In This Review

Ruling the World: Power Politics and the Rise of Supranational Institutions
Ruling the World: Power Politics and the Rise of Supranational Institutions
By Lloyd Gruber
Princeton University Press, 2000, pp.

It is widely argued that international institutions facilitate cooperation between states and as such are mutually beneficial. This engaging book argues otherwise. Gruber contends that such institutions often tell us much more about the power of dominant states to impose their preferences on weaker partners than about the ability of governments to overcome obstacles to collective action and achieve joint gains. In fact, supranational agreements often force weaker states to accommodate the wishes of stronger ones by participating in institutions they intensely dislike. Exploring lengthy case studies of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the European Monetary System, Gruber shows how the initiating governments subtly imposed their preferred institutional arrangements on other governments, which were faced with a choice between signing on and being left behind. The cases also suggest that leaders sometimes seek institutional agreements to lock their successors into desired policy orientations. As such, the book provides a useful guide to the politics of recent regional economic agreements. But Gruber's more ambitious claim -- that countries can be forced to accept agreements that are less welfare-enhancing than the alternatives -- remains debatable.