POLI 243 Lecture 5: Keohane - Demand for Regimes.docx

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19 Apr 2015
Keohane Demand for Regimes
Why self-interested actors in world politics should seek to establish international regimes through
mutual agreement ?
« Theory of hegemonic stability »: the view that concentration of power in one dominant state
facilitates the development of strong regimes and fragmentation of power is associated with
regime collapse.
BUT theory fails to explain lags between changes in power structures and changes in
international regimes, does not account for difference of durability of institutions within given
issue area and avoids question of why international regimes seem so much more extensive now in
world politics than during earlier periods or hegemonic leadership.
Argument in these article corrects some of these faults fluctuations in demand for international
regimes is not taken into account by previous theory => article focuses on the demand for
international regimes (for more complete interpretation )
Why do we want international regimes in the first place ?
Article uses Rational choice analysis and focuses on the strength and extent of international
regimes (not on their content or effects ).
Major arguments grouped in Five sections :
1) Systemic constraint-choice analysis : virtues and limitations
In systemic theory, changes in outcome are explained on the basis of changes in the attributes of
the system itself
Assume that actors in world politics tend to respond rationally to constraints and incentives.
Changes in the characteristics of the international system alter opportunity costs to actors of
various courses of action = lead to changes in behavior.
In this model the demand for international regimes is a function of system characteristics.
Use of rational choice theory implies that we must view decisions involving international regimes
as voluntary BUT because of great inequalities , how can we analyze international regimes with a
voluntaristic mode of analysis ?
By distinguishing 2 aspects of the process by which international regimes come into being:
the imposition of constraints : dictated by environmental factors but also powerful actors
( « imposed regime » : regimes agreed upon within constraints mandated by powerful actors)
decision making
= Voluntary choice does not imply equality of situation or outcome.
We expect states to join the regimes in which they expect the benefits of membership to outweigh
the costs in this analysis, observed changes in the extent and strength of international regimes
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may be explained by reference to changes either in the characteristics of the international system
( the context within which actors make choices) or of the international regimes themselves
( about which the choices are made).
This constraint-choice approach draws attention to the question of why disadvantaged actors join
international regimes even when they receive fewer benefits than other members (issue ignored
by arguments that regard certain regimes as simply imposed ).
weak actors as well as powerful actors make choice, even if they make them within more
severe constraints.
2) The context and function of international regimes
2 features of the international context are particularly important:
world politics lacks authoritative government institutions
and is characterized by pervasive uncertainty
Major function of international regimes is to facilitate the making of mutually beneficial
agreements among governments (to not lead to complete « war of all against all » ) .
Waltz self-help system: actors cannot call on higher authority to resolve difficulties or provide
Actors in world politics may seek to reduce conflicts of interest and risk by coordinating their
behavior coordination has many of the characteristics of a public good, which leads us to
expect that its production will be too low.
Theory of hegemonic stability: hegemonic international systems should be characterized by
levels of public good production higher than in fragmented systems and (if international regimes
provide public goods) by stronger and more extensive international regimes.
BUT this argument ignores the « demand » side of the problem (why should governments desire
to institute international regimes in the first place?)
Major function of international regimes is to facilitate the making of specific agreements on
matters of substantive significance within the issue-area covered by the regime, helps to make
governments expectations consistent with one another.
arrangements will lead to mutually beneficial agreements that would otherwise be
impossible/difficult to obtain
BUT is it not more efficient to avoid the regime stage and make agreements on an ad hoc basis ?
Why use international regimes ?
Because of market failure : problems attributed to structure of the system and the institutions
( like transaction costs or uncertainty ).To correct these defects, conscious institutional innovation
may be necessary.
Like imperfect markets, World politics is characterized by institutional deficiencies that inhibit
mutually advantageous coordination
The demand for international regimes at any given price will vary directly with the desirability
of agreements to states and with the ability of international regimes actually to facilitate the
making of such agreements. Condition for theory to work : sufficient complementary or
common interests exist so that agreements benefiting all essential regime members can be made.
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