Legit Infrastructure?

An interesting, new-ish scholar to look into is Ben Cashore, Professor, Environmental Governance & Political Science; Director of the Governance, Environment, and Markets Initiative at Yale (GEM) and Director, Program on Forest Policy and Governance.

Currently, I’m reading his co-authored paper on establishing legitimate non-state governance infrastructure, in his case, regarding the voluntary self-regulation for the development of forestlands and the sale of such harvests on the global market.

The paper is very similar to his other work, but it raises two great points worth considering:

1. While there is much ado about “governance without government” most governance seems to be about government in some way or another; put another way, most non-governmental goverance is in fact quite governmental in terms of its origins, functions, and composition. For example, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was established by legitimate states and its body is mainly composed of individuals in or with strong ties to existing governments and it was established by states as a way for states to deal with international issues. This is good hidden-in-plain-sight observation: there is such a thing as goverance without government, but the “government” never gets too far from sight.

2. Because non-state mechanisms, such as voluntary self-regulation for the development of forestlands, have little or no power to enforce standards/norms and authority to penalize non-compliant firms, the legitimacy of these operations becomes paramount to understanding them. Their authority or power, which tend to be limited, are contingent on their legitimacy (note: this is a bit strong-handed, so please read the paper for a more nuanced interpretation).

Now, for the readers of this blog, this raises the issue of legitimate infrastructure. It is relatively rare to see work on infrastructure raise the notion of legitimacy, which is a concept that has many meanings and numerous analytical trajectories in various disciplines. In sociology, the new institutionalism is where I was first exposed to legitimacy arguments. Thinking back to Cashore’s work now, the development of non-state mechanisms such as voluntary self-regulation is influenced by the perceived legitimacy of the mechanism (and its relation to other mechanisms, conceivably), thus, might non-state infrastructural development follow the same underlying dynamic?

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