My research engages with questions about the emergence and consequences of institutions, a term understood broadly, in the international realm. I am interested in understanding how, why and when actors create new or change existing institutions in order to address problems that cross international borders, and whether, how and when these institutions shape cooperative outcomes. Theoretically, I take a particular interest in sociological approaches that conceive of strategic action as historically and socially embedded, and in diffusion approaches that comprehend decisionmaking as interdependent across units of analysis. My substantive interest concerns international governmental organizations, especially of the regional type. I also take an interest in the foreign policy of the European Union. My work is mainly comparative in scope, and I employ both qualitative and quantitative methods. 

In my current research, I analyze

I am working on two book length studies.

Book Project 1

EU Influence on Regional Institutional Design

The first, which builds upon and extends my doctoral dissertation, concerns the influence of the European Union on the design of regional institutions. For several decades, the EU has been the most active and powerful promoter of regional integration around the world. It negotiates cooperation and trade agreements with regional organizations, engages in interregional political dialogues and lends financial and technical assistance to strengthen regional institutions. At the same time, the EU is widely considered the pioneer and most successful example of regional economic integration in the world today, notwithstanding the current Euro crisis. Yet, there is little research that systematically assesses the influence of the ‘EU model’ on other regional organizations.

This project therefore has three aims. First, it identifies the pathways through which the EU’s institutional model affects regional institutional design elsewhere by drawing on the burgeoning literature on diffusion. Second, it develops a series of testable propositions on the conditions under which EU diffusion is likely to matter. Third, it tests these propositions based on a mixed methods design that combines large-N quantitative analysis and several in-depth case studies on specific episodes of institutional change in Mercosur, the Southern African Development Community and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The project promises to advance our theoretical understanding of processes of institutional design and evolution, on the impact of the EU in world politics, and on the drivers of regional cooperation. It also has major policy relevance.

This project has been supported by a research grant from the Daimler and Benz Foundation (2015-2018).

Book project 2

IO Authority

The second project is a large-scale data project that measures and explains the authority of 76 international governmental organizations from 1950, or the time of their establishment, until 2010. We consider organizations that are regional (e.g. the EU, Andean Community, SADC, and ASEAN), crossregional (e.g. APEC, Organization of Islamic Cooperation), and global (UN, WTO, IMF etc.) in scope.

The project provides both an empirical and a theoretical contribution. The empirical contribution is a detailed dataset that gauges variation in the independence of organizations from member state control along two conceptual dimensions: delegation (empowerment of third-party agents) and pooling (majoritarian decision-making). The estimates are unique in their comparative scope, specificity, and time span.

The theoretical contribution is a comprehensive theory of international governance that is centered on the tension between scale and community. On the one hand, as social interactions generate externalities that reach beyond state borders, the provision of public goods requires international governance. On the other hand, communities – bounded groups of densely interacting humans sharing distinctive norms – have a strong preference for self-rule, which, in turn, constrains international governance. As the benefits of scale and the constraints of community vary across different organizational settings, international organizations display variation in their authority.

The results of this study are published in two volumes by Oxford University Press. The first one of those, outlining the measurement of international authority, was published in 2017; we are currently in the process of finalizing the second volume. The project forms part of a larger one, directed by Gary Marks and Liesbet Hooghe and funded by the European Research Council, on the Causes and Consequences of Multilevel Governance.