Driving liberal change? Global performance indices as a system of normative stratification in liberal international order

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Abstract

The existing literature on Global Performance Indices (GPIs) is mostly dominated by unit-level analyses focused on specifying the relevant properties of the GPIs and the motivations of state actors in being influenced by GPIs. This article advances a systemic approach, which conceives of GPIs as collectively constituting a system of normative stratification in International Relations (IR). By bringing together the literature on GPIs with the relevant IR literatures on international hierarchies and status-seeking, we identify the structural attributes of the GPI-based system of stratification, how these structural attributes shape the distribution of normative status positions among states, and how this distribution is likely to condition the pursuit of status by states. In particular, we argue that the disaggregated structure and relative ranking of states, respectively, generate status ambiguity and immobility, which both dissuade states from seeking higher moral status through improving their scores in the existing indices. We illustrate the patterns of status ambiguity and immobility present in the GPI-based system of stratification through an empirical analysis of the scores and rank positions of the United States, European Union (EU) members, and “rising powers” in five different indices in the past decade.

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Rumelili, B., & Towns, A. E. (2022). Driving liberal change? Global performance indices as a system of normative stratification in liberal international order. Cooperation and Conflict, 57(2), 152–170. https://doi.org/10.1177/00108367211055406

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