Reading log - James A. Carporaso - IR and Multilateralism: The Search for foundations (1992)

52 Multilateralism in itself is rarely used as an explanatory concept. In research where the focus is multilateralism, cooperation and institutions usually turn out to serve as explanandum.

Are cooperation and institutions direct explanatory competitors of multilateralism?

53 multilateralism – an organizing principle, the institution of multilateralism is distinguished from other forms by three properties: indivisibility, generalized principles of conduct, and diffuse reciprocity.

Issues of time and trust are relevant factors in determining the success of norms, socialization at the international level and cooperation. Under this rational, actors are less likely to free-ride or defect if they know they will lose out in the long run.

Multilateral institutions – focus on formal organizational elements of international life characterized by permanent locations and postal addresses.


Institution of Multilateralism goes beyond formality. 54 institution of multilateralism - is grounded in and appeals to the less formal, less codified habits, practices, ideas, and norms of international society.

Two reasons to maintain distinction: multilateral institutions and the institutions of multilateralism do not always mirror each other; the two can be related in complex cause-and-effect ways. It is a chicken and egg situation.

Three uses of the term “multilateral”: an organizing principle; an organization; or simply an activity.

55 Multilateralism is a belief that activities ought to be organized on a universal basis at least for a “relevant” group, a belief that can both be existential and normative. Multilateralism is an ideology “designed” to promote multilateral activity.

Implication of definition: term “multilateral” does not presuppose a particular number of countries; definition presupposes cooperation

Instrumental theory – cooperation a process by which states adjust their policies to take into account the preferences of other

Game-theory – cooperation represents an effort to take into account other players’ interests

Question arises as to whether multilateralism is a means or an end, an instrument or an expression, or both.

56 (Ruggie) – multilateralism is a demanding organizational form. It requires participants to renounce temporary advantages and the temptation to define interests narrowly in terms of national interests, it also requires them to forgo ad hoc coalitions and to avoid policies based on situational exigencies and momentary constellations of interests.

The issue of time and long-term is present again.

57 Three routes to Multilateralism:

individualist paradigm of state-centric realism, struggles with cooperation; social-communicative approach – state-centric “interaction repertoires”, includes some communication, persuasion, deliberation, and self-reflection; institutional approach – not necessarily individualist, preferences are not exogenous, social relations not products of individual self-interested calculations.

Individualist paradigm

61 Transaction costs – costs incurred in exchange, including the costs of acquiring information, bargaining and enforcement, as well as the opportunity cost of the time allocated to these activities. These costs almost certainly increase with an increase in actors.

62 (Keohane) political economies of scale – gains in multilateral institutions may be Smithian, deriving from same advantages that make factory production more efficient than individual production, such as decreasing the amount of time and resources wasted in moving between different points of production.

After Hegemony - Regimes: cheaper for governments to negotiate agreements; provide administrative help; create a set of rules and procedures for dealing with problems, collect and standardize information, codify rules and practices, attempt to increase transparency; facilitate sanctioning

Coordination games – strong incentive to reach an agreement and little incentive to depart from it
Cooperation games – strong incentive for deference 64 norms of diffuse reciprocity and indivisibility require unconditional cooperation and may discourage the specific detection and selective punishment required for tit-for-tat strategies – opportunistic behaviour and free riding can therefore be more effectively dealt with through bilateral arrangements than multilateral ones.

There is a tension between the highly generalized norms of multilateralism on the one hand and the specific knowledge and actions required to enforce complex agreements on the other.

Economic hostages – binding precommitments to invest in assets that are specific to a transaction and to a partner

65 Non-cooperative games – rules, agents, and the preferences, beliefs, and choices of agents are established by assumption. Defection is dominant strategy
Social-communicative approach

66 The Social approach does not throw out individual rationality, it situates it and broadens it. Focus is on how the choosing agent reflects, discusses, trusts and distrusts, tries to build consensus, alters others’ perceptions of the world, and , in general, uses his capacities as a social being to identify problems, solve them, and shape the environment.

68 Putnam – interest and power important but ability to change perceptions of interest using technical knowledge was important as well

minimal contributing set – smallest number of actors who together could provide a public good if they were willing to do so.

70 – cooperation rates can be radically affected by one factor in particular that is independent of the consequences for the choosing individual – that factor is group identity

If established, identity can enhance cooperation responding in the absence of any expectation of future reciprocity, it operates independently of the dictates of conscience.

73 Why is unanimity apparently so important? Groups tend to push towards universality because: it eliminates free-riding, diminishes obstacles that envy and relative deprivation might throw up, and is equitable.

Institutional Approaches

New economics of organization (Coase)- economic institutions as reducing transaction costs involved in certain types of market exchange

74 Criticises choice-theoretic approaches for taking preference and rules as given, neglecting ways in which institutions shape preferences

Three components:

• ontological – accepts holism explains individual behaviour by reference to “institutional facts” rather than to characteristics of individuals per se, choice is part of the given environment, agency is given a structural determination;
• theoretical – norms, believes and rules occupy a central position, political process is a forum within which preferences and beliefs change, help shape preference by changing the payoff matrix (easier to punish free-riders);
• interpretive – cooperation is already embedded within states and the interstate system, rules, norms and cooperation are actually constitutive of the identities and power of agents, institutions not chosen on rational basis but product of trial and error

77 norms – prescriptions lying outside the preference structures

79 Path dependency (Gerschenkron) importance of the timing of entry into the international market is for development. Contingency, many different institutional worlds are possible.

81 Ruggie – concentration of power may make it easier to solve collective action problems, but it tells us nothing about the content of the regime


The sociality of states – manner in which states acknowledge and contribute to international society

83 – institutional approach defocalizes interest

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