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Abstract

Analyses of authority in the global realm have risen to greater prominence in recent years but many of them employ a model of 'solid' authority borrowed from the domestic context that focuses primarily on commands issued by single institutions. This paper argues that such approaches tend to underestimate the presence of authority in global governance and to misunderstand its nature, leading to skewed accounts of the emergence of authority and the challenges it poses. The paper develops a broader conception of authority which also includes 'liquid' forms – forms characterized by informality, substantive groundings, multiplicity, and significant dynamism. It outlines how such a broader account can help us to reframe the problématique of postnational governance, especially by leading us away from statist frames when confronted with the particular difficulties of authority structures which often have pervasive effects but are hard to locate and grasp.

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