Experiments in Global Governance: Primary Commodity Roundtables and the Politics of Deliberation

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GR:EEN Working Paper Series
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Global governance scholarship increasingly provides a normative and specifically deliberative account of the inclusion of non-state actors within global public policy. In this paper we develop a critical analysis of one particular approach to deliberation: experimentalist governance. It is argued that experimentalism can provide an important and provocative set of insights that directs attention toward the empirical processes and logics of global governance. We elaborate this proposition through a case study of primary commodities roundtables and ongoing attempts to set sustainability criteria for global producers. A number of issues and limitations in the substantive ethical content of roundtable deliberations are identified, including the nature and significance of oppositional forms of deliberation, and, more critically, the problematic effects of regulating sustainability on a global commodity basis, i.e. the marginalisation of local compromises between production and the environment. We therefore identify the need for further reflection and, perhaps, critical reconstruction of experimentalist approaches to global governance. In making this argument, broader questions for existing normative work on global governance are raised.

Deliberation; Civil Society; Experimentalism; Global Governance; Roundtables