This paper outlines some theoretical and methodological parameters to study ‘global’ adult education policy by discussing public policy making, the changing nature of the (nation-)state and its authority, global governance, and policy as a practice of power. The rest of the paper is structured in five sections. Section one discusses public policy making, and highlights the changing context in which it occurs, within and outside governmental structures and across national territories. This brings into evidence the critical authoritative positioning of nation-states in promoting, adopting or rejecting ideological shifts under a new regulatory system. Section two examines the changing nature of state’s power and legitimate authority, in inter-dependence or relation with other institutions, as captured by the ‘strategic-relational’ approach. Section three further explores these relations by looking at the movement ‘from government to governance’, and it contends that governing is increasingly a matter of negotiated decision-making among actors, inclduing the state, using norms and ideas as tools of power and authority. Section four discusses sociological and anthropological perspectives to global, rather than national, policy, to investigate power relations and governance in education via the links between agents, institutions, discourses and material practices. Finally, section five draws some theoretical and methodological implications for researching ‘global’ adult education policy.