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This article takes the challenges of global governance and legitimacy seriously and looks at new ways in which international organizations (IOs) have attempted to ‘govern’ without explicit legal or regulatory directives. Specifically, we explore the growth of global performance indicators as a form of social control that appears to have certain advantages even as states and civil society actors push back against international regulatory authority. This article discusses the ways in which Michael Zürn's diagnosis of governance dilemmas helps to explain the rise of such ranking systems. These play into favored paradigms that give information and market performance greater social acceptance than rules, laws, and directives designed by international organizations. We discuss how and why these schemes can constitute governance systems, and some of the evidence regarding their effects on actors’ behaviors. Zürn's book provides a useful context for understanding the rise and effectiveness of Governance by Other Means: systems that ‘inform’ and provoke competition among states, shaping outcomes without directly legislating performance.


ratings and rankings, indicators, performance, shaming, norms, social pressure, social influence

Publication Title

International Theory

Publication Citation

13 Int'l Theory 169 (2021).