ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

Discursive Institutionalism: The Explanatory Power of Discourse in International Institutions

Open Panel

Abstract

The paper theoretically addresses the explanatory power of discourse variation in international institutions from the perspective of new institutionalism. The discourses are channelized through participatory forms conveying arguing and persuasion to meet challenges of knowledge-insecurity, namely complexity, scientific uncertainty and socio-political ambiguity. (1) Traditional mechanisms of international institutions are sufficient, if knowledge is largely secure. The problem-solving capacity emanates from intergovernmental cooperation and an instrumental discourse of state actors, in which they bargain over national preferences and claims. (2) In epistemological discourse actors of the epistemic community address complexity by exchanging science-based facts and data, learning about cognitive and evaluative un-derstandings as well as clarifying and defining problems to be solved. Professionalized expert consultancy can produce political authority to influence institutional change. The IPCC might be an example. (3) In a reflexive discourse transnational stakeholders address the issue of uncertainty by reflecting how much uncertainty would be acceptable, and where a balance between ap-propriate safeguarding and acting under insecurity might lie. The FSC might be an example. (4) Ambiguity can be tackled by a transnational public discourse. It can be institutional-ized by a “macro-political uptake” of participatory procedures, in which individuals try to resolve cognitive, evaluative and normative conflicts. The Great Lakes regime serves as example. The paper concludes by reflecting on the obstacles of the institutionalization of the four discourses in real-world international politics, their civilizing effects in international relations and their implications on institutional change.