Theories of International Regimes

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Over the last decade, international regimes have become a major focus of empirical research and theoretical debate within international relations. This article provides a critical review of this literature. We survey contending definitions of regimes and suggest dimensions along which regimes vary over time or across cases; these dimensions might be used to operationalize “regime change.” We then examine four approaches to regime analysis: structural, game-theoretic, functional, and cognitive. We conclude that the major shortcoming of the regimes literature is its failure to incorporate domestic politics adequately. We suggest a research program that begins with the central insights of the interdependence literature which have been ignored in the effort to construct “systemic” theory.

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International Organization