Governance (GOVN) 540

Global Governance and Law (Revision 3)

GOVN 540

Revision 3 is closed for registrations, see current revision

Delivery Mode: Grouped study

Credits: 3

Prerequisite: None.

Precluded Course: GOVN 540 cannot be taken for credit if credit has already been obtained for Athabasca University's GOVN 440, GLST 440, or POLI 440.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Program: Master of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies

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**Note: Students in Group Study courses are advised that this syllabus may vary in key details in each instance of the course. Always refer to the Moodle site for the most up-to-date details on texts, assignment structure, and grading.**


Governance 540: Global Governance and Law is a three-credit, graduate-level course which provides an overview of the theoretical debates on law as governance in an increasingly globalized world. The study of law and governance is multidisciplinary, including sociology, political science, political theory, international relations, psychology, and law. Thus it is not possible to cover the vast subject of global governance and law in a single course. The issues that we will study here reflect the significance of globalization to contemporary politics. Each unit is a sampling of some of the recent thinking on governance and law, rather than an exhaustive overview of the literature.

Here are some of the questions posed by this course:

  • Under what circumstances do people conform?
  • Why do states cooperate?
  • Does law prevent violence?
  • How does governance function without government?
  • What is the relation of law to democratic practice?

Rather than reviewing institutions and structures of government, this course provides the tools and concepts necessary for you to understand and think critically about practices of governance, and how and towards what ends they function in contemporary societies.

We will explore some of the current debates on globalization, especially in relation to violence and the use of force, political community, legal legitimacy, and democratic practices. We will discuss a number of key questions related to these debates:

  • What is governance for?
  • Where does accountability lie?
  • How does law function?
  • Who is being governed?
  • Who participates in governance?

We will consider these and other questions, and will look at various institutions of governance, including several institutions of the United Nations, multilateral economic institutions, and international criminal tribunals. You will gain a broad understanding of some of the problems for governance and law in politics posed by globalization, from a contemporary social theory perspective.

Governance 540 does not assume that you already have a background in global governance and law. The textbooks and course materials in the Reading File are meant to offer a sophisticated introduction to some of the key concepts in the area. Together with the commentary in the "Study Guide," the readings for Governance 540 introduce the interdisciplinary terrain of the study of law and governance and situate these discussions in the context of globalization. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which international organizations and global social movements impact how violence, economics, and politics are regulated globally, and we will look at a number of governmental and non-governmental organizations. Throughout the course our discussion will be informed by contemporary theoretical debates.

Course Objectives

The primary objective of Governance 540: Global Governance and Law is to introduce students to the interdisciplinary study of governance and law and, in particular, global governance and law. When you have completed this course, you should be able to

  1. discuss the significance of modern forms of state and global governance.
  2. analyze the challenges to the sovereign state system and the possibilities of legal governance in globalization.
  3. offer a detailed account of the many ways in which globalization is manifested.
  4. discuss the significance of global social movements in globalization.
  5. analyze contributions that social movements make to food, environmental, military, and human rights security globally.
  6. evaluate the different kinds of democracy that global social movements propose.
  7. discuss the interrelationship of the environment, gender, human rights, and social and economic wellbeing.
  8. understand the politics of legal systems, whether global or domestic.
  9. gain an understanding of how to read and write with critical interpretation.
  10. develop a sense of how theories inform policy and legal decisions.

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the Master of Arts—Interdisciplinary Studies grading system. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from the program.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Course Activity Weighting
Online Participation 20%
Assignment 1: Theory Paper 1 20%
Assignment 2: Theory Paper 2 20%
Assignment 3: Major Research Paper 40%
Total 100%

Course Materials

The course materials for GOVN 540: Global Governance and Law include the items listed below. If you find that any items are missing from your course package, please contact the Course Materials Production department at Athabasca University as soon as possible. You may call Athabasca University, toll-free, from anywhere in Canada or the United States at 1-800-788-9041 and ask to speak to someone in Course Materials Production (ext. 6366). Students in the Edmonton and Calgary dialling areas are asked to call the Learning Centres to connect with the automated attendant, and then dial the four-digit extension. You may send e-mail to, or write to Course Materials Production at Tim Byrne Centre, 4001 Hwy 2 South, Athabasca AB T9S 1A4.


  • O'Brien, Robert, Anne Marie Goetz, Jan Aart Scholte, and Marc Williams. 2000. Contesting Global Governance: Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Athabasca University Online Materials

Course Home Page: You will find Course Information (including the Assignment File and other pertinent information) at the top of the course home page. You will also find your Study Guide presented unit by unit online. You will find your assignments and links to submit your work to your professor on the course home page.

Athabasca University Library: Students are encouraged to browse the Library's Web site to review the Library collection of journal databases, electronic journals, and digital reference tools:

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 3, September 1, 2012.