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Why Do They Want Global Governance? A Two-Step Approach to the Formation of Public Support for Global Institutions

Thursday May 8, 2014, from 14:00 to 16:00
Room Fred Halliday - IBEI (1st Floor)
Research seminar
Matthias Ecker-Ehrhardt (Freie University Berlin)

Why do citizens support or reject the idea of global governance? The presentation addresses this question by examining individual attitudes about global institutions in a comparative perspective. According to the main argument put forward in the paper provided, we may think of the formation of citizens’ support for global institutions as a two-step process. First, it theorizes the formation of global attitudes about the UN according to a process of cognitive mobilization. Using data from the fifth wave of the World Values Survey (2005-2007), I find strong empirical support for the role of individual attention to public cues for the relevance of the UN in rising global awareness of UN authority. 

In the second step, the paper examines how cognitively mobilized citizens seem to use available information to make up their minds about UN authority. The analysis of contextual variables suggests that a "particularist" calculus of national costs and benefits explains citizens' support for (and rejection of) UN authority to a significant extent. Most remarkably, citizens of powerful states favor UN authority much more than do those from weaker countries—a strong indication that a more competent UN is expected to further privilege the former to the disadvantage of the latter.

Moreover, my analysis of the WVS data suggests that global public support for UN authority largely depends on a cosmopolitan understanding of global interdependence and moral universalism. Assuming that the process of globalization continues, increasing awareness of global interdependencies may presumably lead to further growth among those societal groups that expect global authority to more effectively manage global problems.

However, I would like to complicate this seemingly “good news” for global governance by finally arguing, that increased public cosmopolitanism might soon (or already has) become a rather challenging normative environment. Additional results suggest a self-reinforcing process of delegitimation and non-compliance, in which public cosmopolitanism plays a key role in driving global governance into a precarious state of politicization.

Seminar IBEI Ecker-Ehr