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Theory of the norm and democratic governance

Research project P5/23 (Research action P5)

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The general objective of the research proposed for IAP V is to apply the theoretical results produced during IAP IV, both at the level of the theory of action and at that of the contextual proceduralisation of law (see the final report of IAP IV, Theory of the norm and democratic regulation, Louvain-la-Neuve, 2001), to different problems of governance. To achieve this, the organisation of the research will be developed on three concrete levels. It will be a matter, across these three levels, of:

1. reinterpreting the current debates on the theory of governance from the perspective elaborated in IAP IV (i.e. that of a contextual proceduralisation);

2. continuing the work of reconstructing theoretically the reflexive shortcomings of the pragmatic presuppositions of contemporary theories of governance; and

3. developing several specific fields of application in order to evaluate the practical advantage and the prescriptive force of the hypothesis proposed at the theoretical level.

The organisational logic governing the distinction between these three levels is essential because it directs both the internal organisation of each of the levels and the structure of the network. This logic is reflexive. It consists (a) in starting from the analysis of the shortcomings of the existing mechanisms of governance in order then (b) to interrogate the different currently proposed responses and (c) to try to move beyond these by elaborating proposals capable of responding to the insufficiency of already existing outline solutions. This research logic thus considers that the evolution of normative practices always already involves a certain evaluation of its limitations and different attempts to elaborate forms of conditionality so as to be able to respond to these limitations. Nevertheless it is the questioning of these mechanisms of judgement mobilised to co-ordinate this action of adjustment that is most lacking.

The three levels of research are organised on the basis of this logic.

1. The theory of governance is the focal point where the debates relating to the shortcomings of currently available modes of regulation and to the responses that are currently proposed are reconstructed.

2. The pragmatic theory of practical judgment highlights the presuppositions (or the reflexive shortcomings) of the responses thus proposed, thanks to the construction of a different reflexive scheme (‘inferential reflexivity’). By synthesising these first two levels, a response to the shortcomings of governance mechanisms that integrates the requirements of this reflexive scheme will be constructed.

3. The fields of empirical investigation are an opportunity to evaluate the advantage offered in practice by the reflexive scheme thus finalised. The empirical propositions produced following the reflexive research scheme will be called ‘inferential’ insofar as they allow an increase in the reflexivity of actors and of the governance arrangements they mobilise thanks to ‘reflexive incentives’. Propositions of this sort will be elaborated, on the one hand, in the extension of the neo-institutional perspectives in law and in corporate governance and, on the other hand, in the specific domain of international negotiations regarding biodiversity and sustainable development.

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