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Hybrid institutional complexes in global governance

Abbott, Kenneth W. and Faude, Benjamin (2022) Hybrid institutional complexes in global governance. Review of International Organizations, 17 (2). 263 - 291. ISSN 1559-7431

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s11558-021-09431-3


Most issue areas in world politics today are governed neither by individual institutions nor by regime complexes composed of formal interstate institutions. Rather, they are governed by “hybrid institutional complexes” (HICs) comprising heterogeneous interstate, infra-state, public–private and private transnational institutions, formal and informal. We develop the concept of the HIC as a novel descriptive and analytical lens for the study of contemporary global governance. The core structural difference between HICs and regime complexes is the greater diversity of institutional forms within HICs. Because of that diversity, HICs operate differently than regime complexes in two significant ways: (1) HICs exhibit relatively greater functional differentiation among their component institutions, and hence suffer from relatively fewer overlapping claims to authority; and (2) HICs exhibit greater informal hierarchy among their component institutions, and hence benefit from greater ordering. Both are systemic features. HICs have characteristic governance benefits: they offer good “substantive fit” for multi-faceted governance problems and good “political fit” for the preferences of diverse constituents; constrain conflictive cross-institutional strategies; and are conducive to mechanisms of coordination, which enhance substantive coherence. Yet HICs also pose characteristic governance risks: individual institutions may take on aspects of problems for which they are ill-suited; multiple institutions may create confusion; HICs can amplify conflict and contestation rather than constraining them; and the “soft” institutions within HICs can reduce the focality of incumbent treaties and intergovernmental organizations and forestall the establishment of new ones. We outline a continuing research agenda for exploring the structures, operations and governance implications of HICs.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: Government
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
JEL classification: Y - Miscellaneous Categories > Y8 - Related Disciplines > Y80 - Related Disciplines
Date Deposited: 16 Apr 2021 09:06
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2024 20:45

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