International 'Standards' and International Governance

Journal of European Public Policy, Vol. 8, No. 3, p. 345-370

26 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2010

See all articles by Kenneth W. Abbott

Kenneth W. Abbott

Arizona State University

Duncan Snidal

University of Chicago

Date Written: February 10, 2001


'Standards' are central mechanisms of international governance, but have different roles in various circumstances. These can be analyzed in terms of a simple typology. One key distinction is analytic: Contrasting the Prisoners' Dilemma structure of traditional Pigovian externalities with the Coordination structure of network externalities. The second distinction is substantive: contrasting physical or technological externalities with externalities that arise in the creation of public policy. The four resulting circumstances are typically addressed by alternative governance arrangements: varying combinations of private and public governance - according to the respective interests and competencies of the two spheres - and varying levels of gvernance - national, regional or global - according to the scope of the problem and the capacity of institutions. Our analysis of these choices is primarily positive, but the comparative institutional framework we develop is equally useful for addressing the associated normative question - how should international standards be set?

Suggested Citation

Abbott, Kenneth Wayne and Snidal, Duncan, International 'Standards' and International Governance (February 10, 2001). Journal of European Public Policy, Vol. 8, No. 3, p. 345-370. Available at SSRN:

Kenneth Wayne Abbott (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
480-965-5917 (Phone)

Duncan Snidal

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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