Tag Archives: WTO

Deciancio, Melisa, Pablo Nemina, and Diana Tussie (eds.), Handbook on the Politics of International Development (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2022)

This is a book that makes a significant contribution to the extant professional literature, particularly the academic literature in political science, although there continue to be far too few serious attempts to link their research issues directly with those of economics, i.e., neoclassical economics or contemporary political economy. Sociology is also not directly a major source of the insights presented in this book. In particular, there is no world-systems theory emphasis, although many themes do overlap with the traditional topics found in many world-systems analyses of the global capitalist system.

The three editors are all from Argentina. All are affiliated with FLASCO, Argentina.[1] The contributors come from Columbia, Australia, India, Spain, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Dubai, South Africa, México. Ecuador, Malaysia,  Kyrgyzstan, China, Greece,  Hence, they supply a perspective that is truly global. While there are also some chapters by authors in the UK, Canada, the US, and Germany, the book as a whole is quite different in some ways from the predominant North American, British and European viewpoints.[2]

The book is rich with useful information. It is difficult to review it, because there are thirty chapters. Some of the chapters are arguably better than others, but none can be said not to belong in a book on such an important topic.

The book is divided into four parts:

Part I: The Concept and Politics of Development: Paradigmatic Debates. (Five Chapters.)

Part II: Development and Contested Globalization. (Eight Chapters.)

Part III: The Politics of Development Agendas. (Nine Chapters.)

Part IV: Global Actors in the Politics of Development. (Eight Chapters.)

In a short book review I cannot do justice to all of the thirty chapters. So, I have selected the Introduction and will emphasize two chapters from each of the four Parts. The choice of those eight chapters is arbitrary and subjective. But it does provide a kind of sample of the book as a whole.

Let me start with the “Introduction” by the three editors. It is not listed as a separate chapter, but is in a sense a 31st chapter. (Also, there is no “Conclusion” by the editors.) The Introduction is comprehensive. There is mention of the “broader intellectual landscape of the political economy” (p. 2) and IPE (International Political Economy), which is discussed on Pp. 46, 173-176, and 218-228. There is no sustained discussion of Classical Political Economy. The brief mention of Karl Marx (1867) on Pp. 244-245 is a very basic mention of the difference between slavery and “free labor.”[3]  (Axel Marx is also mentioned.) Thomas Piketty’s Capital is cited on p. 465 to indicate that capital has grown but has not been widely distributed. Then the discussion goes to philantropy and a sudden rise in the contribution of “private wealth” to “social causes.” Hence, some slight mention of Political Economy, but no real exploration of the “broader landscape.” The emphasis is more closely associated with the “field” of political science and with stimulating and detailed discussions of all kinds of organizations. Acronyms of UN agencies abound, not just UNESCO and UNICEF. The authors are clearly well versed on the day-to-day activities of all kinds of agencies and know a great deal about many international agreements. The World Bank (WB) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are also discussed in several keen ways.

The book has many strengths. But it has taken me a long time to finish this book review in part because I wanted to not let my immediate impression dominate what I write. As a Handbook with a specific slant, it is valuable and would make a useful contribution to any university library. Also, now that is can be dowloaded online, there may be individuals who wish to purchase it as well. But I found myself comparing it to Brian Frederking and Paul F. Diel’s (2015) fifth edition of The Politics of Global Governance: International Organizations in an Interdependent World. A useful dialogue would happen if that book were critiqued by the editors and authors of the Handbook being reviewed here. Important issues such as poverty, disease, regional conflict and climate change are dealt with quite differently in the Frederking and Diel book.

Similarly, I tried to compare the Handbook to Sylvia Walby (2009) Globalization & Inequalities. That book tends to look at “modernity” as a more complex issue and has a somewhat more critical approach, although not Critical Theory of Marxist/Marxian theory per se. The issues dealt with when we consider international development, modernization, rural integrated development, the role of international and national organizations such as NGOs, and so forth, are so complex that no one Handbook can cover all the necessary ground. Moreover, the intellectual problems hinted at in this Handbook could have involved more dialogue and debate. On the other hand, that would have made it a different book. It is always unfair for any reviewer to start to question a book project. The reader will gain a great deal from the separate chapters and from the overall organizational structure. The framework, however, should not necessarily be taken as the final word.



[1] The Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) was founded in 1957 by UNESCO. FLACSO is an international, intergovernmental, regional and autonomous organization with representations in different Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico.

[2] Bruce Currie-Adler is identified as “Program Leader,” IDRC, the  International Development Research Centre, Ottawa-Gatineau, Canada. [I myself have benefited from IDRC grants and an IDRC sponsored seminar for selected students in Indonesia.]. Daniel Kefeli is a Doctoral Researcher, Institute of Political Science, University of Münster, Germany. Karen M. Siegel is Research Group Leader: “Transformation and Sustainability Governance in South American Bioeconomies,” Instutute of Political Science, University of Münster, Germany.

Amrita Narlikar is President, German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA), Germany as well as a Non-resident Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, India, and Honorary Fellow, Darwin College, University of Cambridge, UK. Thomas H. Stubbs is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Research Associate in Political Economy at the Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge, UK.

José Antonio Ocampo is Professor of Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs, University of Columbia, USA.

[3] I was surprised to read there are “only” 2.6 million people in North America, Europe and Oceania who are malnourished. The statement is from Lima and Baca in Chapter 16: The Polltics of Food. They are the only authors who cite Karl Marx’s 1867 work on the Critique of Classical Political Economy. (They cite a Spanish edition I do not have at hand.) It is true the percentage of severely malnourished people is higher in other parts of the world, but the authors do not seem to be familiar with the extensive literature on food insecurity in the US.

Christian Joerges and Ernst-Ulrich Petersmann (eds.), Constitutionalism: Multilevel Trade Governance and International Economic Law (Hart Publishing: Studies in International Trade Law, 2011)

The overarching approach, as pioneered by the two editors, Christian Joerges and Ernst-Ulrich Petersmann, is to examine the practices of States and other international actors (principally the WTO) and explores these within the political and legal theory of constitutionalism. Where this work differs from much of the comparable scholarship on international economic law is the central place reserved for the individual as a key player (and beneficiary) of international economic relations. Much scholarship exists on international trade from States’ perspectives; and much has been devoted to exploring the contradictions and tensions between international economic law, individual rights and sustainable development. Recognizing that “human rights law and international trade law evolved as separate legal regimes” (p. 17) Constitutionalism, Multilevel Trade Governance and International Economic Law makes a positive case for interpreting international economic law and international human rights as complimentary systems that ought to be brought closer together; indeed, to form a single, coherent system of law. It is an implicit response to concerns about the fragmentation of international law and reflects the classical principle of interpretation of treaties as codified in the Vienna Convention in the Law of Treaties 1969 that: “There shall be taken into account, together with the context, any relevant rules of international law applicable in the relations between the parties” (article 31(3)(c)). With this in mind, international economic law is viewed as a tool to serve human interests, as opposed to the interests of States and multi-national corporations. Responding to the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ call for a “human-rights approach to trade,” (p. 22) the book provides both an account of the normative basis that would legitimise such an approach by the WTO and makes proposals for how that process might evolve.

The introductory chapter (Petersmann) provides a theoretical framework for what follows, examining different forms of constitutions and constitutional ideas (democratic constitutionalism, rights-based constitutions, national and international constitutionalism, international constitutional democracy and federal and con-federal constitutions) (p7-8). Petersmann also distinguishes process-based constitutional democracies (most common law models) and substantive rights-based constitutional democracies (the continental approach) which provides the setting for much of what follows (pp. 13, 16).

The later edition contains 4 new chapters exploring conflicts-law as constitutional forum and the role that various doctrines in international private law might play in dispute settlement in international economic law (Christian Joerges); the World Trade Organisation and global administrative law (Richard Stewart and Michelle Ratton Sanchez Badin); the interrelationships between different layers of domestic and international governance as a “Five-Storey House” (Thomas Cottier); and a research agenda on the future developments of international economic law (Petersmann).

Petersmann concludes with four propositions based on the contributions as well as his own research. First, the legitimacy of international economic law pivots on its congruence with international human rights standards (p. 539). Second, there is a need for constitutional constraints on international institutions as there is within domestic States based upon “constitutional pluralism,” meaning that there is a range of acceptable constitutional arrangements and no single system that should be required of all players (p. 540). Third, in order to protect global public goods, such as the atmosphere and climate, a “paradigm shift” is required and this involves moving from a system of industry actors to the centralization of human subjects and Petersmann points to the European Union for leadership to this end (pp. 571-2). Fourth, international constitutionalism is necessary to guarantee global public goods in the same way that domestic constitutions have protected supply of public goods on a national scale. The international constitutional system must be rights-based, participatory and democratic (p. 575).

When the first edition of this text was published in 2006, mainstream commentators were not yet ready to question the bases of the international economic order and the priority of trade liberalism. Two years later, the rapid declines of the Nordic and Mediterranean economies of Iceland, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain were met with attacks on human rights and human security. Both the original crisis and the responses of international institutions to the same have led to much soul searching about the principles and priorities of international trade and this volume is a welcome contribution to that debate, sometimes controversial and always challenging. On the other hand, recent events within the Eurozone raise some questions regarding to the extent to which the European Union can be considered a model of international, constitutional, democratic, rights-based governance (compare p. 21) especially if one considers the means by which Iceland (outside of the European Union) has crawled back to economic growth while attempting to protect its most vulnerable residents compared with the demands placed on the Eurozone economies. Something more seems to be needed even within an international organization that positions fundamental individual rights at the heart of its formal constitution. Perhaps the answers are to be found in multilevel trade governance; perhaps they await further research, and one can only hope that the scholars involved in this project continue to devote their considerable talents to challenging the paradoxes and contradictions of the current international structures to develop a regime that remembers it is an instrument for human development, instead of viewing human beings as instruments for its own development.