Abstract: The selection process that led to the nomination of Antonio Guterres as Secretary-General of the United Nations gave way to unprecedented practices in world politics, such as public hearings with candidates. A textbook case of what historical institutionalism calls “layering,” this episode of institutional development features intriguing puzzles, including its timing, form and limits. The paper argues that such endogenous incremental change is best explained by combining insights from historical institutionalism and practice theory. Among other things, practice theory provides a theory of agency that is in tune with the path dependence logic of institutionalism. It also helps explain the room for rule interpretation that prominent historical institutionalists highlight as a key source of change. This crossfertilization exercise draws attention to the prevalence of informal processes, adaptive dynamics and contingency in the transformation of global politics.
Vincent Pouliot is a Professor and William Dawson Scholar in the Department of Political Science at McGill University. He is also the Director of the Centre for International Peace and Security Studies (CIPSS). Pouliot’s research interests include the political sociology of international organizations, the politics of multilateral diplomacy, and the global governance of international security. He is the author, among others, of International Pecking Orders: The Politics and Practice of Multilateral Diplomacy (Cambridge University Press, 2016), which won the inaugural Hedley Bull Award from the ECPR.
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