Global Networks Talk | Jens Steffek | International Organziations as Technocratic Utopias

In this first Global Networks-Talk of Fall Semester 2021 Jens Steffek, Professor of Transnational Governance at Technical University Darmstadt will introduce his book "International Organization as Technocratic Utopia".

Jens Steffek is Professor of Transnational Governance at the Technical University of Darmstadt. His research interests include international organizations, international history and international political theory. He is the author of Embedded Liberalism and Its Critics: Justifying Global Governance in the American Century (Palgrave, 2006) and has published articles in numerous scholarly journals.

The book was published in the Oxford University Press academic book series Transformations in Governance. Within the series is considerable research in the areas of comparative politics, international relations, public policy, federalism, as well as research that addresses the shift of authority from central states to supranational institutions, subnational governments, and public-private networks. The series brings together work that enhances understanding of the organizations, causes, and consequences of multilevel and complex governance.

Das Event will be held online via Big Blue Button on November 10th, 5:00 - 6:30 pm.

Please register with Nele Kortendiek (nlkrtndkzd) for further details and to receive a copy of the book.


As climate change and a pandemic pose enormous challenges to humankind, the concept of expert governance gains new traction. This book revisits the idea that scientists, bureaucrats, and lawyers, rather than politicians or diplomats, should manage international relations. It shows that this technocratic approach has been a persistent theme in writings about international relations, both academic and policy-oriented, since the 19th century. The technocratic tradition of international thought unfolded in four phases, which were closely related to domestic processes of modernization and rationalization. The pioneering phase lasted from the Congress of Vienna to the First World War. In these years, philosophers, law scholars, and early social scientists began to combine internationalism and ideals of expert governance. Between the two world wars, a utopian period followed that was marked by visions of technocratic international organizations that would have overcome the principle of territoriality. In the third phase, from the 1940s to the 1960s, technocracy became the dominant paradigm of international institution-building. That paradigm began to disintegrate from the 1970s onwards, but important elements remain until the present day. The specific promise of technocratic internationalism is its ability to transform violent and unpredictable international politics into orderly and competent public administration. Such ideas also had political clout. This book shows how they left their mark on the League of Nations, the functional branches of the United Nations system and the European integration project.

Link to the Online-Event

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