Booklist | Governing the World: The History of an Idea

Can’t wait to get this: Mark Mazower’s new book explaining the creation of “world institutions”.  The Economist’s review notes that international moves forward the most when i”dealists are pushed to the side.”    

One of Mazower’s original contributions is to examine how the formal arrangements set up by the world’s leading governments – the Concert, the League and the UN – increasingly had to interact with the informal transnational bodies we now know as non-governmental organisations, or NGOs. He gives clear (although sometimes inevitably brief) accounts of such bodies, from Giuseppe Mazzini’s People’s International League of the 1840s and Karl Marx’s International Workingmen’s Association (the First Workers’ International) of the 1860s to today’s Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Mazower describes, with fascinating examples, how the “top-down” structures of successive state-led governance systems were increasingly paralleled by a “bottom-up” proliferation of transnational bodies representing not only ideologies, but also the economic, social and other needs of civil society. By 1900 there was an intense and organised pattern of specialist international conferences for scientists, and “not far behind were hoteliers, architects, bankers, actuaries” (and, most influentially, lawyers).

Soon the “functional” concerns of these and other groups led to formal intergovernmental agreements – to recognise the Greenwich Meridian for timekeeping or set up the International Postal Union – and during the League of Nations period the creation of a range of more structured specialist agencies aspiring to “govern” (or at least to influence) specific areas of international reality. They included the International Labour Organisation and the forerunners of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and Unesco.

via Times Higher Education – Governing the World: The History of an Idea.


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