This article discusses arguing and communicative action as a significant tool for non-hierarchical steering modes in global governance. Arguing is based on a logic of action that differs significantly from both the rational choice-based ‘logic of consequentialism’, and from the ‘logic of appropriateness’ theorized by sociological institutionalism. Arguing constitutes a learning mechanism by which actors acquire new information, evaluate their interests in light of new empirical and moral knowledge, and – most importantly – can reflexively and collectively assess the validity claims of norms and standards of appropriate behaviour. As a result, arguing and persuasion constitute tools of ‘soft steering’ that might improve both the legitimacy problems of global governance by providing voice opportunities to various stakeholders and the problem-solving capacity of governance institutions through deliberation.