This course gives a long-term perspective on today’s system of global governance, tracing its emergence in tandem with processes of globalization (and de-globalization) from the mid-Nineteenth Century onwards. It explores the interplay between states, international organizations (in particular the UN, WTO, IMF, and World Bank), multinational corporations, civil society organizations, and activist networks (including, for example, feminist organisations and trade lobbying groups). The course will show how modern concepts, such as “economic development” and “natural resources”, have long and contested histories, which were often connected to the break-up of imperialism. Students will gain working knowledge of key aspects of global governance that will allow them to developed a nuanced and informed view of today’s debates over, for example, the rise of China, trade wars, and the climate crisis.
The course will begin by exploring how Britain’s rise as the leading industrial power was accompanied by frequently coercive efforts to establish global free trade, as well as by the emergence of international organisations such as the International Telegraph Union. International governance and the spread of free markets thus went hand in hand. At the same time, seemingly counter-intuitively, left-wing movements and individuals often favoured free trade as the means to spread friendly intercourse between nations or even (for Marxists) as a necessary stage in the development of capitalism as it moved towards its ultimate collapse.
The course will show how the First World War, the rise of the Bolsheviks, and the interwar breakdown of the international economy, marked a phase of deglobalization; the Nazis, of course, rejected virtually all existing norms of global governance and rules-based order. By the end of the Second World War, the United States had emerged as the most powerful state in the world, but also faced growing rivalry from the Soviet Union. The wartime Allies had also resolved to establish, in the United Nations Organisation, a permanent forum for international cooperation to secure peace and avert the return of war. The United Nations was not to be only a mutual security alliance; it envisaged a wider agenda in support of peace, partly economic and social in content, and partly educational and cultural. The Cold War frustrated many of these hopes, but that conflict also saw a phase of ‘Red Globalization’ based on aspirations towards international socialist cooperation. European integration was in part a response to the perceived Soviet threat. At the same time, North-South tensions were added to East-West ones as the pace of decolonization grew.
Students will learn how, as US hegemony came under challenge in the early 1960s, a combination of political pressures and radical economic thinking created a new international discourse that emphasised that primary-producing countries were at a particular disadvantage compared with industrialised ones, and that they were even actively exploited by them. As manifested during the 1960s this discourse equated “natural resources” (and like terms such as “natural wealth”) directly with oil and mineral resources; and representatives of the industrialised nations also used the terminology in the same way. However, by the 1970s a much more expansive usage of “natural resources” was in play. Sitting alongside the established view, there were now warnings that “Environmental pollution and the irresponsible use of exhaustible natural resources are positively alarming.” The course considers the origins and significance of this shift in the light of rising awareness of “the limits to growth” and the geopolitical shifts that accompanied it.
The emergence in the Thatcher-Reagan era of the so-called “Washington Consensus”, based around neoliberal ideas of market hegemony, together with the Latin American debt crisis, helped put paid to the optimistic hopes of a developmentalist New International Economic Order that had emerged during the previous decade. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the creation in the 1990s of the WTO were phenomena that seemed to signal “the end of history” and the final triumph of capitalist liberal democracy. Yet the post-2007 Global Financial Crisis, and the more recent rise of Modi, Trump, and Bolsanaro, indicate the fragility of the system of global governance that had previously appeared hegemonic. The challenge for today’s students may be less to understand why that system now seems so precarious than to grasp how it was that it ever established itself on stable foundations.
This module will give students a historical understanding of the economic, technological, and political processes that gave rise to the post-World War II system of global governance. As well as learning the functions of key international organisations, such as the UN, World Bank/IMF, and GATT/WTO, they will gain an understanding of the controversies that have at various times surrounded them. They will explore case studies, for example the rise of international environmental politics, and the emergence in Latin America of discourses of economic development and “dependency”.
The course will be taught through a combination of lectures, group discussion of weekly readings, and small-group exercises. Here are some examples of exercises that may be used during the course:
Exercise 1: Students will be briefed as participants in international trade or environmental negotiations. Divided into groups representing particular countries, they will present arguments for solutions that will serve their interests, couched in the language of principle.
Exercise 2: Students will bring a document of their own choosing which illustrates an aspect of globalization. This could be, for example, a speech, a cartoon, a short film, or a newspaper article. They will briefly present it to the class, explaining why it is significant and highlighting any difficulties of interpretation.
H. W. Arndt, ‘Economic Development: A Semantic History’, Economic Development and Cultural Change 29 (1981), pp. 457-66.
Emily Bent, ‘The Boundaries of Girls’ Political Participation: a critical exploration of girls’ experiences as delegates to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)’, Global Studies of Childhood, 3 (2013), pp. 173-182.
Mats Berdal, ‘The State of UN Peacekeeping: Lessons from Congo’, Journal of Strategic Studies, 41 (2018), pp. 721-750.
Barbara Bush, ‘Nationalism, Development, and Welfare Colonialism: Gender and the Dynamics of Decolonization’, in Martin Thomas and Andrew S. Thompson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Ends of Empire (Oxford, 2018), pp. 519-536.
Kenneth Cmiel, ‘The Recent History of Human Rights’, American Historical Review, 109 (2004), pp.117–135.
George A. Codding Jr., ‘The International Telecommunications Union: 130 Years of Telecommunications Regulation,’ Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, 23 (1995), pp. 501-512.
Marco Duranti, ‘European Integration, Human Rights, and Romantic Internationalism’, in Nicholas Doumanis (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of European History, 1914-1945 (Oxford, 2016).
Barry Eichengreen, ‘The rise and fall of the Bretton Woods System’, in Randall E. Parker, Robert Whaples (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Major Events in Economic History (London, 2013), pp. 275-282.
Stephanie Farrior, ‘United Nations Commission on the Status of Women’, in David P Forsythe (ed.) Encyclopedia of Human Rights by Oxford Encyclopedia of Human Rights (Oxford, 2009).
John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, ‘The Imperialism of Free Trade’, Economic History Review, Vol. 6 (1953), pp. 1-15.
Peter M. Haas, ‘UN Conferences and Constructivist Governance of the Environment’, Global Governance, 8 (2002), pp. 73–91.
Joseph Morgan Hodge, ‘Beyond Dependency: North–South Relationships in the Age of Development’, in Martin Thomas and Andrew S. Thompson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Ends of Empire (Oxford, 2018), pp. 621-38.
Victoria K. Holt, ‘Reforming UN Peacekeeping: The U.S. Role and the UN Financial Crisis,’ Brown Journal of World Affairs, 3 (1996), pp. 125-134.
Kelley Lee, ‘World Health Organization’, in James Sperling (ed.), Handbook of Governance and Security (Gloucester, 2014), pp. 504-517.
Andrew Light, ‘Climate Diplomacy’, in Stephen M. Gardiner and Allen Thompson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics (Oxford, 2017), pp. 487-500.
Norrie MacQueen, ‘The Sins of the Fathers? From League of Nations Mandates to United Nations Peacekeeping’, International Peacekeeping, 25 (2018), pp. 154-159.
Ruth Macklin, ‘Global Health’, in Bonnie Steinbock (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Bioethics (Oxford, 2009), pp. 696-720.
Francine McKenzie, ‘The History of GATT and the Current Crises in the Global Order’, Imperial & Global Forum, 19 Aug. 2020 undefined
Peter Marshall, ‘Whatever happened to the NIEO?’, The Round Table, 83 (1994), pp. 331-339.
Ken Millen-Penn, ‘Democratic Control, Public Opinion, and League Diplomacy’, World Affairs, 157 (1995), pp. 207-218.
Carol Miller, ‘“Geneva – the key to equality”: inter-war feminists and the League of Nations’, Women's History Review, 3 (1994), pp. 219-245.
Samuel Moyn, ‘Human Rights Are Not Enough’, The Nation, 16 March 2018.
Eva-Maria Muschik, ‘Managing the world: The United Nations, decolonization, and the strange triumph of state sovereignty in the 1950s and 1960s’, Journal of Global History, 13 (2018), pp. 121-144.
Moisés Naím, ‘Washington Consensus or Washington Confusion?’, Foreign Policy, 118 (2000), pp. 86-103.
Marc-William Palen, ‘Marx and Manchester: The Evolution of the Socialist Internationalist Free-Trade Tradition, c.1846-1946’, The International History Review, 2020 (online early).
John Palfrey, ‘Four Phases of Internet Regulation’, Social Research, 77 (2010), pp. 981-996.
Nova Robinson, ‘Arab Internationalism and Gender: Perspectives from the Third Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, 1949’, International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 48 (2016), pp. 578-583.
Dietmar Rothermund, The Routledge Companion to Decolonization (London, 2006), pp. 41-52.
Oscar Sanchez-Sibony, Red Globalization: The Political Economy of the Soviet Cold War from Stalin to Khrushchev (Cambridge, 2014).
Luciano Tosi, ‘The League of Nations: An international relations perspective’, Uniform Law Review, 22 (2017), pp. 148–157.
John Toye, ‘Assessing the G77: 50 years after UNCTAD and 40 years after the NIEO’, Third World Quarterly, 35 (2014), pp. 1759–1774.
United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America, The Economic Development of Latin America and its Principal Problems (Lake Success, New York, 1950).
Brian E. Urquhart, ‘The evolution of the Secretary-General’, in Simon Chesterman (ed.), Secretary or General? The UN Secretary-General in World Politics (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 15-32.
Thomas G. Weiss, ‘The John W. Holmes Lecture: Reinvigorating the International Civil Service’, Global Governance, 16 (2010), pp. 39–57.
Margherita Zanasi, ‘Exporting Development: The League of Nations and Republican China’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 49 (2007), pp. 143-169.