What Makes a 'Regime Complex' Complex? It Depends

Complexity, Governance and Networks

24 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2020

See all articles by James Hollway

James Hollway

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID)

Date Written: October 13, 2020


What makes the collections of international institutions or regimes governing various domains—called in the literature regime, institutional or governance complexes—“complex”? This article examines several conditions for complexity discussed in that literature, and finds them necessary but not sufficient. It argues that the sufficient condition is dependence, and outlines a framework of increasing levels of synchronic (social/spatial) and diachronic (temporal) dependence. Putting dependence at the centre of discussions on regime complexes has four advantages: (1) it is analytically more precise a condition than proliferation or linkage; (2) it orients us toward questions of degree, ’how complex’, instead of the binary ‘whether complex’; (3) it informs a range of research design and theoretical choices, especially highlighting extra-dyadic dependencies and an underdeveloped temporal dimension; and (4) it arguably reconciles competing uses of the term ’complex’ in the literature without conflating it with complexity, structure, or topology.

Keywords: regime complex, governance, institutions, dependence, space, time

JEL Classification: C18, C80

Suggested Citation

Hollway, James, What Makes a 'Regime Complex' Complex? It Depends (October 13, 2020). Complexity, Governance and Networks, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3711465

James Hollway (Contact Author)

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) ( email )

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