This paper seeks to make the case for the necessity and feasibility of a clear-cut distinction between public and private authority on the international level. While the significance of the distinction between the public and the private had long been under dispute between individualistic (or liberal) and holistic (or republican) approaches to the relationship between state and society, discourse theory reconceptualizes the relationship between state and society and confirms the necessity for such a distinciton. The emergence of global governance requires shifting the focus of discourse theory from public law to public authority, and from a single society to a pluralistic order. On this basis, the distinction between public and private authority becomes one of perspective: "public" is the authority exercised within a certain self-defined group, and "private" the authority affecting those who are not part of that group. The operationalization of this approach leads to some unexpected insights about international legal phenomena.