The G20 and International Relations Theory
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The G20 and International Relations Theory

Perspectives on Global Summitry

Edited by Steven Slaughter

The future of the G20 is uncertain despite being developed to address the 2008 global financial crisis. This book considers the significance of the G20 by engaging various accounts of International Relations theory to examine the political drivers of this form of global governance. International Relations theory represents an array of perspectives that analyse the factors that drive the G20, how the G20 influences world politics and in what ways the G20 could or should be reformed in the future.
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Chapter 3: Rational choice and the G20

Felicity Vabulas


The rational choice methodological approach is informed by economics and assumes that actors seek to achieve goals amidst certain constraints. Rational choice helps us think about why states might choose to work through the G20, which has distinct design characteristics amidst a broader spectrum of global governance organizations. This chapter argues that the G20 is an informal intergovernmental organization (IIGO) because it does not have a legalized treaty or a permanent independent secretariat. It is rational for states to choose the G20’s informality because it provides flexibility, reinforces state autonomy, helps control information, speeds up decision-making processes, and minimizes bureaucratic costs. These benefits are particularly advantageous in managing high uncertainty or crisis scenarios that have become central for world leaders today. Nonetheless, rational choice also helps us understand that the G20’s informality is not a panacea and discusses ways that the G20 might be challenged in the years to come.

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