Local and Global Governance and the Challenge of Heterogeneity: Revisiting the Agenda and its Implications for Institutional Theory
Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 30 Mar 2013
Date Written: 2011
The paper argues that if followed consistently, the logic intrinsic to the agenda defined by Local Commons and Global Interdependence is leading to a unique brand of institutionalism, a research program dealing systematically with the theoretical, empirical and normative problems of heterogeneity and its consequence, institutional diversity. The paper starts by revisiting the insights emerging from the empirical study of the impact of heterogeneity on collective action and governance. The crucial conclusion is that the findings are ambiguous as heterogeneity may both facilitate and impede collective action, in function of circumstances and situational logic. That explains why no general theory of collective action is possible: The situational logic circumstances require an approach that goes beyond the simple and global and deals with complex, interactive and conditional “theoretical scenarios”. These findings have momentous implications as they invite a rethinking of institutional theory on the pluralist lines opened by Ostrom and Keohane, in a radical departure from the mainstream approach built around homogeneity, “normalization” and “consensus” assumptions. Keohane’s and Ostrom’s works show that it is both necessary and possible to deal constructively with situations in which homogeneity and “consensus” are not assumed, existent or anticipated. The IR and local governance situations studied by them in depth, demonstrate the institutional complexity and diversity of possible answers to the problems of governance in conditions of interdependent heterogeneity. In all this, Keohane’s and Ostrom’s views converge with a new and innovative agenda advanced in social philosophy and political theory: the study of the problem of governance and social order in circumstances of deep heterogeneity, that lack consensus or convergence of preferences, beliefs or information. The paper elaborates the contours of the emerging perspective by pointing out the measure in which Ostrom’s and Keohane’s work fits into and provides a core analytical and empirical dimension to this agenda.
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