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Review of Politics 55 (1994): 441-474.


Under the banner of "regime theory," the study of international relations has experienced a massive if largely unacknowledged return to law, the study of the nature, scope, and relevance of norms international politics. Regime is shorthand for forms of institutionalized cooperation in the international system. The article provides one way to assess this movement. In part I, I develop an abstract conception of constitutions as bodies of metanorms, those higher order norms that govern how lower order norms are to be produced, applied, and interpreted. I then examine the extent to which international relations theory is equipped to recognize that some international regimes are constitutional in form (part II). In part III, I propose a means of situating all regime forms, from the most primitive to the full blown constitutional, along a continuum. The central claim is that the distinction made between intemational and domestic society, for the most part a matter of dogma in mainstream theory, is relative not absolute.

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