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Structural causes and regime consequences: regimes as intervening variables

  • Stephen D. Krasner


International regimes are defined as principles, norms, rules, and decisionmaking procedures around which actor expectations converge in a given issue-area. As a starting point, regimes have been conceptualized as intervening variables, standing between basic causal factors and related outcomes and behavior. There are three views about the importance of regimes: conventional structural orientations dismiss regimes as being at best ineffectual; Grotian orientations view regimes as an intimate component of the international system; and modified structural perspectives see regimes as significant only under certain constrained conditions. For Grotian and modified structuralist arguments, which endorse the view that regimes can influence outcomes and behavior, regime development is seen as a function of five basic causal variables: egoistic self-interest, political power, diffuse norms and principles, custom and usage, and knowledge.



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1 Keohane, Robert O. and Nye, Joseph S., Power and Interdependence (Boston: Little, Brown, 1977), p. 19.

2 Haas, Ernst, “Technological Self-Reliance for Latin America: the OAS Contribution,” International Organization 34, 4 (Autumn 1980), p. 553.

3 Bull, Hedley, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977), p. 54.

4 Robert Jervis's contribution to this volume, p. 357.

5 Waltz, Kenneth, Theory of International Relations (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979); Kaplan, Morton, Systems and Process in International Politics (New York: Wiley, 1957), p. 23; Kaplan, , Towards Professionalism in International Theory (New York: Free Press, 1979), pp. 6669, 73.

6 Hirsch, Fred, The Social Limits to Growth (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976), p. 78.

7 John Ruggie's contribution to this volume, p. 380.

8 Iran's behavior may be rooted in an Islamic view of international relations that rejects the prevailing, European-derived regime. See Rosecrance, Richard, “International Theory Revisited,” International Organization 35, 4 (Autumn 1981) for a similar point.

9 Susan Strange's contribution to this volume, p. 487.

10 Belshaw, Cyril, Traditional Exchange and Modern Markets (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1965), pp. 89.

11 Weber, Max, Economy and Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), p. 30.

12 Waltz, , Theory of International Relations, p. 118.

13 Ibid., especially chapters 5 and 6. This conventional structuralist view for the realist school has its analog in Marxist analysis to studies that focus exclusively on technology and economic structure.

14 Robert O. Keohane's and Arthur A. Stein's contributions to this volume, pp. 330 and 300.

15 Vinod K. Aggarwal emphasizes this point. See his “Hanging by a Thread: International Regime Change in the Textile/Apparel System, 1950–1979, Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 1981, chap. 1.

16 The modified structural arguments presented in this volume are based upon a realist analysis of international relations. In the Marxist tradition this position has its analog in many structural Marxist writings, which emphasize the importance of the state and ideology as institutions that act to rationalize and legitimate fundamental economic structures.

17 Raymond Hopkins and Donald Puchala's contribution to this volume, p. 270.

18 Ibid., p. 245.

19 Bull, The Anarchical Society, chap. 5.

20 See Lijphart, Arend, “The Structure of the Theoretical Revolution in International Relations, International Studies Quarterly 18, 1 (March 1974), pp. 6465, for the development of this argument.

21 Keohane and Nye, Power and Interdependence, especially chap. 8.

22 Toulmin, Stephen, Foresight and Understanding: An Enquiry into the Aims of Science (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1961), pp. 5657. Toulmin's use of the term paradigm is similar to Kuhn's notion of an exemplar. See Kuhn, Thomas, The Structure of Specific Revolutions, 2nd ed (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), p. 187.

23 Stein's contribution to this volume, p. 316.

24 Keohane's contribution to this volume, p. 338.

25 There is a lively debate over precisely how much of a role Smith accords to the state. Some (see for instance Hirschman, Albert, The Passions and the Interests [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977], pp. 103104) maintain that Smith wanted to limit the folly of government by having it do as little as possible. Others (see for instance Holmes, Colin, “Laissez-faire in Theory and Practice: Britain 1800–1875,” Journal of European Economic History 5, 3 [1976], p. 673; and Diaz-Alejandro, Carlos, “Delinking North and South: Unshackled or Unhinged,” in Fishlow, Albert et al. , Rich and Poor Nations in the World Economy [New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978], pp. 124–25) have taken the intermediate position endorsed here. Others see Smith trying to establish conditions for a moral society that must be based on individual choice, for which a materialistically oriented, egoistically maintained economic system is only instrumental. See, for instance, Billet, Leonard, “The Just Economy: The Moral Basis of the Wealth of Nations,” Review of Social Economy 34 (12 1974).

26 Hirschleifer, Jack, “Economics from a Biological Viewpoint,” Journal of Law and Economics 20 (04 1977); Weber, , Economy and Society, pp. 336–37; North, Douglass C. and Thomas, Robert Paul, The Rise of the Western World: A New Economic History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), chap. 1.

27 Kindleberger, Charles P., “Government and International Trade,” Princeton Essays in International Finance (International Finance Section, Princeton University, 07 1978). Adam Smith was less enamoured with leadership. He felt that reasonable intercourse could only take place in the international system if there was a balance of power. Without such a balance the strong would dominate and exploit the weak. See Diaz-Alejandro, , “Delinking North and South,” p. 92.

28 Kindleberger, Charles P., Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises (New York: Basic Books, 1978).

29 Keohane, Robert O., “The Theory of Hegemonic Stability and Changes in International Economic Regimes, 1967–77,” in Holsti, Ole R. et al. , Changes in the International System (Boulder, Col.: Westview, 1980).

30 For a recent discussion see Laitin, David, “Religion, Political Culture, and the Weberian Tradition,” World Politics 30, 4 (07 1978), especially pp. 568–69. For another discussion of noneconomic values in the rise of capitalism see Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests.

31 Hirsch, The Social Limits to Growth, chap. 11. See also Walzer, Michael, “The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class,” New York Review of Books 27 (20 03 1980).

32 Braudel, Fernand, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (New York: Harper, 1975), p. 370. For the tie between bills of exchange and Jewish bankers see Hirschman, , The Passions and the Interests, p. 72, and Wallerstein, Immanuel, The Modern World-System (New York: Academic Press, 1974), p. 147.

33 Jervis's contribution to this volume, p. 361.

34 Bull, , The Anarchical Society, pp. 89, 70.

35 Weber, , Economy and Society, p. 29.

36 Trakman, Leon E., “The Evolution of the Law Merchant: Our Commercial Heritage,” Part I, Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce 12,1 (10, 1980) and Part II, ibid., 12, 2 (January 1981); Berman, Harold and Kaufman, Colin, “The Law of International Commercial Transactions (Lex Mercatoria)Harvard International Law Journal 19, 1 (Winter 1978).

37 Haas, Ernst, “Why Collaborate? Issue-Linkage and International Regimes,” World Politics 32, 3 (04 1980), pp. 367–68.

38 Ibid., p. 368.


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