Worlds Apart? Towards a Theory of Democratic Dissent in Transnational Governance Networks

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UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies
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UNU-CRIS Working Papers
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Transnational public-private or entirely private policy and regulatory networks are becoming a permanent feature of global governance. These networks of public goods provision aim to address the accountability, participation and implementation deficits that characterise the global level. Inspired by the principles of deliberative democracy, transnational policy networks are premised on rational dialogic exchanges and consensus (or some kind of accommodation among various stakeholders) and promise better problem-solving. Nonetheless, despite gains in accountability and learning, the fact is that many policy areas (e.g. sustainability, human rights, world trade etc.) remain conflict-ridden. The paper argues that in order to account for this 'puzzling phenomenon' we need to utilize a social theory that incorporates dissent instead of wishing to overcome it. Towards that goal this research builds on the work of Laclau, Mouffe and Latour. It is claimed that the result is a more realistic picture of the nature of transnational policy networks.