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Interests, power, and multilateralism

  • Lisa L. Martin (a1)

Multilateralism characterizes, to varying degrees, patterns of interaction among states and the formal organizations they construct. The utility of multilateral norms or organizations varies with the type of cooperation problem states confront. Thus, the functional logic of international cooperation leads to hypotheses about the conditions under which the institution of multilateralism may be a feasible and efficient solution, as in coordination problems, and those under which it will not, as in collaboration problems. Within these constraints, powerful states choose institutions that will serve their interests, with multilateral arrangements becoming more attractive as the future is valued more highly. Multilateral institutions should be stable in circumstances of changing distributions of power, relative to more hierarchical institutions. The vulnerability of patterns of international cooperation to various exogenous changes depends on the type of strategic interaction underlying state behavior.

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This article was originally prepared for the Ford Foundation West Coast Workshop on Multilateralism, organized by John Gerard Ruggie. The author gratefully acknowledges the Ford Foundation's financial support for this project. My thanks also to Robert Keohane and Stephen Krasner, as well as to the participants in this project, for their valuable comments on this research.

1. See Garrett Geoffrey, “International Cooperation and Institutional Choice: The European Community's Internal Market,” International Organization 46 (Spring 1992), pp. 533–60;Ruggie John Gerard, “Multilateralism: The Anatomy of an Institution,” International Organization 46 (Summer 1992), pp. 561–98;Caporaso James A., “International Relations Theory and Multilateralism: The Search for Foundations,” International Organization 46 (Summer 1992), pp. 599632;Weber Steve, “Shaping the Postwar Balance of Power: Multilateralism in NATO,” International Organization 46 (Summer 1992), pp. 633–80;Kahler Miles, “Multilateralism with Small and Large Numbers,” International Organization 46 (Summer 1992), pp. 681708; and Ruggie John Gerard, ed., Multilateralism Matters: The Theory and Praxis of an Institutional Form (New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming). See also International Journal 45 (Autumn 1990) , which is a special issue on multilateralism.

2. Keohane Robert O., “Multilateralism: An Agenda for Research,” International Journal 45 (Autumn 1990), pp. 731–64.

3. Yarbrough Beth V. and Yarbrough Robert M., “Cooperation in the Liberalization of International Trade: After Hegemony, What?International Organization 41 (Winter 1987), p. 4.

4. Ruggie, “Multilateralism,” pp. 569–74.

5. See Snidal Duncan, “Coordination Versus Prisoners ‘Dilemma: Implications for International Cooperation and Regimes,” American Political Science Review 79 (12 1985), pp. 923–42; and Stein Arthur A., “Coordination and Collaboration: Regimes in an Anarchic World,” in Krasner Stephen D., ed., International Regimes (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983), pp. 115–40.

6. Laver Michael, “Political Solutions to the Collective Action Problem,” Political Studies 28 (06 1980), pp. 195209.

7. I illustrate only two-person games here. Obviously, situations of multilateralism involve more players. However, many of the fundamental dilemmas of cooperation appear in these simple two-person illustrations.

8. The folk theorem demonstrates that cooperation can be maintained as an equilibrium in repeated prisoners' dilemmas, conditional on a low discount rate (i.e., the future is valued highly) and credible retaliatory threats. See Abreu Dilip, “On the Theory of Infinitely Repeated Games with Discounting,” Econometrica 56 (03 1988), pp. 383–96;Friedman James, “A Noncooperative Equilibrium for Supergames,” Review of Economic Studies 38 (01 1971), pp. 112; and Axelrod Robert, The Evolution of Cooperation (New York: Basic Books, 1984).

9. For an example, see Milgrom Paul, North Douglass, and Weingast Barry, “The Role of Institutions in the Revival of Trade: The Medieval Law Merchant, Private Judges, and the Champagne Fairs,” Economics and Politics 1 (Spring 1989), pp. 123.

10. Yarbrough Beth V. and Yarbrough Robert M., “International Institutions and the New Economics of Organization,” paper delivered to the University of California, Berkeley, Institutional Analysis Workshop, 05 1990 ; and Garrett, “International Cooperation and Institutional Choice.”

11. Keohane Robert O., “Reciprocity in International Relations,” International Organization 40 (Winter 1986), pp. 127.

12. Jackson John H., “GATT Machinery and the Tokyo Round Agreements,” in Cline William R., ed., Trade Policy in the 1980s (Washington, D.C.: Institute for International Economics, 1983), pp. 159–87.

13. Snidal, “Coordination Versus Prisoners’ Dilemma,” pp. 929–30.

14. See Arrow Kenneth J., Social Choice and Individual Values, 2d ed. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1963), pp. 2–3; and McKelvey Richard P., “Intransitivities in Multidimensional Voting: Models and Some Implications for Agenda Control,” Journal of Economic Theory 12 (06 1976), pp. 472–82.

15. Weingast Barry R. and Marshall William J., “The Industrial Organization of Congress; or, Why Legislatures, Like Firms, Are Not Organized as Markets,” Journal of Political Economy 96 (02 1988), pp. 132–63.

16. For example, see Oye Kenneth A., “Explaining Cooperation Under Anarchy: Hypotheses and Strategies,” in Oye, ed., Cooperation Under Anarchy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986), pp. 1822.

17. Finlayson Jock A. and Zacher Mark W., “The GATT and the Regulation of Trade Barriers: Regime Dynamics and Functions,” in Krasner, ed., International Regimes, pp. 273314.

18. I am grateful to Patrick Morgan for suggesting this example.

19. See Kindleberger Charles P., The World in Depression (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973); Krasner Steven D., “State Power and the Structure of International Trade,” World Politics 38 (04 1976), pp. 317–43; and Keohane Robert O., “The Theory of Hegemonic Stability and Changes in International Regimes, 1967–1977,” in Holsti Ole, ed., Change in the International System (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1980), pp. 131–62.

20. For example, see Conybeare John A. C., Trade Wars: The Theory and Practice of International Commercial Rivalry (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), pp. 5572.

21. Stein Arthur A., “The Hegemon's Dilemma: Great Britain, the United States, and the International Economic Order,” International Organization 38 (Spring 1984), pp. 355–86.

22. Yarbrough Beth V. and Yarbrough Robert M., “Reciprocity, Bilateralism, and Economic ‘Hostages’: Self-enforcing Agreements in International Trade,” International Studies Quarterly 30 (03 1986), pp. 721.

23. Conybeare, Trade Wars, p. 278.

24. See Yarbrough and Yarbrough, “Cooperation in the Liberalization of International Trade.”

25. The strategic problems states confront in international monetary affairs differ substantially from those in commercial activities. Under the Bretton Woods regime, for example, the central role of the United States prevented the cooperation problem from being one of collaboration. Instead, we saw a significant asymmetry of interests, perhaps creating a suasion game as discussed below.

26. See Krasner Stephen D., “Global Communications and National Power: Life on the Pareto Frontier,” World Politics 43 (04 1991), pp. 336–66.

27. See Garrett Geoffrey and Weingast Barry, “Ideas, Interests, and Institutions: Constructing the EC's Internal Market,” presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., 28 08–1 09, 1991.

28. For another perspective on the functions regimes can perform in coordination games under conditions of imperfect information, see Morrow James D., “Modelling International Regimes,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the Public Choice Society, New Orleans, La., 202203

29. Cowhey Peter F., “The International Telecommunications Regime: The Political Roots of Regimes for High Technology,” International Organization 44 (Spring 1990), pp. 169–99.

30. Eichengreen Barry, “Hegemonic Stability Theories of the International Monetary System, in Cooper Richard N. et al. Can Nations Agree? Issues in International Economic Cooperation (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1989), pp. 255–98.

31. See Mastanduno Michael, “Trade as a Strategic Weapon: American and Alliance Export Control Policy in the Early Postwar Period,” International Organization 42 (Winter 1988), pp. 121–50; and Martin Lisa L., Coercive Cooperation: Explaining Multilateral Economic Sanctions (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992).

32. For discussions of this strategy, see Sebenius James K., “Negotiation Arithmetic: Adding and Subtracting Issues and Parties,” International Organization 37 (Spring 1983), pp. 281316; Stein Arthur A., “The Politics of Linkage,” World Politics 33 (10 1980), pp. 62–81; and McGinnis Michael D., “Issue Linkage and the Evolution of Cooperation,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 30 (03 1986), pp. 14170.

33. Schiff Benjamin N., “Dominance Without Hegemony: U.S. Relations with the International Atomic Energy Agency,” in Karns Margaret P. and Mingst Karen A., eds., The United States and Multilateral Institutions: Patterns of Changing Instrumentality and Influence, Mershon Center Series on International Security and Foreign Policy, vol. 5 (Boston, Mass.: Unwin Hyman, 1990), pp. 5789.

34. Olson Mancur, The Logic of Collective Action (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965).

35. Domestic strategies can also influence the credibility of commitments to international agreements. See Peter Cowhey's chapter in Ruggie, Multilateralism Matters.

36. See Keohane Robert O., After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984), pp. 9192, for a general discussion of the role of institutions in issue linkage.

37. Stein, “Coordination and Collaboration,” p. 119.

38. Jervis Robert, “Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma,” World Politics 30 (01 1978), pp. 5879.

39. The impact of small deviations from intended strategies has led to the concept of trembling-hand equilibria. See Selten Reinhard, “Re-examination of the Perfectness Concept for Equilibrium Points in Extensive Games,” International Journal of Game Theory, vol. 4, no. 1, 1975, pp. 2555.

40. See Kahler, “Multilateralism with Small and Large Numbers.”

41. Ruggie, “Multilateralism,” p. 586.

42. Ibid., p. 577.

43. See Krasner, “Global Communications and National Power.”

44. Miles Kahler, “The United States and the International Monetary Fund: Declining Influence or Declining Interest?” in Karns and Mingst, The United Slates and Multilateral Institutions, p. 97.

45. Gallarotti Giulio M., “Revisions in Realism: The Political Economy of Domination,” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Atlanta, Georgia, 09 1989.

46. Krasner Stephen D., Structural Conflict: The Third World Against Global Liberalism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), p. 62.

47. Levi Margaret, Of Rule and Revenue (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), p. 28.

48. Pollard Robert A., Economic Security and the Origins of the Cold War, 1945–1950 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985).

49. Weber, “Shaping the Postwar Balance of Power.”

50. Gowa Joanne, “Rational Hegemons, Excludable Goods, and Small Groups: An Epitaph for Hegemonic Stability Theory?World Politics 41 (04 1989), pp. 307–24 . Gowa also emphasizes the point made earlier in this article that the excludibility of free trade is an essential element of its maintenance.

51. See Snyder Glenn H., “The Security Dilemma in Alliance Politics,” World Politics 36 (07 1984), pp. 461–95; Gowa Joanne, “Bipolarity, Multipolarity, and Free Trade,” American PoliticalScience Review 83 (12 1989), pp. 1245–56; and Waltz Kenneth N., Theory of International Politics (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979).

52. Snyder, “The Security Dilemma in Alliance Politics,” p. 473. The question of burden sharing within the alliance, however, is an entirely different issue. Here, the asymmetry of power within the alliance put the United States into a suasion game whereby it contributed a disproportionately high level of resources to the alliance. See also Olson Mancur and Zeckhauser Richard, “An Economic Theory of Alliances,” Review of Economics and Statistics 48 (08 1966), pp. 266–79; and Oneal John R., “Testing the Theory of Collective Action: NATO Defense Burdens, 1950–1984,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 34 (09 1990), pp. 426–48.

53. Gowa, “Bipolarity, Multipolarity, and Free Trade,” p. 1250.

54. Current changes in the structure of security arrangements in Europe bear out this logic. East European states are turning to NATO for security. However, NATO, wary of the reliability and stability of the new East European regimes, is insisting on a series of bilateral arrangements rather than formal incorporation into the multilateral framework.

55. For an example, see Dornbusch Rudiger W., “Policy Options for Freer Trade: The Case for Bilateralism,” in Lawrence Robert Z. and Schultze Charles L., eds., An American Trade Strategy (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1990), pp. 106–34.

56. For a discussion of embedded goals, see Ruggie John Gerard, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order,” in Krasner, ed., International Regimes, pp. 195–231.

57. For an example, see Spar Debora L., “The Political Economy of Foreign Direct Investment in Eastern Europe,” prepared for the Center for International Affairs project on International Institutions after the Cold War, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., 11 1991.

58. See Cowhey, “The International Telecommunications Regime.”

59. Snidal Duncan, “The Limits of Hegemonic Stability Theory,” International Organization 39 (Autumn 1985), pp. 579–614.

60. Schiff, “Dominance without Hegemony,” p. 78.

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