Cover page

Table of Contents


Title page

Copyright page


Boxes and Tables






The Postwar Legacy


1: Gridlock

Building the Postwar Order

Explaining the Postwar Order: Hegemony versus Institutions

The Effect of the Postwar Order: Self-Reinforcing Interdependence

Roads to Gridlock


2: Security



The Interstate System

Postwar Developments: From the UN to the Cold War

Institutional Developments and Successes

Shifting Principles of Global Order

Post-9/11 Global Security


The UN Security Council and the Disarmament Regime

Complex Intermestic Issues

Paradigm Shift or Realist Status Quo?


3: Economy



The Imperial System and Its Demise

Bretton Woods and the Creation of Multilateral Economic Institutions

Self-Reinforcing Interdependence and the End of Bretton Woods


Gridlock in Multilateral Trade Negotiations

Gridlock in Global Financial Governance

Global Financial Governance Reform

Conclusion: A Reembedded Global Market?

4: Environment

Introduction: A Zanjera for the Globe?


Industrial Globalization and the Origins of Modern Environmental Governance

Postwar Internationalization

The Modern Environmental Movement

An Environmental “Bretton Woods”? The Stockholm Compromise and UNEP

Early Successes, Lingering Challenges

A New Foundational Moment? From Compromise to Gridlock at Rio


Self-Reinforcing Interdependence and the Global Environment


Climate Change

Conclusion: Increasingly Linked Problems, Increasingly Fragmented Governance

5: Beyond Gridlock?

From Self-Reinforcing Interdependence to Gridlock

Trends toward Deepening Gridlock

National Trends and Gridlock

The Changed Global Landscape

Pathways through Gridlock

Politics beyond Gridlock



Title page


1.1 Self-reinforcing interdependence in the postwar period

1.2 Changing contributions to global GDP by region

2.1 Number and type of armed conflicts, 1946–2011

2.2 Battle deaths by category, 1989–2010

2.3 Incidents of terrorism, 1970–2010

3.1 Increased volume of world trade, 1948–2011

3.2 International financial integration, 1970–2007

3.3 KOF index of economic liberalization, 1970–2009

3.4 Average levels of capital account openness, rich countries and developing countries, 1970–2009

3.5 Ratio of total global exports to global GDP, 1960–2010

3.6 Dimensions of financial crises, periods compared between 1880 and 1997

3.7 Number of banking crises occurring in a given year, 1970–2008

3.8 Cumulative number of preferential trade agreements in force, 1950–2010, notified and nonnotified, between country groups

3.9 Global capital flows, 1975–2009

3.10 Percent annual change in global GDP and trade volume, 1994–2013 (projection)

3.11 Global imbalances, as represented by current account surpluses and deficits, 1996–2012, with projections to 2016

3.12 International reserve holdings, 1995–2012 (US$ trillions)

4.1 Environmental treaties created per year, 1868–2012

4.2 Production of ozone-depleting substances, by select countries and regions, 1986

4.3 Production of ozone-depleting substances, by select countries and regions, 1986–2011

4.4 Changes in Earth systems, 1750–2000

4.5 Oil consumption, by select countries and regions, 1965–2010

4.6 Coal consumption, by select countries and regions, 1965–2010

4.7 Consumption of selected forest products by region, 1992–2011

4.8 Atmospheric CO2 concentration from the Vostok ice core record with recent human perturbation superimposed

4.9 Likely impacts of climate change over the next century

4.10 Change in greenhouse gas emissions of Annex 1 countries, 1990–2009

4.11 Regime complex for climate change from Keohane and Victor 2010

4.12 Growth of transnational climate governance by type, 1990–2010

4.13 Cumulative greenhouse gas emissions, 1850–2008

4.14 Greenhouse gas emissions, 1850–2008

4.15 Emissions and projected emissions, 1990–2035

Boxes and Tables


2.1 The UN Charter model

2.2 NATO members


1.1 Pathways to gridlock and their mechanisms

1.2 Comparison of world economic powers of 1960 with world economic powers of 2010

2.1 Selected major wars, UN mandates, and conflict-related deaths

2.2 Key developments in arms control and disarmament post–World War II

2.3 Selected developments in the law of war

2.4 Selected human rights agreements

2.5 UN Security Council P-5 vetoes, 1945–2011

2.6 Incidents of pirate attacks, 2002–2009

2.7 Military expenditure by country (P-5) (US$ millions)

3.1 Major multilateral trade meetings, 1946–present

3.2 Distribution of MNCs by location of parent company, 2009

3.3 Central features of the Washington Consensus and augmented Washington Consensus

3.4 Selected transnational financial governance institutions

3.5 Exports to GDP ratios, selected years, 1870–2008

3.6 Selected major events in the Doha Development Round negotiations

3.7 Annual real GDP growth rates, by region and country groups, 2007–2016 (projected)

4.1 Components of the ozone regime, 1977–1999

4.2 Components of the forest regime

4.3 The “Forest G20”

4.4 Components of the core climate regime

5.1 Selected issue areas in which gridlock mechanisms predominate


ABM Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty
ACV armored combat vehicles
AIDS Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
ASEAN Association of South East Asian Nations
ATT United Nations Arms Trade Treaty
BCBS Basel Committee on Banking Supervision
BIS Bank for International Settlements
BWC Biological Weapons Convention
CCM Convention on Cluster Munitions
CD Conference on Disarmament
CDM Clean Development Mechanism
CERN European Organization for Nuclear Research
CFCs chlorofluorocarbons
CFE Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty
CFSP Common Foreign and Security Policy (EU)
CIA Central Intelligence Agency (US)
CMF Combined Maritime Forces
CMIM Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization
CPSS Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems
CSD Commission on Sustainable Development
CSR corporate social responsibility
CTBT(O) Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (Organization)
CWC Chemical Weapons Convention
DDT dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane
DfID Department for International Development
DRC Democratic Republic of Congo
EC European Community
ECOSOC Economic and Social Council (UN)
EPA Environmental Protection Agency (US)
EU European Union
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization
FATF Financial Action Task Force
FDI foreign direct investment
FMCT Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty
FSB Financial Stability Board
FSC Forest Stewardship Council
FTT financial transaction tax
G5 Group of Five (France, Germany, Japan, UK, US)
G7/G8 Group of Seven/Eight (leading industrial nations)
G10 Group of Ten (Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, UK, US – and the central banks of Germany and Sweden)
G20 Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, UK, US, EU.
GATS General Agreement on Trade in Services
GATT General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
GDP gross domestic product
GHG greenhouse gas
GICHD Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining
GM General Motors
GMO genetically modified organism
HCFCs hydrochlorofluorocarbons
HIV Human Immunodeficiency Virus
IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency
IAIS International Association of Insurance Supervisors
IBRD International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
ICBL International Campaign to Ban Landmines
ICBM intercontinental ballistic missile
ICC International Criminal Court
ICG International Crisis Group
ICISS International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty
ICJ International Court of Justice
ICTR International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
ICTY International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
IFF International Forum on Forests
IFI international financial institution
IGO intergovernmental organization
ILO International Labour Organization
IMB International Maritime Bureau
IMF International Monetary Fund
IMO International Maritime Organization
INGO international nongovernmental organization
IOPN International Office for the Protection of Nature
IOSCO International Organization of Securities Commissions
IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
IPF Intergovernmental Panel on Forests
ISAF International Security Assistance Force
ISO International Organization for Standardization
ITO International Trade Organization
ITTA International Tropical Timber Agreement
ITTO International Tropical Timber Organization
IUCN International Union for the Conservation of Nature
IUPN International Union for the Protection of Nature
LDCs least developed countries
LHC Large Hadron Collider
MAP Mutual Assessment Process
MEF Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate
Mercosur    Southern Cone Common Market (Latin America)
MNC multinational corporation
MSF Médecins sans Frontières
N-5 nuclear weapon states of the NPT regime
NAFTA North American Free Trade Agreement
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NGO nongovernmental organization
NIE newly industrializing economy(ies)
NIEO New International Economic Order
NPT Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
NWS nuclear weapon state(s)
OAS Organization of American States
ODS ozone-depleting substances
OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
OPCW Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
OPEC Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries
P-5 the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council
PEFC Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification
PRC People's Republic of China
PRIO Peace Research Institute Oslo
PTA preferential trade agreement
R+D Research and Development
R2P Responsibility to Protect
RWP Responsibility while Protecting
SALT Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
SALW small arms and light weapons
SARS Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
SIPRI Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
START Strategic Arms Reduction Talks
TNC transnational corporation
TRIMS trade-related investment measures
TRIPS Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
UCDP Uppsala Conflict Data Program, Uppsala University
UK United Kingdom
UN United Nations
UNCED United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
UNCTAD United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme
UNESCO United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNFCCC United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
UNFF United Nations Forum on Forests
UNIDO United Nations Industrial Development Organization
UN-REDD United Nations Initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation
US United States
USAID United States Agency for International Development
WA Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
WCED World Commission on Environment and Development
WHO World Health Organization
WMD weapons of mass destruction
WMO World Meteorological Organization
WTO World Trade Organization
WWF World Wildlife Fund


The arguments in this book developed after the authors attended various lectures on why the outcome of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009 had been so unsatisfactory. The question put by lecturer after lecturer was: why had the negotiations on climate change stalled? While the lectures were invariably engaging, they shared the questionable assumption that climate change negotiations could be understood sui generis and independently of wider geopolitical transformations. The questions about climate negotiations, however, could easily have been asked about the current state of trade, finance, nuclear proliferation, small arms, biodiversity and an array of other topics. In each of these areas international negotiations have either failed to make breakthroughs or have had only limited success.

The issue seems to be not why Copenhagen and subsequent climate negotiations have produced so little but, rather, why international negotiations in general are increasingly stalling in the face of growing differences among national interests, strident voices of leading and new emerging powers, and the sheer complexity involved in coming to agreement on issues that transcend national boundaries. Reflecting on these concerns, it seemed to us that the fundamental question was: why is a state of “gridlock” increasingly characteristic of international negotiations and organizations?

This book grapples with the causes and consequences of gridlock across leading sectors of international concern: security, the economy, and the environment. It develops a theory of gridlock and then explores it across these sectors. Having done this, the book ends by examining worrying scenarios of continued gridlock as well as pathways beyond it. The latter involve new kinds of political movements, institutional strategies of adaptation and more ambitious programs of the reform of global governance. But the way ahead is not clear and gridlock may yet remain the most pervasive feature of the global order.

Why does this matter? It matters because some of the most pressing global issues we face, from nuclear proliferation to global economic imbalances, and the degraded nature of our planet, will not be resolved unless new ways are uncovered for addressing them effectively and in such a manner that is representative of the diverse stakeholders they affect. As things stand, the global order is drifting into highly uncertain territory which, in sector after sector, may well involve cataclysmic moments which become the cause of a wider crisis affecting the life chances and life expectancies of people across the world. These are not worries for some remote future; they are concerns for the here and now. They imply some fundamental questions: what explains the development of gridlock in our international and transnational organizations and institutions, and how can these more effectively and legitimately address the global bads that threaten us, as well as the global goods we need for the development of our political and social lives?

This book has benefited enormously from the conversations the authors have had with each other in a diversity of places over the last two years. These have defined the theoretical framework we develop in this volume and how we apply it to the major sectoral issues examined. For the authors, at least, it has been a hugely productive discussion. The discussion has been added to in multiple ways by Kyle McNally. He has worked with us throughout, providing outstanding research support, detailed editorial contributions and a fine sense of the issues as they developed throughout the text. His overall contribution has been immense and we are deeply indebted to him. His academic achievements will stand out among the best as time evolves.

We are grateful to Robert O. Keohane and Jessica Green for thoughtful comments on parts of the manuscript, as well as to Irene Spagna, Danielle Stein, Troy Nichols, and Brent Ramsey for providing helpful research assistance at different stages of the project. We would also like to thank Jennifer Jahn, Neil de Cort, and Breffni O'Connor from Polity Press for turning our manuscript into the volume now in your hands, as well as the extraordinary Ann Bone for editing the text with skill and insight. For all worries about the future of publishing, it is striking how high the level of skill and dedication is in producing books and distributing them across the world remains. We are deeply appreciative of these efforts.

Tom Hale

David Held

Kevin Young


The director of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) recently spoke proudly before a gathering of distinguished physicists to announce the discovery of a Higgs boson particle. This fundamental building block of our universe, the so-called “God particle,” had been theorized by physicists in the early 1960s, but it took them another 50 years to prove its existence. His comments were brief, but he took care to stress the following to his audience: “It is a global effort, it was a global effort, and it's a global success” (BBC 2012). Behind this triumph of science lie four decades of coordinated intellectual and engineering efforts made possible by international cooperation. Finding the Higgs Boson required the work of thousands of scientists from across the globe working in concert toward a common goal. More specifically, work on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which made this discovery possible, involved research work from 608 institutes and universities, carried out by individuals representing 113 different nationalities. The LHC cost approximately £3.5 billion, which was paid for mostly by member and observing countries (20 European, and 6 others, respectively), with continuing research funded by those participating physicists and their organizations. The overhead costs for CERN, an intergovernmental organization founded in 1954, are proportionally distributed among the member countries according to their level of GDP considered in three-year cycles. This complex system of international collaboration has arguably produced one of the most profound discoveries that science can claim to date. Moreover, and simply put, it has been made possible by mechanisms of effective global collaboration.

This kind of success, in which countries work together to achieve a common goal through international institutions, is increasingly rare. The Higgs Boson discovery represents an exception to the rule of growing failure in global governance. Across a range of pressing global issues, countries have proven unable to cooperate effectively on issues of pressing global concern: the acute economic disparities across the globe, growing economic imbalances within and across countries, the lack of effective environmental governance in a world increasingly vulnerable to climate change, the proliferation of nuclear arms and the basic insecurities that persists from violent conflicts, to name just a few. To be sure, effective international cooperation has never been easy, but in recent years the problem seems to have grown worse, making the CERN success all the more remarkable. Why is this so?

This book seeks to answer that question – why and how current efforts to address the most pressing issues of our time seem to have stalled. The Earth has become a “smaller” place over the past century, as our individual and national fates are increasingly intertwined. Our world is now highly enmeshed as trade, finance, communication, pollutants, violence, and many other factors flow across borders and lock the well-being of countries and individuals into common patterns. This has created a system of structural global vulnerability; our actions directly affect the lives of others in distant corners of the world, and vice versa.

Collectively, the world community has sought to establish and maintain institutions that govern its common affairs. These take many forms, but by far the most important have been formal international agreements through which countries bind themselves, under international law, to negotiated commitments. These agreements are often supported by interstate organizations like the United Nations or the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which states create to manage issues or implement policies. Such organizations have mushroomed over the twentieth century. In 1909, 37 intergovernmental organizations existed; in 2011, the number of organizations and their various components had grown to 7,608 (UIA 2011).

Many of these institutions, like CERN, work quite well. Entities like the Universal Postal Union, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) provide extensions of public goods offered by individual states, producing services that no party alone could attain on its own (Burnheim 1986: 222). Much of the day-to-day work of the UN specialized agencies and the technical or adjudicative functions of the World Trade Organization (WTO), IMF, and World Bank are similarly effective. By reducing the costs of complex coordination problems they create global public goods that are mutually beneficial for all participants.

Yet other international organizations and negotiations are wrought with seemingly intractable disagreements: multilateral negotiations in the WTO and the UN Security Council, for example. Preoccupied with questions of war and peace, rule-making and resource allocation, these bodies have always been highly politicized and confrontational. The starting premise of this book is that these perennial difficulties have taken on a new character. In our increasingly interconnected world, global problems, from climate change to financial market crises, call for increased collective and cooperative action, but multilateralism's ability to achieve this has eroded relative to the challenges it faces. Indeed, the massive growth in postwar institutions has begun to slow. Between 1990 and 2000, countries registered 406 new multilateral treaties with the UN Secretary General, as well as 12,566 bilateral ones. In the following decade, they submitted only 262 and 9,484 respectively.

This book focuses on the growing gap between our need for global solutions and the flagging ability of multilateral institutions to meet that need. This represents a breakdown of global cooperation that we call gridlock. As used in this book, the term refers to a specific set of conditions and mechanisms that impede global cooperation in the present day. The rise of new powers representing a more diverse array of interests makes intergovernmental agreement more difficult. The problems themselves have also grown harder as global policy issues penetrate ever more deeply into core domestic concerns. Existing institutions, created for a different world, have locked in dysfunctional decision-making procedures, while the proliferation of different organizations renders the institutional architecture ever more fragmented. Together these processes have blocked global cooperation even as we need it more.

We do not agree that gridlock is a complete explanation for all failures in global governance. Nor do we systematically test the basket of factors we term “gridlock” against alternative explanations. Instead, the book seeks to provide an innovative and systematic interpretation of the present challenges facing the multilateral system.

Three characteristics define our argument. First, we show how the multiple factors and pathways mentioned above combine to block cooperation. The drivers are many, but their outcome is the same: a “governance gap” in which crucial needs go unmet. Second, these common blockages can be observed across nearly all areas of global governance, not just within a single issue. In other words, gridlock is a general condition of the multilateral system. Third, the mechanisms we consider are historically contingent, specific to global governance today. Indeed, many are in part products of previous, successful efforts to cooperate across borders. In this sense, they can be thought of as “second order” cooperation problems. Over the postwar period, growing institutionalization has fed interdependence, and greater interdependence has in turn demanded more institutionalization. Through this cycle of self-reinforcing interdependence, multilateral institutions have helped create conditions that, ironically, now impede their effectiveness.

The Postwar Legacy

This is a book about the current state of a political system that traces its origins to the end of World War II. Our analysis therefore focuses on the challenges of the present and the near future with an analytic eye to the past. While the book explores international institutional developments prior to World War II, it is this war that provides the crucial backdrop to the story that is set out here. World War II was a calamitous moment not just in European history, but across the world. It reached across continents to create an axis of conflict that pitted countries against each other in a catastrophic war. The death and destruction was of a scale nearly impossible to comprehend, leaving Europe devastated and much of East Asia traumatized. The rise of Nazism and fascism in Europe created in its wake a horrific new form of industrial killing focused on Jews, political dissidents, and many minority groups. The Japanese invasions of China and Southeast Asia were marked by a trail of brutality, as was the march of Stalin's armies through the “bloodlands” between Moscow and Berlin (T. Snyder 2010). The other Allied forces also pushed the boundaries of violence; not only, for instance, in the fire-bombing of Dresden and Tokyo, but also in the first use of nuclear weapons, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In these cities men and women were going to work, children were playing, and “more human beings died at once than anyone thought possible” (Kingsolver 2001). World War II brought humanity to the edge of the abyss, yet not for the first time in twentieth-century history.

Politicians who gathered from 45 countries in San Francisco in 1945 were faced with the choice of either allowing the world to drift in the aftermath of the shock of the 1939–45 war, or to begin a process of rebuilding the foundations of their own societies and the international community. Having seen into the abyss, these individuals might have been tempted simply to defend the positions of their own countries and close the shutters on the rest of the world, as, indeed, many had in the 1930s. Yet they understood that doing so would simply reproduce the pattern of economic and political disaster that had spanned the first half of the twentieth century. Accordingly, they set about creating a world order that would be robust enough to sustain peace and economic prosperity. At the center of this vision was the drafting of the Charter of the United Nations which, in its preamble, emphasized that it could no longer be states alone that ordered the world for their own interests. Rather, it must be “We the peoples” who should be bound together in the United Nations.

The UN Charter affirmed the importance of universal principles, human rights, and the rule of law as the cornerstones of the new international order. Its drafters placed the irreducible moral worth of each and every human being at the center of their thinking, along with the principles of equal respect, equal concern and the priority of the vital needs of all people. In so doing, they rejected the view that human well-being can be defined by geographical or cultural location, that national or ethnic boundaries should determine the limits of rights or responsibilities for the satisfaction of basic individual needs, and that belonging to a given community must limit and determine the freedom of individuals. Accordingly, it was envisaged that the United Nations should foster tolerance across the world, develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination, create unity in strength to maintain international peace and security, establish principles and the institution of methods that would prevent the use of armed force save in the common interest, and would build international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples (UN 1945). Such an expansive and radical idealism could only have been forged in a cataclysm on the scale of World War II.

It is, of course, commonplace to criticize the UN for the many ways it and the nations that created it have fallen short of these ideals. Subsequent chapters will discuss these at some length. Yet it would be utterly mistaken to underestimate the successes wrought by the UN system overall and the geopolitical stability that followed its foundation. The decades that followed World War II were marked by peace between the great powers, although there were many proxy wars fought out in the global South. This relative stability created the conditions for what now can be recognized as the almost unprecedented period of prosperity that characterized the 1950s onward. The UN is central to this story, although it is by no means the only important institutional innovation of the postwar settlement. A year prior to the founding of the UN, the Bretton Woods organizations were established in an effort to foster economic cooperation and a prosperous global economy: the IMF and the World Bank (previously the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development). The former focused on exchange rate stability and balance of payments assistance, while the latter on long-term economic development. A sister institution, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which would later develop into the WTO, committed countries to open their borders to foreign trade.1 These institutions and many more specialized ones lay at the heart of postwar economic globalization. While the economic record of the postwar years varies by country, many experienced significant economic growth and living standards rose rapidly across many parts of the world. It was not just the West that was redefined by these developments; a global division of labor emerged which linked economic flows across large swathes of the world. In the wake of these changes, the world began to shift – slowly at first, but later more rapidly – from a bipolar toward a multipolar structure. By the late 1980s a variety of East Asian countries were beginning to grow at an unprecedented speed, and by the late 1990s countries such as China, India, and Brazil had gained significant economic momentum, a process that continues to this day.

The geopolitical stability engendered throughout the postwar years was a precondition for economic globalization, which subsequently transformed the way business and commerce were organized. Markets that were first and foremost domestic networks increasingly took on global dimensions. National economies became heavily enmeshed in the global system of production and exchange. Multinational corporations, many of which came to enjoy turnovers that dwarfed the GDP of even medium-sized nations, expanded across the globe. Financial markets exploded into a world of 24-hour trading, aided by competition between states eager to attract increasingly mobile capital flows. Economic globalization, with all its benefits and costs, winners and losers, came to embrace all regions and continents, and global interdependence deepened to a hitherto unknown degree.

Meanwhile, international cooperation proceeded at an impressive pace. Whereas once participation in the multilateral order was sporadic and tenuous, it became both more entrenched and regularized. The most obvious illustration of this is the rapid emergence of diverse multilateral organizations and transnational agencies. New forms of multilateral and global politics became established, involving states, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs), and a wide variety of pressure groups. The numbers of active IGOs and INGOs increased exponentially (UIA 2012). There was substantial growth in the number of international treaties in force, as well as the number of international regimes, formal and informal, altering the political and legal context in which states operated (Held et al. 1999: chs 1–2; Held and McGrew 2007: ch. 7). To this dense web of mechanisms of coordination and collaboration can be added the routine meetings and activities of the key international policy-making fora, including not only the UN and Bretton Woods organizations, but also the G-groups (the G5, G7, G20, etc.). Whereas in the middle of the nineteenth century there were just one or two interstate conferences or congresses per annum, the numbers increased into the many thousands each year (UIA 2012). Accordingly, states became enmeshed in an array of global governance systems and arrangements.

At the same time, new kinds of institutional arrangements have emerged alongside formal intergovernmental bodies (Hale and Held 2011). Networks of ostensibly “domestic” government officials now link with their peers across borders (Keohane and Nye 1971; Slaughter 2004b). Different kinds of actors, public and private, form partnerships with each other to tackle issues of mutual concern. And purely private actors have created an array of their own governance institutions, ranging from voluntary regulations to private arbitral tribunals (Büthe 2010). In some ways these new institutions show the adaptability and flexibility of global governance. But they also, we argue below, face significant limitations.

As forums for collaboration and engagement multiplied, they facilitated direct links between world powers, regardless of how explosive the rhetoric between them sometimes became, and opened the door for peripheral states to participate in the global order. Significantly, however, these institutions also embedded in their infrastructures and modus operandi the privileged positions of the 1945 victors. This was, arguably, a compromise needed to give incentives for great powers to participate in the new multilateral order.

Crucially, the success of global cooperation allowed for even greater economic and political transformations. Indeed, once the world started down this path, a self-reinforcing dynamic was created in which interdependence became increasingly institutionalized via interstate cooperation, and institutionalized cooperation created conditions under which globalization could deepen and accelerate, increasing interdependence. At the economic level, the spread of global markets and rapidly expanding economic opportunities created the basis for new powers to enter the world economy. The hierarchical centralized states of the Soviet Union and of Central and Eastern Europe, which could not adapt quickly enough to economic globalization, found themselves outmaneuvered by new patterns of invention, innovation, and investment. When the Cold War ended it was not only because of political pressure and the arms race, but also because of the growing stagnation of the Soviet economy and its satellite states. Economic globalization accelerated the conditions for Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and later China and other parts of Asia to become major players in the global economy. And as they have done so, the level of interdependence linking all of us together has deepened profoundly.

These transformations have now come to alter the ability of states to cooperate multilaterally. That is, economic and political shifts in large part attributable to the multilateral order are now among the factors grinding that system into gridlock. We term these second-order cooperation problems. As new countries emerged to become economic forces in the global economy they sought new forms of political influence and voice. Over time the capacity of the US and Europe to secure or impose international agreements in areas such as trade or security became more difficult. Emerging countries not only wanted a stake in agenda setting and negotiations, they also had the power to get it. Thus, the ground was set for new demands for participation in global institutions and growing expectations of engagement. In many ways, the architects of the UN system could not have known how successful their institutional innovations would become.

However, despite the increase in international and transnational collaboration, the vested interests of the postwar victors remain firmly in place in the core institutional infrastructures of the multilateral order, such as the UN and the Bretton Woods organizations. Whereas once the entrenchment of these interests was key to their participation in building the postwar multilateral order, this dynamic became an obstacle to further multilateral developments as the world became more interconnected. Five states have retained effective control over the UN Security Council (a council comprised of ten nonpermanent members replaced every two years and five permanent members), yet the exclusive privileges of the permanent members (the P-5) are increasingly at odds with the changes in global power structures. All attempts to reform the position of permanent members have failed. In the case of the World Bank, convention dictates that the president is always from the United States, and even when there has been reform, the voting shares of the United States ensures that it retains veto power on all decisions – a privilege also enjoyed by the United States in the IMF.

At the same time, harder global problems have emerged that reflect the deeper level of interdependence made possible by previous cooperation. These problems involve the nature and form of the rule book of the global economy (global financial architecture, trade, investment and competition rules, intellectual property rights, and labor and migration rules), the sustainability of the planet (climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem losses, deforestation and water deficits) and the quality of life chances (global infectious diseases, conflict prevention, combating terrorism, and the fight against poverty) (see Rischard 2002). In other words, they are not merely the distant concerns of diplomats, but rather the basic dilemmas all societies face, penetrating deep into the daily lives of citizens everywhere. And as these new “intermestic” problems arise and new institutions are formed to deal with them (often only partially), the global institutional landscape has grown more crowded and fragmented. Perversely, this ad hoc proliferation of institutions has in some ways reduced our collective capacity to solve new problems as they emerge. Together, these mechanisms have led us to the present gridlock, and are likely to continue into the future.