Mazower: Governing the World

Mark Mazower’s Governing the World, a history of global governance since 1815, is on my to-read pile. But I have now demoted it down the list because of a review by Eric Voeten. Voeten praises the first half, but says the second half is more polemic than history.

Mazower dismisses the WTO in two pages as “a club of the developed world” and lumps it together it with the IMF and World Bank despite its fundamentally different institutional form and role. Mazower does acknowledge the influence of the European Court of Justice but somehow concludes that it has been “oddly neglected” (p.411).

The chapter on the “Real New International Economic order” mostly rehashes well-known critiques of the IMF as a tool of US foreign policy. The chapter on “humanity’s law” is obsessed with the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine; seemingly accepting Noam Chomsky’s critique that this doctrine provides a moral justification for Western (especially U.S.) interventions in the internal affairs of weak states. The justice cascade is dismissed without even referencing Kathryn Sikkink’s seminal work on this. No reference is made to Michael Barnett’s history of humanitarianism. The chapter on Europe has similar issues. We get a brief reference to Spinelli but no serious effort to trace the very rich intellectual history of the European Union and the idea of regionalism more generally. While Mazower criticizes the power of EU technocrats and networks of regulators, there is no reference to David Mitrany, Ernst Haas, or even Jean Monnet (at least in this chapter). I could go on but the basic point is that these chapters move away from the format of an intellectual history and edge closer to that of a polemic.

Fact of the day: international courts have issued over 40,000 judgments of which more than 90% came after 1990.


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