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Participation and inequality ‘beyond the state’. An explorative study on the opportunities for participation of transnational civil society actors based on the example of institutions of global economic governance


  • funded by the DFG

The project analyses the interactions between political participation and inequality in the context of institutions of "global economic governance". The question is whether and to what extent the opening up of international organizations to the participation of civil society actors in dialogue forums has reduced or strengthened existing structures of inequality, or whether they have even contributed to the establishment of new forms of inequality in global politics. The project is based on the observation that world economic organizations have reacted to accusations of a fundamental lack of legitimacy, which they have increasingly been confronted with since the end of the 1990s, by setting up so-called dialogue forums. These forums combine institutionalized but differentiated possibilities of participation according to status with situationally granted participation by the governing authorities. Preliminary empirical observations carried out in the preparation of this project proposal, which are to be followed up in the framework of the research project, suggest that the dialogue forums are supposed to cement and reinforce inequalities in at least two respects. Firstly, a thematic pre-selection is made, which does not include radical critics of the existing global order (political inequality and inequality of relations) and, secondly, to take part in the discussion on the question of whether or not to be able to deal with them. Against this background, the project pursues a twofold objective: Firstly, it aims to investigate the interactions between the dosed participation in and by means of the dialogue forums on the one hand and inequality structures on the other. As the first exploratory considerations seem to suggest, new forms of inequality have formed through the Dialogue Forums, or old forms, i.e. with a view to colonialism and imperialism, have been continued? Or are inequality structures being broken up and world economic questions politicized by these dosed forms of participation? Does the fact that actors appear in the dialogue forums who represent other views, behavioral patterns or discursive dynamics that were not foreseen in this form develop? Secondly, the research project seeks to reconstruct the ideas of (transnational) democracy and democratic legitimacy that guide and inspire reform efforts in general and the dialogue forums in particular.