International Organization

Research Article

Modeling the forms of international cooperation: distribution versus information

James D. Morrowa1

a1 Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, California.


The problems of distribution and information impede international cooperation. They arise when actors select how they will cooperate. An exploration of the interaction between these problems using a limited information model of cooperation leads to six conclusions. First, leadership solutions to coordination problems always exist, but leadership here is very different from hegemonic provision of public goods. Second, actors can cooperate in the face of anarchy even without a shadow of the future. Third, diffuse reciprocal strategies arise naturally in coordination problems. Fourth, norms and institutions are intertwined within successful cooperation. Fifth, the form of cooperation on an issue varies with the relative importance of distribution and information. Finally and most important, distributional and informational problems interfere with each other. Arrangements to cooperate can successfully address one, but not both, of these problems.