integrated nature and limits of multilateralism and global governance, these separate yet symbiotic disciplines must converge.

Therefore, this volume seeks to go beyond the second generation research. We conceptualize the global governance architecture as a global political/policy space fragmented into myriad issue-areas where actors are located at different administrative levels (local, national and global/transnational). We seek to map the location of the actors at these levels and unpack the processes and mechanisms of political conflict and coordination. While the state is one of the actors, it is not the actor in this political space. We ask the following questions for each issue area: ← 13 | 14 →


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (May)
Migration Security Refugees Regionalism European Court of Justice
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 270 pp., 8 tables

Biographical notes

Assel Tutumlu (Volume editor) Gaye Güngör (Volume editor)

Assel Tutumlu and Gaye Güngör are Assistant Professors of International Relations at Gediz University. They received their PhD degrees in Global Affairs from Rutgers, State University of New Jersey (USA) and in Political Science from Florida International University, Miami (USA), respectively.


Title: Multilateralism in Global Governance
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272 pages