International 'standards' and international governance

Kenneth W. Abbott, Duncan Snidal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

169 Scopus citations


'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 governance - 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?

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-370
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Externality
  • Governance
  • Institutional analysis
  • International law
  • Private rule-making
  • Standards

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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