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Cowhey: Domestic institutions and the credibility of international commitments

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Cowhey. 1993. Domestic institutions and the credibility of international commitments: Japan and the United States. International Organization 47 (spring): 299-326.


Like medieval monarchs, modern great powers face credibility problems. Even though they may find it advantageous to use multilateral institutions, they always have the power to renege on commitments to other countries.

A state's domestic institutions (X) affect its international credibility (Y) (more specifically, Y is the credibility of a commitment made by a great power to a multilateral regime). Three variables matter:


These institutions only apply to democracies. How, then, could the USSR or China ever make a credible commitment? They make commitments, and other states accept these commitments, so there must be some mechanism by which non-democratic great powers can make credible commitments. Wouldn't these same mechanisms also enable the US to make credible commitments?

Research on similar subjects


Cowhey, Peter (author)International RelationsDomestic Politics and International RelationsCredible CommitmentVeto PlayersSelectorate TheoryInformationPublic Goods

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