Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1982

Published In

International Organization


International regimes are attitudinal phenomena. They are thus subjective and exist primarily as participants' understandings, expectations or convictions about legitimate, appropriate or moral behavior. Regimes are identified and their tenets described by studying records of participants' perceptions gleaned either from interview transcripts or from appropriate documents. Theorizing concerning international regimes currently focuses upon identifying analytic characteristics that might become bases for comparative empirical studies and foundations for generalization. Particularly promising are comparisons of international regimes with regard to specificity, formality, modes of change, and distributive bias. The regime that buttressed late 19th century European colonialism is compared to the international food regime of the present day with respect to these analytic features. Observations on the two cases suggest reasons why some international regimes are durable and others fragile, why some invite wide compliance and others provoke deviation, and why some change while the international structure of power remains constant but others change only after the weak become strong.


This work is freely available courtesy of MIT Press.

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