Date Issued



There is a commonly held view that forms of private regulation and governance arise when intergovernmental cooperation fails. While we do not dispute that this is sometimes the case, this paper focuses on the longer-term effects of private authority—namely, the ways that public and private authority interact over time. We argue that a more complete understanding of regime complexity must include private authority, which we define as situations in which non-state actors make rules or set standards that other actors in world politics adopt, and its interactions with public authority. Interactions among public and private actors occur in two ways—one static and one dynamic. We show how each of these interactions affects the overall "design" of the regime complex and its evolution over time. To explore these two arguments, we propose an "unbundling" of the regime complex, to trace the specific mechanism through which public and private authority co-exist and interact. We argue that private authority is not merely a response to gaps in public authority; rather, we explore the possibility that private authority can address the political and institutional constraints present in public authority. We argue that private authority can provide functional improvements to existing regime complexes by helping to overcome path dependencies that public authority may face. We describe three specific mechanisms through which this might occur: by providing a redefinition of the problem, supplying a "repository" where different policy approaches can exist until their time becomes "ripe", or serving as an additional means through which to diffuse public authority.


regime complexity, private authority, private regulation, international institutions, environmental policy


Environmental Policy | International Business | Political Economy

Document Type

Working Paper