Regime Theory


What are International Regimes?

"sets of implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures around which actors' expectations converge in a given area of international relations" (Krasner 1983)


-         norms: standards of behavior defined in terms of rights and obligations, e.g., non-intervention, MFN treatment


-         principles: beliefs of fact, causation, or rectitude, e.g., free trade generates wealth; arms control increases security


-         regimes vary by “given area” or “issue-area”: regimes for trade, finance, economic development, human rights, nuclear proliferation, etc.


-         there may or may not be formal international organizations (IOs) for a given regime (e.g., WTO for trade, but no central IO for human rights)


-         regimes are more than one-shot agreements or cooperation for short-term self interest


-         changes in principles and norms are changes of regimes; changes in rules and decision-making produces are change within regimes


Why Do Regimes Form?

-         Multiple arguments rooted in economics and sociology

-         2 main views for IR


Hegemonic Stability Theory (C. Kindleberger)

-         compatible with realist theories (esp. Gilpin)

-         hegemon creates regimes to govern the system

-         regimes will founder if hegemon weakens

o      Concern in 1970s-1980s that perceived weakening of US relative power would undermine international regimes


“Demand” for Regimes (Keohane, 1982)

-         states with interest in cooperation will form regimes

-         success depends on compatibility of interests, willingness to compromise, and provision of information

o      relative gains concerns diminish because regimes reveal information about their intentions and capabilities

o      states seek “diffuse” reciprocity rather than “specific” reciprocity


Could regimes survive “after hegemony”?

-         liberal were skeptical that new regimes could be formed easily, but…

-         existing regimes could be maintained (Keohane, 1984)

-         key states that benefited would alter contributions to maintain the regime, including declining hegemon

-         primary focus on regimes for trade and monetary cooperation in 1970s and 1980s