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How Do International Institutions Matter? The Domestic Impact of International Rules and Norms

Andrew P. Cortell, James W. Davis Jr.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2600887 451-478 First published online: 1 December 1996


Generally, scholars of international relations have attempted to show that international rules or norms influence state behavior by locating their causal significance at the level of state interactions. However, international rules and norms also affect a country's policy choice by way of the actions of domestic political actors. In particular, government officials and societal interest groups can appeal to an international rule or norm in an effort to further their objectives in the national arena. Through such appeals, international rules and norms can become incorporated into the policy debate, and, under some conditions, may ultimately affect national policy choice. The article identifies two factors that condition the extent to which an actor's appeal to an international rule or norm will influence state behavior: the domestic structural context and the domestic salience of the international rule or norm. This argument is explored through an examination of how international rules and norms have affected U.S. policy choices in both the economic and security realms. The security case examines the impact of President Bush's appeal to the norm of collective security to justify a response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The economic case covers the U.S. semiconductor industry's efforts to persuade the Reagan administration to obtain Japanese liberalization of its trade practices with regard to semiconductor devices.

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