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Reflexive Governance for Global Public Goods

Brousseau, Eric, Tom Dedeurwaerdere, Bernd Siebenhüner (editors). 2012. Reflexive Governance for Global Public Goods. . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press


Since the publication of the ground-breaking work on global public goods by Inge Kaul et al. a decade ago  many political initiatives have been launched, a wide number of governance experiments have been run, and much research has been carried out at the interface of economic, political and environmental sciences. This interdisciplinary book addresses the new challenges in the governance of global public goods in fields of environmental concern and new/emerging global issues such as global health, food security and technological risks. It takes stock of the knowledge that has been accumulated over the years and develops novel perspectives for understanding and designing governance of global public goods.

The argument presented in this book acknowledges that the traditional public-economy theory of public good provision is oversimplified as it is fundamentally state-centered (both at the national and international level) and fiscally focused, and therefore fails to consider the broader politics of multi-stakeholder and transnational public good provision. As a consequence, global public good concepts as used today are not sufficiently aligned with the specific understandings and the incentives of the various actors that play a role in their provision. What is more, most traditional approaches underestimate the fact that the knowledge of the actors about environmental issues and about governance matters is bounded, resulting in the need to share and generate knowledge thanks to appropriate governance solutions.

To overcome these limitations, this book develops an interdisciplinary approach by exploring new developments at the research frontier of economics and political science. With a particular focus on reflexive processes of learning and knowledge generation, the book attempts to bridge the gap between governance arrangements and actors’ incentives and understandings, and applies the resulting insights to problems of global public goods provision in various fields such as global environmental issues, global food security and development assistance. For example, within economics, the analysis highlights the need to examine the interplay between economic incentives and spontaneous contributions to public goods. Similarly, within political science, it is shown that the tragedy of the commons in bargaining between states should be revisited in light of the role of peer pressure, public opinion, and local or transnational communities. By examining economic and political science approaches from this common perspective the book also enriches the existing analysis of important trade-offs in governance such as the combination of public deliberation and expert consultation, or centralized and decentralized modes of public good provision.

The authors collectively show that effective governance of global public goods needs to be democratic, reflexive, and knowledge-based. To examine these implications, the volume is organized in five parts that present new theoretical concepts and related empirical research. Starting out from the challenges of reflexive governance in the field of global public goods, this book studies the complex impact of incentives, compliance problems in international treaties and transnational advocacy movements, stakeholder involvement in environmental decision making, and the specific coordination needs of generating knowledge on global public goods.

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