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2 - Structure, agents, and institutions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Susan K. Sell
Affiliation:
George Washington University, Washington DC
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Summary

My argument draws upon insights of the morphogenetic approach to structure and agency to explain the adoption of the TRIPS accord and the establishment of a new global IP regime. This discussion highlights the structured nature of agency, as mediated by institutions. Focusing on agency alone and offering a “bottom-up” causal explanation would make “no allowances for inherited structures, their resistance to change, the influence they exert on attitudes to change, and crucially … the delineation of agents capable of seeking change” (Archer, 1995: 250). The TRIPS accord is the social construction of privileged agents whose interests were mediated through the US state. The knowledge and ideas that the IPC promoted were powerful elements in this process. The IPC's technical expertise, the framing skills of the IPC's advocates, and the cognitive appeal of the IPC's diagnosis and prescriptions help to provide the explanatory link between agents and structures.

This is a case with complex causality. I will break the argument down into discrete segments in order to clarify the mechanisms at work. The chapter begins by summarizing the overall argument. The first part of the chapter focuses on the structure of global capitalism and its effects on US institutions and on agents' interests. It also discusses the relevance of the structure of the international system for understanding this case. Having explored the causal effects of structure on institutions and agents, the chapter then offers a simple counterfactual to highlight the importance of agency.

Type
Chapter
Information
Private Power, Public Law
The Globalization of Intellectual Property Rights
, pp. 30 - 59
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2003

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