Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Relations

First Advisor's Name

Felix Martin

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Harry Gould

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

John Oates

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Guillermo Grenier

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Private authority, Environmental Politics, discourse analysis, content analysis, networks, network analysis, private governance, global governance

Date of Defense



The aim of this dissertation is to expand upon current understandings of the emergent global phenomenon that is private authority. Private authority is a process wherein private actors create, implement, and enforce rules aimed at managing global problems. As private authority is becoming increasingly important in the conduct of global governance, broadening our understanding of it will serve the field of International Relations. In this dissertation I argue that private actors are not simply outgrowths of structures or certain material conditions, rather they are purposive actors strategically pursuing an agenda. As such, explaining private authority requires an examination of the constitutive elements that underlie this social phenomenon––to which I apply an innovative conceptual and analytical framework that combines social network theory with discourse analysis.

I applied these tools to two cases taken from the environmental sector––forests and fisheries. I found that as a result of the development of a greater networked character to environmental politics, the actors that were best able to generate and wield private authority were those that were able to construct discursive nodal points around which other competing actors could converge––at the level of identity. The construction of nodal points placed these private actors in privileged positions in-between competing networks––making them network connectors. In this position they are able to facilitate the flow of power across networks and convert such into private authority, at a rate greater than that of their competitors.

As related to the cases, I found that in forests and fisheries sectors it was the Forest Stewardship Council and Marine Stewardship Council that emerged as the most prominent and expansive private authorities. They did so as a result of their ability to construct a nodal point around their tailored definition of what sustainable development meant, and looked like in practice. This placed them in-between two powerful networks (the environmental NGO network and the industrial network), facilitating the flow of power between them, and leveraging such to expand their programs beyond that of competing programs. Thus, social position plays a crucial role in determining the success of private authority programs.





Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).