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Koremenos, Lipson, and Snidal: The rational design of international institutions

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.

Koremenos, Lipson, and Snidal. 2001. The rational design of international institutions. International Organization 55 (autumn): 761-799.

"Institutions" are "explicit arrangements, negotiated among international actors [not exclusively states], that prescribe, proscribe, and/or authorize behavior." This includes anything from the WTO to diplomatic immunity.

Y: How institutions are designed. Five components:

The authors seek to go beyond Keohane. Keohane established that repeated interaction can produce rational cooperation (what the authors call the "folk theorem"). But "If cooperation is within reach, why it is not always grasped? To answer that, we must go beyond any simple, optimistic interpretation of the Folk theorem. Although we assume that the general conditions of international interdependence are propitious, individual issues have features that make achieving and maintaining cooperation more problematic. Moreover, the standard Folk theorem conclusion needs careful refinement when applied to more realistic situations, where competing equilibria are in play, many actors are involved, and uncertainty is high." In addition, the authors want to explain how cooperation will occur, not just that it will occur. Problems of the folk theorm:


X: six of them


"Our work departs significantly from the earlier cooperation literature [e.g. Keohane 1984]. Because decentralized cooperation (supported by the Folk theorem) is difficult to achieve and often brittle, states devise institutions to promote cooperation and make it more resilient. But the form these institutions take varies widely. Often the necessary institutions are fairly minimal and simply reinforce the underlying conditions for cooperation, perhaps providing the information necessary for bilateral bargains. Other times, more complex problems may require a larger institutional role--such as when an issue involves actors with very different resources and information. Under these circumstances, institutions can play a major role in facilitating cooperation."

Research on similar subjects


Koremenos, Barbara (author)Lipson, Charles (author)Snidal, Duncan (author)International RelationsInstitutionsOrigins of InstitutionsNeoliberalismFunctionalismInternational Institutions

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