Book Review: Globalization, Multilateralism, Europe

Mario Telò (eds.), Globalization, Multilateralism, Europe: Toward a Better Global Governance? (Farnham, United Kingdom: Ashgate, 2014). 510 pp., £22,50 (paperback), £25,00 (ebook), ISBN: 9781472405388.

Exploring the evolution of global governance in the twenty-first century is not an easy task, given the significant political, economic, and social changes taking place. This book edited by Mario Telò, Jean Monnet Professor of International Relations at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the European Union (EU) Institutions at LUISS Guido Carli, however, provides a substantial contribution to the complex set of interactions between national, regional, and global levels of governance. In doing so, the volume openly challenges two strongly established theoretical frameworks within the field: the orthodox, realist tradition in terms of international relations studies, and the accepted Eurocentric perspectives of European Union studies. Going beyond the mainstream and often Western-centric approaches that have been discussed by political scientists for decades, this book argues that, to understand the complex processes that shape our new world order, it is necessary to move beyond traditional analyses of world politics; this includes examining alternative accounts in theoretical terms and strengthening our political knowledge of new actors.

The book is divided into four parts. The first part introduces the main issues discussed by the contributing authors. According to the editor, these issues are essential for understanding why the current multilateralization processes represents a preliminary step in order to deal with what he considers to be the “twenty-first century’s multipolarity” (p. 2). Accordingly, all four chapters focus on the efforts to find convergence in terms of research strategies and to the extreme richness derived from common language as it is advanced by diverse academic cultures and locations, with contributions from Europe, America, and the BRICs. In this light, the book begins with a detailed account of the on-going debate within globalization studies (Kim and Caporaso). Subsequently, the book provides an illuminating historical analysis of the three different epochs of multilateralism (Telò), an alternative account of the multipolarity debate—from a Chinese perspective (Chen and Pan)—and last but not least, an analysis of EU international actorness, which highlights how the EU represents a new fundamental global actor, contributing to shaping the world order (Schwok). This is precisely why the EU should never be considered as a mere isolated case study; rather, it constitutes a key actor both at the regional and global levels.

The second part of the book points out the multidisciplinary theoretical approaches currently used to deal with global multilevel governance. The intent is to show how the debate is not exclusively confined to studies of international relations, but is radically interdisciplinary. This explains why comprehensive theorizing on global governance should include philosophical accounts of global justice, as presented by Maffettone, as well as legal studies, as presented by Levrat in his chapter on global law and global studies.

The third part of the book discusses the current global architectural dimension of multilateral institutions. The broad concept of “institution,” as analyzed by the different authors, includes both organizations and regimes (from the United Nations to an analysis of global monetary governance); in addition, the authors discuss the difficulties and challenges related to multilateral and institutionalized settings in a post-hegemonic world. Morin’s fascinating contribution introduces the concept of ecological interdependence, arguing how this concept should not be understood as being only about the codependency between states in terms of environmental degradation; rather, Morin demonstrates the importance of looking at the positive side given that “global environmental governance has a great variety of instruments at its disposal” (p.229).

The fourth part of the work includes nine cases studies, which examine the crucial challenges of multilateral governance dealing with major controversies at both the global and regional levels. A diverse range of topics is analyzed, including economic globalization, poverty and regional development in Africa, regional security communities, interregional studies, humanitarian intervention and international security and conflict management. In this regard, Marchetti’s contribution in analyzing the role of civil society in global governance is substantial. Marchetti reminds us how, in order to deal with the current configuration of international affairs, we have to include alternative, non-state actors within the discourse, and in particular, their role in offering “nonconventional alternatives available to the global political debate” (p. 309).

Overall, the volume is highly innovative and undoubtedly constitutes a pioneering contribution to the field of global studies. First, it was the editor’s decision to publish the book as a textbook—a choice that all the contributing authors supported. The result is an academic work ideal for those interested in global studies and for students who wish to enhance their academic understanding by exploring multidisciplinary and multicultural perspectives. Indeed, each chapter is equipped with test questions and a list of useful readings on similar topics. More specifically, some chapters are also equipped with boxes providing further analyses in terms of theoretical concepts and controversial issues. In this light, the textbook is strongly recommended for university students, particularly students of advanced master courses and Ph.D. programs. In addition, this book was made possible because of the efforts of a wide community of scholars from different academic and cultural backgrounds. In this sense, the publication may ignite exciting discussions beyond purely academic topics, potentially catching the attention of national civil servants, officials serving in international organizations and civil society organizations, and more broadly, members of the decision-making community.

Finally, apart from the richness of the many challenging and controversial issues presented within this book, this publication helps us to think about how in the future we will deal with a genre of world politics that is increasingly at odds with the orthodox Westphalian assumptions about the international system, but is one with unconventional international relations theoretical framework.

Silvia Menegazzi, LUISS University, Rome

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