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The Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies and the Department of Political Science present a book talk and discussion with SIWPS Member Allison Carnegie (Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science), author of the new book Power Plays: How International Institutions Reshape Coercive Diplomacy.

Moderated by SIWPS Member Jack Snyder (Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations, Department of Political Science).

Coercive diplomacy—the use of threats and assurances to alter another state’s behavior—is indispensable to international relations. Most scholarship has focused on whether and when states are able to use coercive methods to achieve their desired results. However, employing game-theoretic tools, statistical modeling, and detailed case study analysis, Power Plays builds and tests a theory that explains how states develop strategies of coercive diplomacy, how their targets shield themselves from these efforts, and the implications for interstate relations. Focusing on the World Trade Organization, Power Plays argues that coercive diplomacy often precludes cooperation due to fears of exploitation, but that international institutions can solve these problems by convincing states to eschew certain tools for coercive purposes.



“The success of the World Trade Organization in ensuring free trade has inadvertently shifted states’ coercive strategies toward other areas like foreign aid, regulation, and military intervention. This is just one of the many insights in Allison Carnegie’s excellent book, which challenges much of what we thought we knew about international institutions and international cooperation. Power Playswith its mix of formal modeling, careful data analyses, and country case studies—will quickly become required reading among scholars of international relations.”

David A. Singer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


“Allison Carnegie shows, with both quantitative and qualitative evidence, that multilateral institutions—particularly the World Trade Organization (WTO) but others as well—help states credibly to commit not to extort concessions from partners after international agreements that generate costly investments. Power Plays is a theoretically original and methodologically convincing addition to the literature on multilateral institutions and the world political economy.”

Robert Keohane, Princeton University, and author of After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy


“In this concise and theoretically sophisticated book, Allison Carnegie explains the dynamics of trade as a tool of coercive diplomacy. Bringing together insights from international political economy, security, and international organization, she shows how the WTO reduces economic underinvestment between states that are vulnerable to coercive diplomacy, and how reducing the coercive use of trade shifts international pressure towards other methods. This book is a nuanced and important work for all students of international relations.”

Susan D. Hyde, Yale University