The prevailing model of international economic regimes is strictly positivistic in its epistemological orientation and stresses the distribution of material power capabilities in its explanatory logic. It is inadequate to account for the current set of international economic regimes and for the differences between past and present regimes. The model elaborated here departs from the prevailing view in two respects, while adhering to it in a third. First, it argues that regimes comprise not simply what actors say and do, but also what they understand and find acceptable within an intersubjective framework of meaning. Second, it argues that in the economic realm such a framework of meaning cannot be deduced from the distribution of material power capabilities, but must be sought in the configuration of state-society relations that is characteristic of the regime-making states. Third, in incorporating these notions into our understanding of the formation and transformation of international economic regimes, the formulation self-consciously strives to remain at the systemic level and to avoid becoming reductionist in attributing cause and effect relations. The article can therefore argue that the prevailing view is deficient on its own terms and must be expanded and modified. Addressing the world of actual international economic regimes, the article argues that the pax Britannica and the pax Americana cannot be equated in any meaningful sense, and that the postwar regimes for money and trade live on notwithstanding premature announcements of their demise.
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