While 'world opinion' is a staple in political discourse, the concept has received little attention in IR. Locating it along the 'realist-idealist' divide, existing studies have conceptualized 'world opinion' empirically, as an aggregative or intersubjective phenomenon, annexed or opposed to state sovereignty, and embodying a normative standard. Drawing on Luhmann's conception of public opinion and Foucault's governmentality approach, this article reconceptualizes 'world opinion' discursively (functionally and semantically), as a medium of communication that enables post-sovereign forms of international governance irrespective of an inherent normativity. The alternative conception of 'world opinion' is illustrated in the discourse of the emerging United Nations in the early 1940s. In this context, 'world opinion' addressed problems concerning the failure of the League of Nations, total war, and threats to 'civilization'. With public opinion research as a technical backdrop, 'world opinion' underwrote governmentalities of international policing, welfare and rights liberalism, post-colonial pastoralism, and pedagogical panopticism in response to these problems. Copyright

Additional Metadata
Keywords Governmentality, Luhmann, Realism-idealism debate, United Nations history, World opinion
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1177/1354066108097554
Journal European Journal of International Relations
Citation
Jaeger, H. (2008). 'World opinion' and the founding of the UN: Governmentalizing international politics. European Journal of International Relations, 14(4), 589–618. doi:10.1177/1354066108097554