Legitimacy and the Cognitive Sources of International Institutional Change: The Case of Regional Parliamentarization

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How and under what conditions does legitimacy affect processes of international institutional change? This article specifies and evaluates three causal mechanisms by which variation in legitimacy induces institutional change in international organizations (IOs) and argues that an important, yet hitherto neglected, source of legitimacy-based change is cognitive in nature. Using survival analysis, we evaluate these mechanisms with a novel dataset on the establishment of parliamentary institutions in thirty-six regional organizations between 1950 and 2010. We find that the empowerment of supranational secretariats, engagement with the European Union, and parliamentarization in an organization's neighborhood increase the likelihood of regional parliamentarization. This suggests that legitimacy judgments that draw on cognitive referents provide an important source of international institutional change. We illustrate the underlying cognitive emulation mechanism with a case study of parliamentarization in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1094-1107
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2019 International Studies Association Conference in Toronto, the 2017 American Political Science Association Meeting in San Francisco, the 2012 German Association of Political Science conference in Tübingen, the Conference ‘Transformative Power of Europe 2.0’ at the Free University of Berlin, December 2012, and the conference ‘(De-) Legitimation of Global Governance Organizations’ at the University of Bremen, September 2013 as well as at seminars at VU Amsterdam, ETH Zürich, the University of Frankfurt and the University of Hamburg. We wish to thank the participants at these events and especially Ben Crum, Gareth Davies, Or-feo Fioretos, Yoram Haftel, Regina Heller, Liesbet Hooghe, Detlef Jahn, Tana Johnson, Michael Koß, Gary Marks, Walter Mattli, Densua Mumford, Kalypso Nicolaïdis, Diana Panke, Bob Reinaldo, Elvira Rosert, Frank Schimmelfennig, Bernd Schlipphak, Henning Schmidtke, Philippe Schmitter, Beth Simmons, Menno Soentken, Jonas Tallberg, Mike Tierney, Barbara Vis, Wolfgang Wagner, and Thomas Winzen for useful comments. Tobias Lenz acknowledges financial support from the European Research Council Advanced Grant #249543 ‘Causes and Consequences of Multilevel Governance’, and a Daimler-and-Benz Foundation post-doctoral scholarship.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) (2019). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Studies Association.