Organizational Ecology and Institutional Change in Global Governance

Kenneth Abbott, Jessica F. Green, Robert O. Keohane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

262 Scopus citations


The institutions of global governance have changed dramatically in recent years. New organizational forms-including informal institutions, transgovernmental networks, and private transnational regulatory organizations (PTROs)-have expanded rapidly, while the growth of formal intergovernmental organizations has slowed. Organizational ecology provides an insightful framework for understanding these changing patterns of growth. Organizational ecology is primarily a structural theory, emphasizing the influence of institutional environments, especially their organizational density and resource availability, on organizational behavior and viability. To demonstrate the explanatory value of organizational ecology, we analyze the proliferation of PTROs compared with the relative stasis of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs). Continued growth of IGOs is constrained by crowding in their dense institutional environment, but PTROs benefit from organizational flexibility and low entry costs, which allow them to enter niches with limited resource competition. We probe the plausibility of our analysis by examining contemporary climate governance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-277
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Organization
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Law


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