By Frank Biermann, Philipp Pattberg and Harro van Asselt, 2009


Most research on global governance has focused either on theoretical accounts of the overall phenomenon or on empirical studies of distinct institutions to solve particular governance challenges. Only very recently have scholars begun to investigate the middle level, that is, larger systems of institutions and governance mechanisms in particular areas of world politics, which are sometimes referred to as regime complexes, clusters, or networks.2 In this article, we conceive of such clusters of norms, principles, regimes and other institutions as the “governance architecture” of an issue area.3 We focus our analysis on one aspect of global governance architectures that, we argue, is turning into a major source of concern for observers and policy-makers alike: the “fragmentation” of governance in important issue areas of world politics. Our investigation is driven by an apparent lack of consensus in the academic literature on the consequences of fragmentation. In the different strands of academic research that we outline in this article, we and different predictions that range from a positive, afarmative assessment of fragmentation to a rather negative one.