In This Review

Contesting Global Governance: Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements
Contesting Global Governance: Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements
By Robert O'Brien, Anne Marie Goetz, Jan Aart Scholte, and Marc
Cambridge University Press, 2000, 260 pp
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International economic institutions are most often studied from the perspective of the governments that created them. But global multilateral institutions -- such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank -- are not just tools of leading states but organizations where diverse actors meet and struggle over policy decisions. This empirically rich book attempts to capture that new complex reality. The authors argue that multilateral economic institutions increasingly need to engage well-organized nongovernmental organizations with their own agendas, which in turn transforms the character of global economic governance. Rather than being exclusively state-based, these institutions are gradually becoming models of "complex multilateralism" that practice a decentralized and pluralistic brand of governance. That said, these changes have been incremental and mostly affect decision-making rather than actual policy. Although the book offers more questions than answers, it usefully highlights the unresolved tensions between state-sponsored institutions and growing transnational civic activism.