The world polity school (also known as world society, world culture, or Stanford school of sociological institutionalism) was founded in the1970s by John W. Meyer, a Stanford University sociologist, who asked important questions of direct relevance to international relations (IR), such as: Why are similar policies, methods, and concepts adopted by dissimilar states despite local and national divergences in terms of both capability and power, especially when there is no centrally organized global authority that could sanction free riding? How can we explain the exponential rise of nongovernmental activities and organization at the transnational and global level? Why do states embrace reforms that seem to counter the nationalist logic of interest-maximization, trigger strong public opposition, and are highly unlikely to be implemented? The research findings published by Meyer and his students (including, for instance, David John Frank, Elizabeth Heger Boyle, Ann Hironaka, Evan Schofer, Kiyoteru Tsutsui, John Boli, George Thomas, Gili Drori, Yasemin Soysal, and Francisco Ramirez) suggest that the world polity school is a critique of three traditions in IR: modernization, world-systems theory (WST), and rational choice institutionalism. The world polity school embraces constructivist ontology in terms of defining state identity and interests as constructed by emerging “global scripts,” which are enacted in the global nongovernmental forums. In other words, international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) act as “scriptwriters” for nation-states that seek external legitimation to consolidate their very actorhood in the world political arena. While modernization approaches fail to account for increasing isomorphisms in state policies and institutions in areas covering education, environment, human rights, and citizenship policies amongst others, interest-based accounts provided by WST and rational choice institutionalism do not explain the rise and role of INGOs. This article introduces the main books representing world polity research, the core themes, and the theoretical and conceptual innovations of world polity theory. It covers works that discuss the world polity studies’ contributions to international relations, to studies of global governance, national sovereignty, international organizations and social movements, human rights, conflict and security, and European regionalism. It puts forward some critical works that suggest refining world polity theory from different angles and also lists some institutes and networks that promote world polity research.
Since the 1970s, the world polity school has produced a number of important books that can be used as textbooks to explain what world polity is, how it evolves, and how it transforms the nation-state. The compilation of John W. Meyer’s path-breaking writings, Krücken and Drori 2009, introduces the main findings and debates of the world polity school. Boli and Thomas 1999, Lechner and Boli 2005, and Lechner 2009 explain the systemic trends associated with world polity in the post-1945 era. Drori, et al. 2006 focuses on modern organization and the spread of global standards in formal organizing. Students of world polity research can also benefit from Soysal 1994, Boyle 2002, and Drori, et al. 2003, which investigate the structural effects of world polity pertaining to immigration, women’s rights, and the expansion of science, respectively.
Boli, John, and George M. Thomas, eds. Constructing World Culture: International Non-Governmental Organizations since 1875. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999.
Based on an extensive research about the structure and activities of international nongovernmental organizations, this volume explains the models of world polity through selected case-studies, namely environmentalism, the women’s movement, world language Esperanto, the rules of war, technical standards, population control, development ends and strategies, and the scientizing of society.
Boyle, Elizabeth Heger. Female Genital Cutting: Cultural Conflict in the Global Community. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.
Studying national policies toward female genital cutting in Egypt, Tanzania, and the United States, the book highlights the uneven effects of different world polity models (national sovereignty and human/gender rights) on different groups and individuals. An exemplary work for its sensitivity to “bottom-up” processes and individual accounts of world polity.
Drori, Gili S., John W. Meyer, and Hokyu Hwang, eds. Globalization and Organization. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
With detailed case studies, and a strong interdisciplinary appeal, this organizational sociology textbook lays out the world polity dimension of modern organization and deals with the spread of global standards in business education, international management, accounting, corporate responsibility, human resources, and universities.
Drori, Gili, John W. Meyer, Francisco O. Ramirez, and Evan Schofer, eds. Science in the Modern World Polity: Institutionalization and Globalization. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.
This edited volume explains how scientific thinking has become a central element of the modern world polity. It discusses the emergence and expansion of world polity and how to study it. It opposes the conventional thinking based on functionalism and rational choice in explaining state behavior and social movements.
Krücken, Georg, and Gili S. Drori, eds. World Society: The Writings of John W. Meyer. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Compilation of must-read articles that represent world polity research conducted by John W. Meyer and his students since the 1970s. Can be used as a textbook on world polity theory. Includes previous publications applying the world polity approach to different areas such as human rights, European integration, nation-states, law, and the environment.
Lechner, Frank J. Globalization: The Making of World Society. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.
Expands on Lechner and Boli 2005. Focuses on how world polity intertwines with local and traditional. Provides case studies on global economy, food, media, sport, governance, welfare system, migration, justice, inequality, environment, and civil society and concludes that the globalizing world operates as if it is a single place.
Lechner, Frank J., and John Boli. World Culture: Origins and Consequences. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.
A comprehensive account of world polity: its origins, institutionalization, internal contradictions, contestations, and its differential impact on nation-states. Studying Olympic games, global economy, law, governance and infrastructure, the book corrects “top-down” accounts of world polity as unified and hegemonic.
Soysal, Yasemin Nuhoglu. Limits of Citizenship: Migrants and Postnational Membership in Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
This book studies the expanding rights of migrant workers in core European countries and the prevailing rational choice accounts that explain the advancement of migrant rights with the parochial interests of the host countries; it demonstrates that Europe is under the constitutive effects of world polity.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest.
- Academic Theories of International Relations Since 1945
- Arab-Israeli Wars, 1967-1973, The
- Arab-Israeli Wars, The
- Arms Control
- Arms Races
- Arms Trade
- Asylum Policies
- Authoritarian Regimes
- Balance of Power Theory
- Bargaining Theory of War
- Challenge of Communism, The
- China and Japan
- China's Defense Policy
- China's Foreign Policy
- Civil Resistance
- Civil Society in the European Union
- Cold War, The
- Conflict Behavior and the Prevention of War
- Conflict Management
- Countermeasures in International Law
- Criminal Law, International
- Critical Theory of International Relations
- Cuban Missile Crisis, The
- Cultural Diplomacy
- Cyber Security
- Cyber Warfare
- Demobilization, Post World War I
- Democracies and World Order
- Democracy and Conflict
- Democracy in World Politics
- Deterrence Theory
- Diplomacy, History of
- Diplomacy, Public
- Disaster Diplomacy
- Drone Warfare
- Eastern Front (World War I)
- Economics, International
- Embedded Liberalism
- Emerging Powers and BRICS
- Empirical Testing of Formal Models
- Energy and International Security
- Epidemic Diseases and their Effects on History
- Ethics and Morality in International Relations
- Ethnicity in International Relations
- European Migration Policy
- European Security and Defense Policy, The
- European Union as an International Actor
- European Union, International Relations of the
- Fascism, The Challenge of
- Feminist Security Studies
- Food Security
- Forecasting in International Relations
- Foreign Policy, Theories of
- French Empire, 20th-Century
- From Club to Network Diplomacy
- Future of NATO
- Game Theory and Interstate Conflict
- Gender and Terrorism
- Genocide, Politicide, and Mass Atrocities Against Civilian...
- Genocides, 20th Century
- Geopolitics and Geostrategy
- Germany in World War II
- Global Citizenship
- Global Civil Society
- Global Constitutionalism
- Global Environmental Politics
- Global Ethic of Care
- Global Governance
- Global Justice, Western Perspectives
- Grand Strategy
- Greater Middle East, The
- Hague Conferences (1899, 1907)
- History and International Relations
- Human Rights
- Human Rights and Humanitarian Diplomacy
- Human Rights Law
- Intelligence Oversight
- Internal Displacement
- International Conflict Settlements, The Durability of
- International Criminal Court, The
- International Economic Organizations (IMF and World Bank)
- International Health Governance
- International Justice, Theories of
- International Law
- International Monetary Relations, History of
- International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
- International Nongovernmental Organizations
- International Organizations
- International Relations as a Social Science
- International Relations Theory
- International Security
- International Society
- International Society, Theorizing
- International Support For Nonstate Armed Groups
- Internet Law
- Interstate Cooperation Theory and International Institutio...
- Intervention and Use of Force
- Iran, Politics and Foreign Policy
- Iraq: Past and Present
- Just War Theory
- Kurdistan and Kurdish Politics
- Law of the Sea
- Laws of War
- Leadership in International Affairs
- League of Nations
- Lean Forward and Pull Back Options for US Grand Strategy
- Mediation and Civil Wars
- Mediation in International Conflicts
- Mediation via International Organizations
- Middle East, The Contemporary
- Military Science
- Minority Rights
- Multilateralism (1992–), Return to
- National Liberation, International Law and Wars of
- National Security Act of 1947, The
- Nations and Nationalism
- NATO, Europe, and Russia: Security Issues and the Border R...
- New Multilateralism in the Early 21st Century
- Nonproliferation and Counterproliferation
- Nonviolent Resistance Datasets
- Peace of Utrecht
- Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict
- Political Demography
- Political Economy of National Security
- Political Learning and Socialization
- Political Psychology
- Politics and Islam in Turkey
- Popular Culture and International Relations
- Post-Civil War State
- Post-Conflict and Transitional Justice
- Power Transition Theory
- Preventive War and Preemption
- Prisoners, Treatment of
- Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs)
- Pro-Government Militias
- Prospect Theory in International Relations
- Public Opinion and the European Union
- Quantum Social Science
- Race and International Relations
- Religion and International Relations
- Religiously Motivated Violence
- Reputation in International Relations
- Responsibility to Protect
- Rising Powers in World Politics
- Russian Revolutions and Civil War, 1917-1921
- Sanctions in International Law
- Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), The
- Shining Path
- Social Scientific Theories of Imperialism
- Soviet Union in World War II
- Space Strategy, Policy, and Power
- Spatial Dependencies and International Mediation
- State Theory in International Relations
- Strategic Air Power
- Strategic and Net Assessments
- Sustainable Development
- Teaching International Relations
- Territorial Disputes
- Terrorist Financing
- Terrorist Group Strategies
- The Changing Nature of Diplomacy
- The Queer in/of International Relations
- Theories of International Relations, Feminist
- Theory, Chinese International Relations
- Trade Law
- Transnational Actors
- Transnational Social Movements
- Trust and International Relations
- UN Security Council
- United Nations, The
- US and Africa
- US–UK Special Relationship
- Vienna Conventions on Diplomacy and Consular Relations
- Voluntary International Migration
- War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714)
- Western Balkans
- Western Front (World War I)
- Westphalia, Peace of (1648)
- Women and Peacemaking Peacekeeping
- World Economy 1919-1939
- World Polity School
- World War II Diplomacy and Political Relations