The Emerging Normative Structures of Transnational Law: Non-State Enterprises in Polycentric Asymmetric Global Orders

43 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2016 Last revised: 22 Nov 2016

See all articles by Larry Catá Backer

Larry Catá Backer

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law

Date Written: March 16, 2016


Globalization has produced a wealth of writing that seeks to theorize the emerging relationships between states, non-state actors (especially multinational corporations), and international organizations. For lawyers, the relationship among these actors through law is especially meaningful. What has been emerging in recent years with greater clarify is that while the formal structures of organization of law and its relationship to the state system remains substantially unchanged, the realities on the ground have moved substantially away from these formal structures. The traditional premises that have been used to justify and explain the relationships among states, non-state actors, international organizations, law and governance no longer adequately either explain or justify the actual behaviors and outlooks of these actors. This essay considers the tension between the traditional premises of organizing governance (within and through states) and the emerging transnational legal order. The focus of examination is the corporation, which is where this tension is most in evidence. The analysis starts with the ideology of the state order, which disguises alternative governance orders and the governments through which they are operationalized. It is with the effects of the ideology of the state order that the analytical limitations of analysis become clearer, the object of Section II. Sections III and IV explore the power of ideology in framing analysis in the conception of the reality of self-constitutionalizing organization outside the state and in theorizing of transnational law as method. Both suggest the ways in which the ideologies of framing analysis can color both the way in which relationships are understood and the objectives of analysis are formed. Section V then posits an alternative analysis, normatively autonomous (though not entirely free) of the orbit of the state, a vision possible only when the ideological presumptions of the state are suspended.

Keywords: transnational law, comparative law, Multinational corporations, constitutional law, private governance, corporate social responsibility

JEL Classification: F02, K33, M14

Suggested Citation

Backer, Larry Catá, The Emerging Normative Structures of Transnational Law: Non-State Enterprises in Polycentric Asymmetric Global Orders (March 16, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Larry Catá Backer (Contact Author)

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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