The Legitimation of Non-State Regulation in Interconnected Normative Orders

Normative orders exist in the plural, with non-state forms of norm setting and norm implementation complementing state-based regulation at the domestic as well as the international level. Their interplay takes various forms. On the one hand, governmental and intergovernmental regulators can still define the room for, provoke, condone or suppress non-state forms of regulation. On the other hand, state actors’ traditional repertoires of legitimation come under pressure. Narratives of regulatory legitimation need to redefine their purpose as well as their justifications.
The overarching research interest of this project concerned the question of whether the privatization and transnationalization of normative ordering goes along with a general decline of democratic standards for legitimizing regulatory regimes. The expectation of such a decline is supported above all by two developments: the rise of neoliberal governance paradigms that rely primarily on performance-based criteria of legitimacy and the growing importance of non-state actors as norm-setters whose regulatory authority usually rests on non-democratic grounds of legitimacy.
The project investigated the normative reference points for the legitimation of normative orders. It collaborated closely with the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History (MPIeR), which investigates similar issues from the perspective of legal history. The work of both projects rested on a shared conceptual frame of reference and a range of questions developed in regular joint meetings: Do legitimation narratives for state and non-state regulations differ systematically or do they rest on a shared normative basis? Do changes in the predominant form of regulation call for changes in the legitimation narrative? Taking its guide from these and related questions, the ultimate aim of the project is to evaluate patterns of legitimation for state and non-state forms of regulation from a normative perspective.
In an attempt to widen the scope of our comparative research and include different cases of public, private and hybrid types of normative ordering, we invited renowned international and national researchers to share their expertise on legitimization patterns in the context of local, regional, national and transnational political ordering from the early 20th century to the present in a joint workshop held at the MPIeR in April 2016.
The results of this collaborative research were published in March 2017 as a special issue of the peer reviewed open access journal “Politics and Governance” on “Legitimization of Private and Public Regulation: Past and Present” that was co-edited by the project directors. An overall assessment of the various findings shows that no single identifiable pattern can be discerned that could provide an easy answer to the overarching question. The significance of criteria for legitimacy varies over time and according to the specific context. Moreover, the contributions highlight that justifications of the exercise of authority by private actors are closely intertwined with the perceived crisis of parliamentary systems. Democratic criteria are also less important when the “state prerogative” applies, i.e., when intergovernmental regulation exists. The values used to appraise the state-based components of the regime do not differ systematically from those used to appraise the private elements. Justificatory grounds founded on normative criteria relating to fundamental individual rights and democratic procedure do not appear to be diminishing in importance vis-à-vis performance-related considerations. One reason for this may in fact be the new quality of public authority exercised by private regulators.

The most important publications of this project:

Wolf, Klaus Dieter/Stefanie Herr/ Carmen Wunderlich/Svenja Gertheiss: Resistance and Change in World Politics. International Dissidence, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

Wolf, Klaus Dieter/Peter Collin/Melanie Coni-Zimmer (eds.): “Legitimization of Private and Public Regulation: Past and Present”, in: Politics and Governance 5(1), 2017, therein: “Editorial” as well as several articles.

Wolf, Klaus Dieter and Melanie Coni-Zimmer: ”Empirical Assessment of (Policy) Effectiveness – The Role of Business in Zones of Conflict”, in: A. Schneiker and A. Kruck (eds.): Methodological Approaches for Studying Non-state Actors in International Security – Theory & Practice, London: Routledge, 2017.

Flohr, Anne: Self-Regulation and Legalization: Making Global Rules for Banks and Corporations, Basingstoke/Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Flohr, Anne: "A Complaint Mechanism for the Equator Principles – And Why Equator Members Should Urgently Want It", in: Transnational Legal Theory 5(3), 2014, pp. 442–463.



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