Proposal of a Compact between the United Nations and Business: A Rhetorical Perspective on World Orders

Mia Forum Palvig

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis explores a micro-perspective on the construction of world orders through rhetorical acts. A neo-Gramscian approach to international relations provides an understanding of world orders as historical structures that are constantly reconstructed. The United Nations takes on a decisive role in shaping and maintaining world orders. The United Nations Global Compact marks a changed approach to business by the United Nations, from code of conduct to collaboration. This thesis sees the change in approach in relation to a broader world order of neo-liberal globalization, zooming in on rhetorical acts on behalf of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In five speeches, Kofi Annan addresses business at the World Economic Forum, encouraging participation in the Global Compact. The thesis performs an analysis of those speeches, bringing out the constructed role offered to business. Drawing on the framework of Second Persona, the offered role lends insights into underlying ideology, and the ideology is discussed in terms of how it supports and/or reconstructs neo-liberal world order. The analysis shows how Kofi Annan constructs a hierarchical argument structure that argues how social responsibility should form integral social pillars of a neo-liberal global market and why business should participate in building such pillars (by signing on to the Global Compact). While the ideology of neo-liberal globalization is subject to reconstruction through the idea of social responsibility in the speeches, the thesis finds that, most of all, the offered role and underlying ideology should be understood as a political and discursive support of existing world order of neo-liberal globalization. In this way, the thesis is an example of speech analysis contributing to international relations by showing how world orders can come to life through a rhetorical microperspective.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages109