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II Regional Perspectives on Global Governance

A Perspective from the Middle East. Governance and the Problem of Knowledge

Nida Alahmad

Introduction

Is there a critical regional perspective from the Middle East on global governance?1 Focusing on the politics of the Middle East and the largest and oldest regional governance body—the Arab League, this chapter argues that, while we may be able to conceive of a 'global' or a 'regional' governance structure, a critical regional perspective is not possible. This is due to three reasons that are connected to the problem of the construction of knowledge. First, there is the problem of governance as a technology of ordering the world that requires the production of abstracted forms of knowledge about the objects that it tries to act upon. Second, a regional governance structure might give an appearance of a coherent perspective through the policies and decisions of a governance body. However, this is not a critical perspective, as it hardly reflects the perspective of the populations governed. While a region may seem like a coherent unit through policies and decisions of regional governance bodies, regional politics, and life, which are the source of the critique, these are not clearly defined, and thus cannot produce a unitary or coherent perspective. Third, a cultural (counter) perspective on governance is also extremely difficult to determine. This is because global governance is a techno-political rather than a geocultural form of ordering and perceiving the world. In the [1]

following sections, these three claims will be explained and expanded upon. At the most basic level, a critical perspective that would reflect the demands, aspirations, and cultural manifestations of the populations that are governed is one that can only be reflected through politics rather than perspectives that are channelled and produced by regional governance bodies.

The arguments extended in this chapter are mostly apparent in the context of the Middle East, although by no means should they suggest a regional exceptionalism. The non-exceptionalism of the Middle East shall be clear through comparative examples with other regions based on the works in this volume. At the same time, the main argument of this chapter, that, in the Middle East, a critical regional perspective is only possible through the daily political lives of the governed, rather than a normative conception based on the actions of regional governance bodies. This is owing to the fact that the region has low integration levels and is currently witnessing a radical reconfiguration of power relations. This transitional moment means that regional governance structures are also witnessing a moment of reconfiguration and contestation over their function, meaning, and scope of governance.

  • [1] The author would like to thank Andre Bank, Andrea Teti, Anna Triandafyllidou, and theanonymous reviewer of this volume for reading earlier drafts of this chapter and providinginsightful and helpful comments. The final version of this piece has benefited from RobertVitalis's critical reading and suggestions.
 
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