chapter  2
26 Pages

Risk, global governance and security

The guiding principle and overarching theoretical premise of this book is that global risks such as terrorism that characterise today’s ‘global risk society’ can best be managed by a new culture of multilateral multilevel cooperation between actors of all sorts.1 Needless to say, this informs the empirical analysis employed throughout our case studies. But what sort of theoretical basis within IR exists for thinking in such terms? The answer might lie in a relatively well-established body of work on global governance theory, which provides a useful starting point, but how might that in turn engage with the fast-growing field of risk and security studies? In this chapter, we set out to explore and consolidate the foundations that might exist for a fruitful theoretical convergence between risk studies and global governance. In order to sketch out the academic environment within which this book positions itself, we begin by discussing the bourgeoning field of risk studies, paying particular attention to the diverse manifestations and usages of risk-related concepts that have emerged so far in the war on terror. Since one of the added-value claims of this book is to operationalise Ulrich Beck’s ideas about ‘cosmopolitan’ cooperation, these will need to be singled out for critical evaluation.2 In the process, we highlight core themes that will guide our empirical analysis, as well as critique some conceptual drawbacks in Beck’s ideas. We then turn to global governance, particularly notions of ‘global security governance’ and ‘global risk governance’, demonstrating how shared assumptions and interlocking goals do exist between the two sets of literature: Beck’s global risk society on one hand and global governance on the other. Finally, seeing that Beck has remained somewhat silent on the issue, we also assess how global governance strategies can themselves fulfil crucial risk management functions in practice, which have taken on new importance in the war on terror. It remains to be stressed here at the onset that our goal is not so much normative or prescriptive. We are not in any way suggesting that the global security

architecture we are examining somehow represents or endorses a normative vision for how global governance arrangements should be. We do not use global governance as a normative term denoting ‘good’ or ‘bad’ practice. By invoking the cosmopolitan in Beck’s sense of the word, we are not automatically granting a seal of legitimacy to what are arguably anti-liberal practices such as the sharing of airline passenger data demanded by US authorities. We are simply using theories of risk as a critical conceptual lens to describe and analyse existing global governance practices rather than passing normative judgement on those practices.3 Furthermore, the multilateral approaches discussed should not necessarily be seen as indicative of Beck’s ideas being consciously adopted and implemented. Rather we are simply suggesting that such developments do appear to be moving closer to what Beck had in mind than the more militarised aspects of the war on terror so far.