chapter  2
12 Pages

Accountability in world politics

ByROBERT O. KEOHANE

World politics has never been a democratic realm. Now, with interdependence and globalisation prompting demands for global governance, the lack of global democracy has become an important public issue. Yet the domestic analogy is unhelpful since the conditions for electoral democracy, much less participatory democracy, do not exist on a global level. Rather than abandoning democratic principles, we should rethink our ambitions. First, we should emphasise, in our normative as well as our positive work, the role played by information in facilitating international cooperation and democratic discourse. Second, we should define feasible objectives such as limiting potential abuses of power, rather than aspiring to participatory democracy and then despairing of its impossibility. Third, we should focus as much on the powerful entities that are the core of the problem, including multinational firms and states, as on multilateral organisations, which often are the focus of criticism. Finally, we need to think about how to design a pluralistic accountability system for world politics that relies on a variety of types of accountability: supervisory, fiscal, legal, market, peer and reputational. A challenge for contemporary political science is to design such a system, which could promote both democratic values and effective international cooperation. Much of the work for which you honour me with the Skytte Prize1 derives

from my critique of a conventional view of the study of international relations that was more common 35 years ago than now. In this perspective, world politics is essentially a matter of interstate competition, which breaks out occasionally in warfare. The role of students of world politics, in this view, is to understand the causes of war and the conditions of peace. Without denying the importance of this subject, I have sought to redefine the study of world politics by broadening its scope. I have sought to analyse transnational relations and interdependence, and to explore the conditions under which institutionalised or legalised cooperation takes place among states. I have also investigated the implications of such cooperation for outcomes that we care about, ranging from the maintenance of alliances, to security against terrorism to environmental protection.