State Power and the Institutional Bargain: America's Ambivalent Economic and Security Multilateralism

G. John Ikenberry

in US Hegemony and International Organizations

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780199261437
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599309 | DOI:
   State Power and the Institutional Bargain: America's Ambivalent Economic and Security Multilateralism

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Argues that American ambivalence about multilateral institutions (organizations), and variations in its institutional relations with Europe, reflect a basic dilemma that lies at the heart of international institutional agreements: the attraction of institutional agreements for the leading states is that they potentially lock other states into stable and predictable policy orientations, thereby reducing the need to use coercion; but the price that the leading state must pay for this institutionalized cooperation is a reduction in its own policy autonomy and its unfettered ability to exercise power. The central question that American policy‐makers have confronted over the decades after 1945 in regard to US economic and security ties with Europe (and elsewhere around the world) is how much policy lock‐in of such states is worth how much reduction in American policy autonomy and restraints on its power. The result is a potential institutional bargain that lies at the heart of America's multilateral ties to Europe and the wider array of post‐war multilateral institutions championed by the US. In this bargain, the leading state wants to reduce compliance costs and weaker states want to reduce their costs of security protection; the leading state agrees to restrain its own potential for domination and abandonment in exchange for the long‐term institutionalized cooperation of subordinate states. The first section, State Power and Institutions, develops the logic of the institutional bargain that has informed America's post‐war order building experience and continues into the new century. The next section (American Institution Building) explores various aspects of this institutional strategy as it appears in America's relationship with Europe in the 1940s and again after the cold war, and the conclusion assesses the relevance of the institutional bargain in an era of American unipolarity.

Keywords: ambivalence; economics; Europe; institution building; institutional agreements; institutional bargain; institutional relations; institutional strategy; international organizations; multilateral institutions; multilateral organizations; power; security; US; US foreign policy

Chapter.  11058 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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