Regime Theory

Innovation and Economic Growth and Competition Policy and Antitrust

Article Snapshot


Anu Bradford


Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Oxford University Press, 2009


This paper looks at how rules and organizations affect international relations.

Policy Relevance

As international law grows in importance, legal rules become more important to understanding how nations behave.

Main Points

  • “Regime Theory” is a branch of political science that looks at how different nations cooperate and solve problems.

  • A “regime” is a set of rules, norms, or procedures that affect what people expect to happen and rely on in making decisions.  An example of a current regime is the international trade regime, which includes organizations such as the World Trade Organization as well as agreements such as GATT.

  • Like the Realist theory of international relations, Regime Theory views states as self-interested actors.  But Realist theorists emphasize that international developments are a result of the balance of power, and argue that regimes have little affect independent of this.

  • Regime theory is of growing relevance today because more international relations are controlled by laws.

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