Internationalization: Nation-States Remain Legitimate, New Study Shows

The literature on globalization and the democratic nation state is dominated by a crisis diagnosis: Economic and political internationalization, the argument goes, are responsible for a waning state capacity. Yet what links internationalization with changing perceptions and evaluations of legitimacy? While there are plausible normative accounts of internationalization effects on the democratic nation state and its legitimacy, empirical perspectives on the link between internationalization and legitimacy are few and far between. In this book chapter, Henning Schmidtke and co-authors draw on a content analysis of legitimation discourses in the quality press of two EU member states (Germany, United Kingdom) and two democracies outside the EU (Switzerland, the United States) over a ten-year period (1998-2007). Their analysis suggests that internationalization has no uniform effect on the ascription or denial of legitimacy in the public spheres of the four examined countries. As a result, it does not foster a general decline of state legitimacy.

Sebastian Haunss, Henning Schmidtke & Steffen Schneider (2015), ‘Internationalization and the Discursive Legitimation of the Democratic Nation State’, In State Transformations in OECD Countries: Dimensions, Driving Forces and Trajectories, edited by Heinz Rothgang and Steffen Schneider, pp.  pp.167–186 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).

New Article: Between Functionality and Legitimacy: German Diplomatic Talk About the Opening of Intergovernmental Organizations

Have you ever wondered how diplomats, i.e. arguably still the most powerful actors in international organizations, think and talk about the idea of non-state participation? In my most recent article in Global Governance, I argue that German diplomacy so far only rarely conceptualizes non-state participation in intergovernmental organizations as a valuable step improving IO legitimacy. Rather, a functional understanding of IO participation, i.e. highlighting the material benefits of NGOs and others, persists. The notion that NGOs may also contribute to a larger legitimacy of IOs, e.g. by establishing participative and transparent procedures, is rarely mentioned and even actively challenged.

Below’s the abstract. Please feel free to comment!

Who should be allowed to participate in intergovernmental organizations? There is a growing debate about the increasing opening of IGOs for nonstate actors. Explanations of this phenomenon either highlight the functional benefits of opening, or the need of opening to maintain or increase organizational legitimacy. This article analyzes how German diplomatic talk frames nonstate participation and refers to functionality or legitimacy when justifying the opening of IGOs. The perspective of diplomats, the main gatekeepers of change in IGOs, has rarely been considered for analysis. This article argues that German diplomatic discourse about opening is mainly functional. There is only limited reference to nonstate participation as an element of IGO legitimacy. Further, there are elements in German diplomatic talk that challenge the legitimacy of nonstate actors.

Thinking About Trade

Workshop at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, 28 to 29 May 2015

World trade politics is conventionally explained based on interests weighed by power. Yet, like any area of political activity, it also includes a strong cognitive dimension. This dimension becomes evident in claims that the WTO is facing a ‘legitimacy crisis’ as well as in the emphasis placed on norms and values like ‘liberalization’, the ‘rule of law’ or ‘coherence’. It also becomes visible in struggles to include labor rights and sustainability into the preambles of bilateral or multilateral trade agreements and in the oftentimes fierce contestation over the meaning of concepts like ‘development’, ‘democracy’ or ‘differentiated treatment’ in the context of world trade politics.

The workshop puts the cognitive dimension center stage. It asks how cognitive approaches help us to make sense of politics in an issue area that is frequently regarded as a hard case for constructivists: How do norms, ideas and heuristics shape the power relations and the interests that actors pursue in the current trade regime? How and why do certain norms, ideas and heuristics norms become powerful? And how and why do the ways in which we see world trade politics – as well as the meanings and power attached to certain norms, ideas and heuristics – change over time?

In an attempt to integrate insights from different scholarly discourses and disciplines, the workshop seeks to take stock of the various roles that cognitions play in the conduct of world trade politics, either as the ‘deep structures’ that constitute or inform the agents and their interests as well as the positions they hold, or as the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and legitimate policy that actors regularly contest and (re)define in the pursuit of their assumed interests. Furthermore, the workshop seeks to explore how cognitive approaches question traditional assumptions over precisely what is an ‘actor’ and what is the relevant sphere of social relations that constitute the current world trade regime.

The workshop is organized by Klaus Dingwerth ( and Clara Weinhardt (, Global Public Policy Institute) as a part of the Global Democratic Governance Profile Area (GDG) of the University of St. Gallen. A limited number of travel grants will be available to reimburse travel and accommodation costs of workshop participants.

Key Dates:

  • Abstracts of up to 250 words can be submitted until Thursday, 5 February 2015. Please e-mail your abstracts to and
  • Decisions about the selection of papers will be communicated by Tuesday, 17 February 2015.
  • Full workshop papers will need to be submitted by Thursday, 21 May 2015.