Here, I want to very briefly draw out and expand on certain themes that may prove critical in pushing forward a more sustainable, egalitarian global economic framework.
First, 'hard' rules will not necessarily lead to determined outcomes. Unlike a force that may produce an effect in nature, rules do not by themselves lead somewhere, regardless of whether people follow them or not. In other words, a rule has no prior determination or meaning outside of a regular practice of action, which itself is not governed by the rule but by unarticulated understandings and ritualized, often undetectable, practices. 'Hard' rules, like 'soft' rules, are prone to regulatory capture unless such rules can also take into account these informal mediations and implementations of the rules themselves. In fact, beyond the fact that the interpretation of rules is always determined through practice and hence fluid, derogation from rules may be essential to the creativity and usefulness of any normative framework. Thus, it is essential that the emphasis is not only placed on constructing 'better' rules, but more importantly, on addressing (and probably, adapting) the institutional settings, actors, and procedures that give life to these rules.
Second, the current strategies put forward by Western governments in the last year have largely operated on the assumption that the 'fundamentals' of the global order are sound, and that the economic challenges are the result of non-regulation and wishful, naive, or even willfully ignorant thinking. Drawing upon our first theme, however, the issue should be recharacterized less about the need for regulation, and more about the type and character of regulation at play. Moreover, by focusing on the lack of regulation/oversight, current reform efforts are unable to adequately contemplate the possibility that the economic deterioration was more systemic in character, and therefore, that any meaningful longer term alleviation of these challenges will require a thicker re-imagination of the nature and practices of business, the distinction between the public and private spheres, and so on. Beneath the calls for 'sustainability', 'cosmopolitanism', and 'egalitarianism' resides the fact that the current lifestyles we enjoy and the global framework that supports them are simply irreconcilable with meaningful reforms. This leaves us with much more difficult, but essential choices to make about who will be the winners and losers - in short, we should be as open as possible about the inevitable costs of any reform and come to terms with the limits of our intentions.
Third, a body of experts might be crucial for developing an understanding of the systemic challenges at play in the current crisis, and provide an outside (though not disinterested, or necessarily objective) perspective and set of recommendations to more successfully take on the current challenges.
PhD in Law Candidate, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London