Necdet Sevimli: Before the Law

Before the Law: International Organizations, Discourse and the Remaking of State-Society Relations within Transnationalization

Necdet Sevimli

This study is part of a larger research project which looks at contemporary transformations in the nature of the work of International Organizations (IOs) and which aims to demonstrate that IOs’ discursive emphasis on ‘governance’ has served to mobilize a specific normative-legal framework with which transnationalization is to be associated. Towards that end, the present paper will offer a discussion of the OECD’s (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) recent efforts to reposition itself as an institution whose mandate within global governance goes beyond measuring and reviewing economic activity and that amounts to redefining the proper form state-society relations ought to take. The OECD and various other IOs have sought to shape the space of transnational economic regulation by reordering the pattern of interactions between not only the actors, but also the spheres of societal relation that have been embedded in transnationalization. The embrace of ‘governance’ as an organizational paradigm has therefore had significant consequences for the way in which the boundary between ‘the political’ and ‘the economic’ is to be reset as well as for the perceived legitimacy of both actors and actions within transnationalization. Yet the ‘governance turn’ has not involved the positing of a clear role for supranational judiciary action in regulating political-economic relations, and courts with international authority have delivered verdicts that are at odds with IOs’ contemporary conceptualization of what constitutes the transnational economy. The CJEU’s (Court of Justice of the European Union) recent ruling that “the freedom to conduct a business may be subject to a broad range of interventions on the part of public authorities that may limit the exercise of economic activity in the public interest,” for instance, represents a significant challenge in this regard.
Taken together, these developments render it timely to ask how and by whom the meaning of ‘public intervention’ is to be determined within the post-Washington Consensus, post-crisis era of transnational ‘governance,’ and to enquire whether the contemporary international political-economic framework would enable the emergence of ‘protective social responses on a global scale’ as theorized by liberal governance scholarship. This paper proposes to raise such questions from a critical perspective, focusing in particular on the role of IOs’ scientific and policy discourses in framing the future of transnationalization.

Necdet Sevimli is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Middle East Technical University. His current research interests are in international political economy and, having a background in communication and cultural studies, he strives to approach the field with an interdisciplinary outlook. He is paying particular attention in his dissertation work to the interaction between the discourses and the practices of transnationalization including the laws and regulations that enable and frame transnational relations. Other current research projects include a chapter in a forthcoming edited volume which looks at the changing nature of political protest by focusing on questions of identity and cultural economy, and a study on the history of the ‘making of’ the ‘economy of Turkey.’


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