In ongoing research I explore how states design IOs to protect the interests of members that would otherwise lose influence as a direct result of international collaboration. When cooperation would lead some potential members to be more dependent on continued cooperation than others, institutional mechanisms that promote flexibility and easy exit can reduce the appeal of cooperation, ex ante, since unequal dependence raises the risk that, once cooperation has begun, the less-dependent side will renegotiate terms to its advantage.
Contrived Symmetry through the IAEA. Negotiations in the 1940s-50s over international cooperation to regulate atomic energy illustrate the problem. In a book project, in progress, I examine the development of the nonproliferation regime through the 20th century.
Federation and National Reunification States form federations when cooperation would lead them to make unequal investments, making some vulnerable to later renegotiation. I develop the idea of contrived symmetry. An implication of the argument is that states form international organizations when they fundamentally trust each other to refrain from future renegotiations (or when the potential downside of renegotiation is low) and form federations when they mistrust each other. Federations therefore occur when the only realistic alternative is a complete failure of cooperation; federations do not emerge in a linear way from international organizations.
The struggles surrounding regional integration projects in Australia, Argentina, Germany, East Africa, and the Caribbean provide evidence for the argument. (Federations: The Political Dynamics of Cooperation. Cornell U. Press, 2009. Amazon. Ebook. Data used in chapters 3 and 4.)
Some contemporary applications:
Korea is unlikely to reunify by confederation. Jai Kwan Jung and I find that South Korea has, de facto, moved toward a strategy of absorbing the North rather than confederating with it. (South Korea’s Reunification Dilemmas. Asian Politics & Policy 2012.)