Power in global governance an expanded typology from global health : commentary

Suerie MOON

The exercise of power permeates global governance processes, making power a critical concept for understanding, explaining, and influencing the intersection of global governance and health. This article briefly presents and discusses three well-established conceptualizations of power—Dahl’s, Bourdieu’s, and Barnett and Duvall’s—from different disciplines, finding that each is important for understanding global governance but none is sufficient. The conceptualization of power itself needs to be expanded to include the multiple ways in which one actor can influence the thinking or actions of others. I further argue that global governance processes exhibit features of complex adaptive systems, the analysis of which requires taking into account multiple types of power. Building on established frameworks, the article then offers an expanded typology of eight kinds of power: physical, economic, structural, institutional, moral, discursive, expert, and network. The typology is derived from and illustrated by examples from global health, but may be applicable to global governance more broadly. Finally, one seemingly contradictory – and cautiously optimistic – conclusion emerges from this typology: multiple types of power can mutually reinforce tremendous power disparities in global health; but at the same time, such disparities are not necessarily absolute or immutable. Further research on the complex interaction of multiple types of power is needed for a better understanding of global governance and health.