Unequal Power and the Institutional Design of Global Governance: The Case of Arms Control

  • Citation: Fehl, Caroline. “Unequal Power and the Institutional Design of Global Governance: the Case of Arms Control.” Review of International Studies 40, no. 3 (2014): 505–31
    • Topics:
    • Conflict and Security
    • Keywords:
    • global arms control institutions
    • global institutional order inequality
    • institutional legacies

IR scholars have recently paid increasing attention to unequal institutional orders in world politics, arguing that global governance institutions are deeply shaped by power inequalities among states. Yet, the literature still suffers from conceptual limitations and from a shortage of empirical work. The article addresses these shortcomings through a study of the historical evolution of global arms control institutions since 1945. It shows that in this important policy area, the global institutional order has not been marked by a recent trend toward deeper inequality, as many writings on unequal institutions suggest. Instead, the analysis reveals a pattern of institutional mutation whereby specific forms of institutional inequality are recurrently replaced and supplemented by new forms. This process, the article argues, is driven by states’ efforts to adapt the regime to a changing material and normative environment within the constraints of past institutional legacies.

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