Global social movements (GSMs) are networks that collaborate across borders to advance thematically similar agendas throughout the world and in doing so have become powerful actors in global governance. While some scholars argue that GSMs contribute to democracy in the global arena, others insist GSMs have their own representational shortcomings. Both sets of scholars examine the general ways in which GSMs organize members, aggregate interests, and distribute power and resources. However, such features may not be uniform across GSMs. This article argues that in order to assess the affect of GSMs on global governance, scholars must analyze the representational attributes of individual GSMs. The article offers such a framework, using the case of the fair trade movement. The key insight offered is that a small number of institutions sometimes become dominant in a diverse movement, framing the movement to the public in a particular way, and exercising disproportionate influence within the movement. By evaluating the democratic qualities of these institutions, and the degree to which they do or do not represent the broader movement, scholars can evaluate the relationship between GSMs and global governance. The article concludes with a discussion of what representational deficiencies in GSMs may mean for global governance.
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