In This Review

The Emergence of Private Authority in Global Governance
The Emergence of Private Authority in Global Governance
By Rodney Bruce Hall and Thomas J. Biersteker
Cambridge University Press, 2003, 272 pp

States have historically been the dominant source of authority in international relations thanks to monopoly on the legitimate use of force. As this evocative book points out, however, authority has begun to take root in nonstate societal and transnational spheres -- particularly in the global economy, where private transnational regimes have been devised by banks and firms to regulate transactions. Centuries-old traditions of self-regulatory merchant law have grown into a highly institutionalized semiprivate commercial legal order in which states participate only indirectly to provide enforcement. Other chapters explore the moral authority of transnational religious movements and nongovernmental organizations, and the final chapters examine the authority exercised today by influential nontraditional private actors such as mafias and mercenary armies. Relations between authorities are multifaceted and difficult to pin down -- and, indeed, the privatization of specific jobs is now often promoted or welcomed by the state. Nonetheless, the authors succeed in illuminating the many dimensions and shifting terrain of state and nonstate authority, even if the extent and consequences of private governance remain ambiguous.