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The democratizing effects of multilateral organizations: a cautionary note on the WTO

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 February 2013

World Trade Institute University of Bern


The field of international relations has been obsessed with democracy and democratization and its effects on international cooperation for a long time. More recently, research has turned its focus on how international organizations enhance democracy. This article contributes to this debate and applies a prominent liberal framework to study the ‘outside-in’ effects of the World Trade Organization. The article offers a critical reading of democratization through IO membership. It provides for an assessment of the dominant framework put forward by Keohane et al. (2009). In doing so, it develops a set of empirical strategies to test conjectured causal mechanisms with respect to the WTO, and illustrates the potential application by drawing on selected empirical evidence from trade politics. Finally, it proposes a number of analytical revisions to the liberal framework and outlines avenues for future research.

Review Article
Copyright © Manfred Elsig 2013 

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