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The Foreign Imposition of Domestic Institutions

  • John M. Owen

International relations research has paid little attention to why states often spend precious resources building and maintaining domestic institutions in other states. I identify 198 cases of forcible domestic institutional promotion, the most costly form of such interventions, between 1555 and 2000. I note several patterns in the data: these interventions come in three historical clusters; they are carried out by states of several regime types; states engage in the practice repeatedly; target states tend to be undergoing internal instability; states tend to promote their own institutions; and targets tend to be of strategic importance. The most intensive periods of promotion coincide with high transnational ideological tension and high international insecurity. I argue that these two conditions interact: forcible promotion is most likely when great powers (1) need to expand their power; and (2) find that, by imposing on in smaller states those institutions most likely to keep their ideological confreres in power, they can bring those states under their influence. Although in periods of high insecurity domestic variables alone may account for institutional impositions, such impositions may nonetheless extend the promoting states' influence and thereby alter the balance of international power.

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International Organization
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