Moving Beyond the Impasse
Edited by James Meadowcroft, Oluf Langhelle and Audun Ruud
Chapter 11: Governance by diffusion: exploring a new mechanism of international policy coordination
International policy coordination, understood as the mutual adjustment of the interests, goals and actions of collective actors in the international system, is a key aspect of the scholarly debate on global governance. Basically, this debate centres on the potential, restriction and impact of coordination among independent actors in the absence of a centralized political authority (Jachtenfuchs 2003; Zürn 1998; Rosenau 1995; Rosenau and Czempiel 1992). So far most theoretical approaches to the study of international relations focus on one or another form of centralized top–down coordination (see, for example, Keohane 1984; Abbott et al. 2000; Chayes et al. 1998). By contrast, other theoretically conceivable and empirically observable forms of de-centralized or horizontal policy coordination have received surprisingly little attention in the international relations literature. This holds especially true for processes of cross-national policy diffusion where information on innovative policies is communicated internationally, leading states to adopt these policies voluntarily and without expecting any kind of quid pro quo (Busch et al. 2005; Jörgens 2004). Coordination, in this case, does not result from international agreement, but emerges from the mutual adjustment of autonomous states to each other’s policy decisions. Although there is a growing body of literature examining processes of policy diffusion (Simmons et al. 2008; Holzinger et al. 2007), the governance potential of these diffusion processes is still widely ignored (exceptions are Kern 2000; Jörgens 2004; Busch and Jörgens 2007).