Institutionalized Inequality in Global Governance

This project investigates the question of how power inequalities in the international system are both reflected in and reproduced by the formal and informal design of global governance institutions.

The project starts from the observation that dominant actors within the international system – most notably the US as the global hegemon, but also the West as a whole and the so-called “rising powers” – use a variety of strategies to shape the design of international institutions to their benefit. This includes formal hierarchical institutions as well as exclusive clubs and informal institutions, which often give more leeway to powerful actors in interpreting their rules than to weaker actors. Moreover, we can distinguish a substantive and a procedural dimension of institutionalized inequality; hierarchical institutions, for instance, can be marked by a hierarchical distribution of rights and obligations and/or hierarchical procedures for rule-making.

These formal variations of (unequal) global governance institutions have been discussed by international legal scholars as manifestations of “hegemonic international law”, but have hardly been systematically analyzed by of International Relations theorists. To fill this gap, the project addresses three central questions, focusing on the field of arms control as an exemplary policy area but complementing this with shorter comparative analyses of international trade and finance.

  1. What explains the observable variations in the institutionalization of inequality across policy areas and subareas? Why and under what conditions are actors willing to accept certain forms of institutionalized inequality? The project hypothesizes that such acceptance depends not only on rational cost-benefit calculations, but also on how institutions and actors address justice-related demands and other normative expectations, as well as on institutional path dependencies.
  2. How do global power shifts affect the increasing fragmentation of the global institutional order? With regard to this question, the project investigates the hypothesis that not only rising powers demand institutional change, but that established powers such as the United States seek to compensate for losses of power through „forum shifts“, i.e. by moving political issues to hierarchical, exclusive or informal structures.
  3. Through what mechanisms and under what conditions do international organizations contribute to reproducing global inequalities? This question is investigated in cooperation with Dr. Katja Freistein (Universität Duisburg-Essen/Centre for Global Cooperation Research) as well collectively through a series of author workshops.
Employees:
1
Understanding the Puzzle of Unequal Recognition: | 2019

Fehl, Caroline (2019): Understanding the Puzzle of Unequal Recognition:. The Case of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in: Fehl, Caroline/Peters, Dirk/Wisotzki, Simone/Wolff, Jonas (eds), Justice and Peace. The role of justice claims in international cooperation and conflict, Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 67-85.

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3
Multilateralismus minus eins? Chancen und Grenzen multilateraler Kooperation in der Ära Trump | 2017

Fehl, Caroline/Thimm, Johannes (2017): Multilateralismus minus eins? Chancen und Grenzen multilateraler Kooperation in der Ära Trump, in: S+F: Sicherheit und Frieden, 35:3, 150-154, https://www.nomos-elibrary.de/10.5771/0175-274X-2017-3-48/multilateralismus-minus-eins-jahrgang-35-2017-heft-3?page=1.

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4
Is the Crisis of Security Institutions a Crisis of Institutional Theory? | 2016

Fehl, Caroline (2016): Is the Crisis of Security Institutions a Crisis of Institutional Theory? Dialogues, Diversity, and Discipline, in: Schlag, Gabi/Junk, Julian/Daase, Christopher (eds), Transformations of Security Culture, London: Routledge.

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5
Understanding the Puzzle of Unequal Recognition | 2015

Fehl, Caroline (2015): Understanding the Puzzle of Unequal Recognition. The Case of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in: Daase, Christopher/Fehl, Caroline/Geis, Anna/Kolliarakis, Georgios (eds), Recognition in International Relations. Rethinking a Political Concept in a Global Context, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 104-122, https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137464729_6.

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6
Unequal power and the institutional design of global governance | 2014

Fehl, Caroline (2014): Unequal power and the institutional design of global governance. The case of arms control, in: Review of International Studies, 40:3, 505-531, https://www.cambridge.org/(...).

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7
Institutional Mechanisms of Global Inequality Reproduction | 2014

Fehl, Caroline/Freistein, Katja (2014): Institutional Mechanisms of Global Inequality Reproduction, SFB 882 Working Paper Series No.37, Bielefeld: University of Bielefeld.

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8
A Non-Proliferation (r)Evolution | 2012

Fehl, Caroline (2012): A Non-Proliferation (r)Evolution. US Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Policy Under Bush and Obama, in: Meier, Oliver/Daase, Christopher (eds), Arms Control in the 21st Century. Between Coercion and Cooperation, New York: Routledge, 169-189.

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Partners

Dr Katja Freistein, Käte Hamburger Kolleg Duisburg

Donors

Fritz Thyssen Foundation
Fritz Thyssen Foundation
www.fritz-thyssen-stiftung.de