Domestic Appraisals of International Regulatory Coordination

Domestic Appraisals of International Regulatory Coordination

By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr. 20151223

In All Politics is Global, Daniel Drezner responded to the modern research pattern of elevating regimes to a comparable level of significance or influence as states, by projecting the importance of “bringing the great powers back in” (2007). In his view, many researchers of international relations have been held hostage by their pre-occupation with globalization’s impact on national autonomy. Although national borders have proven porous, and nation-states have been forced to interact with others, the political economy remains driven by the actions of powerful states. That is not to say that regimes are insignificant, but their significance primarily derives from their ability to be used as tools to achieve the desired aims of economic superpowers. That does mean, however, any state lacking the economic prowess to challenge the superpower is vulnerable to coerced agreement and compliance with the rules and standards established by the superpower.

To substantiate his theory, Drezner turned attention to the United States and the European Union and explained how international governmental organizations (IGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were used by these countries when they were advantageous for strategic maneuvering, but sidelined when they were not. So then, effective global governance is contingent on the superpowers’ agreement. Drezner rejected the essential assertions made by Thomas Friedman (notable author of The World is Flat), policy makers, and scholars that globalization restricted the ability of states to govern by forcing them into agreements. He minimized the validity of this claim by highlighting numerous regulatory issues that have not irrefutably resulted in regulatory convergence (2007).

In defense of why states embrace rules and norms or not, he posited, “When the adjustment costs are sufficiently high, not even globalization’s powerful dynamics can push states into cooperating” (Drezner 2007, 5). In essence, the cost versus benefit is determined by how much the domestic government has invested in the status quo, opposed to, cooperating or defecting from the proposed regulatory coordination. Here, a game theoretical dynamic known as the prisoner’s dilemma emerged. He then diagnosed the ills affecting what I refer to as the regulatory-regime-research complex, as originating from weak literature and the problem of definitionalism surrounding the words globalization, regulatory coordination, and global governance (2007).

Drezner argued his position while maintaining a respectfully integral objectivity in acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses amongst a wide breath of theoretical debates. He acknowledged the global civil society literature, the world polity and state-based approaches, the race to the bottom argument and others. Nevertheless, he maintained, “Single case studies with overdetermined explanations or statistical tests without control variables are insufficient for the accumulation of knowledge” (2007, 25). Enflamed with passion, he indirectly demanded the entire IR research community to increase the quality of empirical analysis in their projects.

Finally, he clarified his preference for a revionist-realist theory to frame his argument and admitted his work did not attempt or claim to explicate all that may be known of globalization or global governance. Instead, he focused his assumptions on the premise “regulations matter precisely because high tariffs, quotas, and capital controls are not considered to be viable policy options for most goods and services” (2007, 27). Therefore, national preferences trump regulatory standards because government attitude toward regulatory coordination is determined by the costs of adjusting national standards.

Reflections: Laws shape policies which, to a great extent, shape the behavioral norms of state and non-state actors throughout the international community. The ability to govern is congruent with the ability to administer and/or execute power in a systematic and judicial manner. Therefore, the more effectively an actor administers and executes this power the more said actor could be viewed in terms of global governance effectiveness. I would like to zero in on “systematic” and “judicial” if I may. By systematic one could easily assume – an actor’s potential to project said power throughout the entire global system. By “judicial” one could assume – an actor’s potential to not make, but, interpret and apply international law. From there, one could further assume a scenario where one state actor attempted to demonstrate such power in the face of another state actor and an approving or disapproving international human rights regime or regime complex.

If then, A (state actor) accuses B (state actor) of committing human rights violations against its citizens by interpreting and applying the UDHR, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), and other legal doctrines, then administers an intervention, C (the approving regime) may wrongfully be said to have affected global governance. Albeit, A may have used C to strengthen its public shame campaign and encourage public support for trade restrictions and military intervention against B. This, I believe is precisely the type of misguided conclusions that Drezner rails against and I wholeheartedly agree with him.

In this scenario, A would have administered and executed power in a systematic and judicial manner. Systematic in the fact A’s intervention would constitute a behavioral precedence set in motion (i.e. impunity from illegalities) affecting the entire international system. Judicial in the fact A drew upon international legal doctrines and mechanisms – which could have included referring B to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and A applying legal action based on A’s legal interpretation.

Here, I am reminded of what I refer to as “the definers and the defined.” Many have argued whether one is considered a revolutionary or a terrorist is determined by who is on the end of the barrel.

Still further, a disapproving regime arguing against A and claiming A’s intent to intervene was unethical or illegal would be, as evidenced by the Iraqi invasion and others, nicely seated somewhere on the sideline.

My question would follow: When and where have non-state actors projected this type of power or projected this ability to effectively govern?

I would proffer that superpower states or economic superpowers would exhibit this behavior more consistently than non-state actors. Thus, I am compelled to stick with Drezner and bring states back to the forefront of power and governance analysis and debates!


Drezner, Daniel W. All Politics is Global: Explaining International Regulatory Regimes. Princeton University Press. 2007. Books24x7. <; (accessed December 23, 2015).


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