A brief analysis on Global South’s paradigms: Global Governance Case

From scheduled jet airline services to millions of bookings simultaneously around the world, experiencing foreign exchange turnover $3,500 billion in a daily basis, a broadcast of CNN reaching 260 million households within a second, on the other hand, several airplane crashes or computer viruses which are designed by an individual who knocks off a bank account at the diametrically opposite geography in the world…

These facts are being considered as a daily routine for most communities without interrogating the insight of these facts, however, a combination of forenamed practices also poses a challenge for our reality and our perception on reality: namely globalization. To describe the phenomenon, liberalists argue that its main focus is the economic interconnectedness of actors while political realists put forward inter-state activities in terms of core-periphery relations. Nevertheless, the mutual opinion which they agree on is that intensification of supra-territoriality in the 21st-century world affairs and the decline in statism promoted the notion of global governance which emphasizes polycentric governance notion. Since the consensus has been reached by many scholars, accessing a coherent basis for operational polycentric global governance and actors of the concept have become prominent variables. From this perspective, understanding Global South is the key component to launch a more inclusionary and functioning system.

In the contemporary world, it is a fact that multinational actors and NGOs have an ability to act beyond the defined borders. For instance, agencies who are heads of global financial and communicational companies like Shell and General Motors or non-governmental organizations such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International have the capacity to lobbying and involving decision-making mechanisms, shaping future global agenda on various topics from ecological preservation to transcontinental agreements. Equivalent practices are recognized as the primary characteristics of globalization also known as the post-Westphalian state model. Before the post-Westphalian understanding, the majority of states were functioning as Scholte argued “Westphalian sovereignty held that each state would exercise supreme, comprehensive, unqualified and exclusive rule over its territorial jurisdiction” (2005, p.188). This notion of centralised and incontestable state authority dominated world affairs for almost four hundred years, however, as a result of a decline in statism, the state has transformed itself into a polycentric and more transparent model that authority has become a questionable concept by states’ “citizens”. More significantly, the state authority has recognized its society as rulers, not the subjects to be ruled. In this sense, states are expected to adopt and internalize some patterns such as an efficient social welfare system, avoiding unnecessary armed conflicts or defend its domestic interest by collaborating through foreign investors. Thus, obsolescence of statism has been proposed as a new outlook which paved the way for polycentric global governance driven by reconstructed intrastate relations and capable agencies in the system.

Apart from all these progress, there is Global South where the historical development of state-state and citizen-state relations are fairly dissimilar in comparison with the Global North case which limits Global South’s contribution to the global governance. To specify most diversified inspirations on global governance, nation-building myth can be elaborated. It is assumed that the idea of nation is standardized by a common language, law, religion and territory. Furthermore, discussion maintains as such “Longevity, effectiveness, and successful mythmaking are essential ingredients of the state legitimacy formula” (ed. Aydinli & Rosenau, 2005). From this viewpoint, industrialized countries in Global North, namely in Europe and North America, have had the stage and considerable material and intellectual capability to accomplish communal nexus and to form collective myths which ended up with the foundation of the EU, NATO and suchlike bodies which substantially contribute to global governance at the moment. However, most of the countries in Global South, particularly the Third World countries, are far beyond reaching such an integrity with their neighbors since the Third World emancipation has been started in mid-18th century up to mid-20th century. According to Scholte, “National identities in the South developed largely through opposition to colonial rule” (2005, p.132). It can be deducted from the argument, there is no wonder that components and historical developments of the post-Westphalian state structure sound unacquainted advancements to communities in Global South which have established their national identities against the predecessors of post-Westphalian argument. In fact, as Scholte argues, “polycentrism both captures the multi-sited character of current governance and invites an exploration of the interplay between sites” (2005, p. 187). Nevertheless, within this North-South framework, approaches to the global governance do not highlight inclusive skeletons of the notion and support the polycentrism idea which ensures practical basis on the topic since interplay between states are mainly based on one-sided view and the social cognitions are immensely dissimilar.

Secondly, another core element of the global governance is a civil society that assists to exceed the polycentric point of view by the masses whose constitutional rights and liberties are not evaluated as low politics any longer thanks to the changing state dynamics. At this point, Scholte argues that “The shift from statism to polycentrism has prompted changes in the object of civil society activity away from the state alone to a multi-scalar and diffuse governance apparatus” (2005, p. 186). Within this context, civil society is principally organized around NGOs and empowering them to act on the legitimate basis in order to monitor events at the UN or the WTO; also lobbying to remark various concerns as well as proposals. Yet, the participation of Global North to civil society activities are much influential than Global South because the state transformation of the Third World has not been experienced comprehensively. Since colonial ties of Global South were not broken off until the mid-20th century, the state reconstruction process building upon social evolutions of communities has not taken place in most Global South countries. Scholte mentions that “National-territorial constituencies remain very important, but raison d’état has become more than raison de la nation” (2005, p. 194). The situation is a meaningful fact for societies in Global North but not for authoritarian regimes of Global South which control and intentionally restricts its citizens’ participation to civil initiatives. In other words, the polycentric outlook in the global governance which apprehends the compact interaction between states, actors and agencies has to concentrate on civil society of Global South and critically approach to understand the limited dynamics towards the concepts.

In light of the aforementioned explanations, it can be claimed that globalization has broadened our outlooks both on the world affairs and societal relations. This domain also revitalizes academic dialogues taking a shape around how to explain and expand the global governance idea in a more effective and functional way. Accordingly, if the global governance is analyzed to offer polycentric and inclusionary solutions addressing world-wide difficulties or, at least, catalyzes the delicate issues, understanding characteristics of actors and making an effort for their ongoing emancipation on nation building phenomenon and civil society case play a crucial role. Therefore, Global South constitutes a key paradigm for the better global governance.

Umut Can Adısönmez

Umut Can Adısönmez holds a B.A degree in International Relations and minor degree in History from Bilkent University. Currently, he is a graduate student in Global Studies at Lund University also an editor in Utrikespolitiska Föreningen Magazine of the same university. His research areas are Turkish foreign policy, globalization and human security.


Modern Diplomacy is an invaluable platform for assessing and evaluating complex international issues that are often outside the boundaries of mainstream Western media and academia. We provide impartial and unbiased qualitative analysis in the form of political commentary, policy inquiry, in-depth interviews, special reports, and commissioned research.


MD Newsletter