Two Models of the Global Order
by Richard Child
Intergovernmental organizations such as the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank
are global agents with the ability to affect millions of lives for better or worse.
In light of this fact, there is some plausibility to the thought that theorists of global
justice should focus their attention on what has been termed "institutional" or
"mid-level" theorizing about the global order. On this view, the goal of normative
political theory is to study how these important global organizations work, assess
the ways in which they act and the rules they impose on other agents, consider
alternative ways in which they could exercise their power, and ultimately produce
directly action-guiding principles to prescribe their future behavior in the hope of
justifying these institutions and bringing about an overall gain in justice. Crucially,
according to many proponents of this view, this work can be carried out without
asking unnecessarily deep and complex questions about the fundamental design
of the global institutional structure. Such "non-institutional" or "foundational"
theorizing is of dubious practical relevance and, in any case, is likely to be much
more controversial than less abstract theorizing, and consequently much less
likely to contribute to real change.