ISO and Social Standardisation: Uncomfortable compromises in Global Policy-Making

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Peña, A. M. (2011)
  • Publisher: Department of International Politics, City University London
  • Subject: JZ

This paper intends to explore the involvement of ISO, the world’s most iconic standard-setting institution, in the field of social responsibility, leading to the publication of the ISO26000 standard in November, 2010. Through several aspects of this experience, an almost decade-long process, I will show how ISO developed a new political structure aimed specifically at creating global policy, originating one the most sophisticated frameworks in existence to consensualise "universal" sociopolitical principles and infuse them with the legitimacy of a "global" technocracy and liberal institutions. Moreover, I will use the latest ISO26000 experience to argue that conceptual and institutional minimalism, which favours "soft" approaches towards global policy-making, paradoxically results from combining a technocratic aim for global compatibility with more participatory decision-making arrangements involving previously excluded socio-political actors. In that sense, ISO’s upgraded participatory mechanisms solved certain deadlocks suffered by previous initiatives only to affront and spark a new round of contradictions and consequences. Thus, I will conclude commenting on the intrinsic relationship between global standards, governance and complexity, and the difficulties of politically articulating programmes with dissimilar functional differentiation.
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