Dr. Hagen Schulz-Forberg is associate professor in the School of Culture and Society at Aarhus University, Denmark. His research interests focus on transnational conceptual history and European as well as global history, and he was recently named editor of the Politics, Governance, and the Law section of UC Press’s journal Global Perspectives, which publishes its first articles in January 2020.
UC Press: Welcome to Global Perspectives!
Hagen Schulz-Forberg: Thank you! Happy to be here. I am thrilled about the journal. That UC Press is moving into the field of Global Studies with such an ambitious and innovative endeavour is remarkable and, to my mind, a distinction for the Press. Congratulations for this. On the side of the editors we are all really excited and will work hard to make Global Perspectives the touchstone for global studies. A point of orientation in an ever more complex global present, a place for cutting-edge research and open-minded discussion. We all want to bring together voices and perspectives from all over the world. Positionality is increasingly recognised, that is the place from where the global is experienced, researched and communicated. Rather than establishing one global narrative, Global Perspectives is about respecting the equality of voices engaged in making the global and bringing them into dialogue. This approach means that there will be a lot to talk about, to disagree on and a lot to learn as established viewpoints are challenged. I am sure my own learning curve will rise quite steeply.
UC Press: The concepts of “politics,” “governance” and “law” are often treated distinctly in academics. Why did you want to pull these together as one area of research and understanding?
Hagen Schulz-Forberg: In Global Perspectives we all try to reach more complex answers and accept more complex questions. Strict disciplinary thinking, as helpful and grounded as it is, can be a hindrance sometimes, not least because every publication is written for a special audience, which can trap authors in disciplinary jargon. The famous “implicit reader” is as powerful in academia as it is in any other kind of genre. By bringing related yet often distinct concepts together we wish to invite authors to dare to broaden their own thinking, to write for a larger crowd. The academic integrity of UC Press and the research ethics we pronounce among us editors guarantees that such writing will live up to the highest academic standards. While we are new and innovative, publishing with Global Perspectives is not a risky business, but a sign of academic achievement.
My section is not the only one combining two or more concepts. While we created the sections we decided to group together concepts that are clearly related in order to reach synergies that help us to create broader fields rather than closed silos of scholarship. In my case, the reasoning behind pulling them together is the fact that in our contemporary world their interplay is so incredibly relevant from global perspectives (forgive the pun…). Ever since the days of the League of Nations we can see efforts at constructing a sustainable global order based on the relations between states and on the relations between the national and the international level. Among international lawyers and within organizations of global governance certain ideas, norms and practices develop that have a bearing on the organization of the nation-state. Multilateral and multi-level international collaboration—call it “global order”—has one clear precondition: states need to share some of their sovereignty. This begins with accepting basic norms of international law. Simply put, the effect of international law and global governance organisations is—beside the necessity to share basic norms and to share some of one’s sovereignty—the limitation of politics, at least in democratic countries, but even in non-democratic ones. This causes disagreement. Strong disagreement. Today’s populism thrives on the opposition to this unavoidable precondition.
The tensions emerging in the interplay between politics, governance and the law are thus extremely important. A return to bilateralism can not only be noted as a trend, but is in full swing. President Trump’s administration already practices it, Great Britain probably soon, too, even though more options are still in the cards there. Yet the rule of law as it is practiced currently is under pressure both nationally and internationally. In my section, I wish to provide a platform for a discussion of the current situation as well as the histories leading up to where we are right now. Pulling politics, governance and the law together means to go to the roots of global order construction.
UC Press: In his launch of the journal as a concept, Global Perspectives’ Editor-in-Chief Helmut Anheier notes that “the world that gave rise to the social sciences in their present form is no more.” How do you see these modern realities that Helmut alludes to informing your section?
Hagen Schulz-Forberg: What Helmut describes is shared by everybody in global studies across the social sciences and also within adjacent fields, such as the humanities, and as a shared conviction, it has crucially informed the thinking behind my section and the choice of who I invited as my board members. Dealing with the global and the transnational forces us to recalibrate our theories and methodologies. Not only has the world we observe changed dramatically in the last two to three decades, the way we observe it has changed—our theories and methods, our heuristics as well as our hermeneutics, the way in which we frame our questions—all of this has changed as well. Helmut’s observation refers to the awareness that established practices of the social sciences (and those parts of the humanities also dealing with the global and the transnational) are aware of the limits of their own discipline. One might summarise the challenges we face in global studies with two keywords: “methodological nationalism” and “Eurocentrism” or “Western centrism” to be more precise. While we have moved on from simply stating the need to address those two critical points and to open up our networks to include non-Western scholars and perspectives to actually doing the new research—with great, inspiring results and fascinating new perspectives, for example on the history, role and practice of human rights—there still remains a lot to do and to establish the life beyond methodological nationalism and Western centric thinking as the new normal is still a long-term project. For us, it is the new normal already, and we work towards making Global Perspectives the number one journal for anyone engaged with the new world of social sciences Helmut describes. I am extremely glad to have distinguished scholars on my board to help the cause. With Martti Koskenniemi, Christian Joerges and Samuel Moyn, for example, I have been able to gather scholars who have broken new ground in the field of law. But really all of my board members are at the forefront of thinking beyond the established boundaries of their disciplines. As thinkers, they are both critical and constructive, a combination I really like.
UC Press: In these early days of the journal, with the first papers publishing in early 2020, you have a blank slate that will become the Politics, Governance, and the Law section. What types of papers would you like to see published in your section?
Hagen Schulz-Forberg: With my board I decided to let the section come to live with papers that cluster around the theme of “neoliberalism.” We will encourage further thematic clusters in the future. Neoliberalism gets a lot of attention these days. Scholarship on the topic is increasingly interdisciplinary and in many ways has become representative for the relations between politics, governance and the law. It emerged in the 1930s within transnational networks closely tied to the League of Nations and combined from the beginning perspectives on politics (and the need to tame it), governance (in fact, neoliberalism can be seen as a governance concept) and the law (as neoliberals insisted on the rule of law and strongly engaged in pushing for economic constitutionalism). The first papers in the section come from lawyers, political scientists, political economists and historians. We will thus be able to showcase the section in all its breadth and depth. And we hope that more papers on the topic will follow. Thanks to the features UC Press provides, we will also add interviews and commentaries to the articles. We hope that these first articles already provide an interesting and lively forum for discussion that attracts readers and new contributions.
But apart from the thematic focus on neoliberalism, I hope to see papers inspired by the perspectives I described above. Rethinking governance from critical yet constructive perspectives is an important field today, for example, when the multilateral world of global governance as we knew it is undermined and challenged. As are fundamental reflections on the rule of law and its political implications and limitations. Yet beside these fundamental reflections, colleagues from the disciplines as well as from adjacent disciplines are invited to share their papers with us when our approach is appealing to them. From urban studies to gender studies; the combination of politics, governance and the law really is meant to be perceived as open as possible.
UC Press: If academics reading this post would like to submit their work to your section, what should they do?
Hagen Schulz-Forberg: They should simply get in touch! While I am glad about finished papers ready for double-blind peer review, I am also happy to help with the direction of a paper or with providing a quick feedback on whether or not a paper might fit the section.
UC Press: Thanks for your work on Global Perspectives, and here’s to a successful launch of your section!
About Global Perspectives
Global Perspectives is a peer-reviewed, transdisciplinary journal seeking to advance social science research and debates in a globalizing world, specifically in terms of concepts, theories, methodologies, and evidence bases. The journal is devoted to the study of global patterns and developments across a wide range of topics and fields, among them trade and markets, security and sustainability, communication and media, justice and law, governance and regulation, culture and value systems, identities, environmental interfaces, technology-society interfaces, shifting geographies and migration.