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Global administrative law and the constitutional ambition

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The emergence of global governance has called into question many of the tools and concepts by which the traditionally dichotomous spaces of national and international politics and law were ordered, and various structuring proposals are competing to take their place. In this paper I examine two such proposals – global constitutionalism and global administrative law. Both represent distinct visions of how to approach the challenge, their key difference lying in their respective ambitions: constitutionalist visions set out to describe and develop a fully justified global order, while global administrative law is more limited in scope, focusing on particular elements of global governance and confining itself to the analysis and realisation of narrower political ideals, especially accountability. Such a limited approach raises serious problems, most prominently difficulties in separating ‘administrative’ from ‘constitutional’ issues and the risk of legitimising illegitimate institutions. But it also bears significant promise as it allows to focus on, and begin to answer, crucial questions of global governance without leaping to grand designs borrowed from dissimilar contexts and likely at odds with the fluid and diverse character of the postnational polity.

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