Recursive Recognition in the International Political Economy

André Broome, Leonard Seabrooke*

*Corresponding author for this work

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How are the tools that govern the world economy legitimated? Here we discuss how governance tools - such as policy scripts, templates, and benchmarks - are developed to contain particular types of knowledge. Such tools contain blueprints of how the world economy should work. Understanding how they are produced and legitimated is important if we are to comprehend how they replicate particular bodies of knowledge, policy languages, and norms. We suggest that ‘recursive recognition’ is an important trend in the international political economy, where different types of organizations legitimate particular governance tools; especially ones producing common metrics. For example: a private foundation releases a study on best practices in policy area X, which is then referred to as best practice by an intergovernmental organization, an NGO, a firm, and a global professional service firm. Investigating the extent of this phenomenon requires addressing two blind spots. The first blind spot is conceptual in the reification of agency and authority based on organizational types. The second blind spot is empirical in identifying how pervasive recursive recognition has become, and how it affirms the reproduction of power asymmetries.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of International Political Economy
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)369-381
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: 20 Oct 2020.


  • Authority
  • Governance
  • Legitimacy
  • Benchmarks
  • Rationalization
  • Structural power
  • Consultancies
  • Intergovernmental organizations
  • Global professional service firms

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