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I NTERNATIONAL STANDARDS AND INTERNATIONAL GOVERNANCE Kenneth W. Abbott Northwestern University School of Law 357 E. Chicago Ave. Chicago, IL 60611 [email protected] Duncan Snidal Department of Political Science University of Chicago 5828 S. University Ave. Chicago IL 60637 [email protected] February 1, 2000
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Abbott & Snidal Standards and Governance 1 Introduction: Standards, Externalities and Governance * Standards and standard setting are pervasive mechanisms of international governance. States and private actors create standards across a wide range of circumstances to promote their collective welfare by coordinating and limiting individual behavior. However, international standards play very different roles in different circumstances. In this paper, we examine how the diversity of standard setting problems leads, through the interaction of private and state interests, to different governance arrangements. Our analysis is rooted in a positive examination of standard setting behavior, yet it leads to normative conclusions: how international standard setting “should” be organized in different settings. The concept of “standard” is sprawling; the dictionary is not overly helpful. Webster’s (1976) defines a “standard” as “something that is established by authority, custom, or general consent as a model or example to be followed.” This definition embraces more specific meanings, like an authoritative “rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality,” but clearly includes less technical guides for behavior as well. A library search for the keywords “international standards” produces technologically oriented volumes on standards for mobile phones and for construction projects using concrete, but also turns up books on accounting, environmental and labor standards. Since our purpose is to understand the variety of ways in which international standards are created and used, we adopt a broad working definition: a standard is a guide for behavior and for judging behavior . This definition incorporates no assumptions about provenance or governance. Indeed (as Webster’s “authority, custom or general consent” suggests), very different institutional processes are involved in creating, administering and enforcing standards for arenas as disparate as mobile phones, accounting, pollution and employment practices. We also adopt an expansive notion of governance . “International governance is understood as the formal and informal bundles of rules, roles and relationships that define and regulate the social practices of state and nonstate actors in international affairs -- an idea whose resemblance to IR definitions of international regimes and institutions is no coincidence.” 1 Both standards themselves and the institutions by which they are created, administered and enforced are subcategories of governance. As our definition makes clear, “governance” need not mean “government.”
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