Beyond Gridlock

In This Review

Beyond Gridlock
By Thomas Hale and David Held
Polity, 2017
280 pp.

Conventional wisdom holds that the Western-centered postwar system of multilateral cooperation is in crisis. In areas as diverse as security, trade, development, the environment, and public health, the challenges of managing interdependence have multiplied and cooperation has receded. In an earlier book, Hale and Held described the problem as “gridlock”: a world order marked by dysfunctional international institutions and countries less willing or able to coordinate polices and provide global public goods. In this new book, the authors reassess that bleak outlook. Reporting on research conducted by a consortium of experts, the book identifies some areas of effective cooperation, such as the World Trade Organization’s dispute-settlement mechanism and the Chemical Weapons Convention. It also notes that, as older frameworks weaken, new types of multilateral cooperation have emerged. For example, although the WTO’s Doha Round of trade talks has stalled, China is building trade and investment ties across Central Asia and Southeast Asia. The Paris agreement on climate change signaled another form of progress. As Hale and Held see it, the institutions of global governance are inadequate, but small innovations and experiments in cooperation—often pursued regionally, in coalition with civil society groups, or by transnational technical elites—show promise. 

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