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Contesting Global Governance. Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements

Created date

Sunday, March 15, 2009 - 16:02


This study focuses on the relationship between multi-lateral economic institutions (MEIs) and global social movements (GSMs) as one aspect of a much wider global politics and governance structure. Where possible, other actors and their relationship to the objects of this study, has been also considered.

Since the early 1980s there has been a gradual change in the functioning of key MEIs. Although the extent of this change has varied across institutions, the pattern of increasing engagement with social groups is noticeable. MEIs are moving beyond their interstate mandates to actively engage civil society actors in numerous countries. In order to gauge the significance of such developments this book investigates the interaction between three MEIs and three GSMs.1 The MEIs are the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO while the GSMs are the environmental, labour and women's movements.

The author argues that there is a transformation in the nature of global economic governance as a result of the MEI±GSM encounter. This transformation is labelled `complex multilateralism' in recognition of its movement away from an exclusively state based structure. To date the transformation has largely taken the form of institutional modification rather than substantive policy innovation. Such changes expli-
citly acknowledge that actors other than states express the public interest. While signalling a clear alteration to the method of governance, the change in the content of governing policies and the broad interests they represent is less striking. In the short run the MEI±GSM nexus is unlikely to transform either institutional functions or their inherent nature to any significant degree. In the longer run, there is the possibility of incremental change in the functioning and ambit of these key institutions. Complex multilateralism has not challenged the fundamentals of existing world order, but it has incrementally pluralised governing structures.

(c) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000


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