Not All Complexes Are Equal: Variation in Institutional Complexity and Policy Conflict

Research on regime complexes tends to treat all complexes as equal. In this paper, I argue that institutional complexes constituted by multiple intergovernmental as well as transnational institutions vary in important ways and that this variation matters for governance processes and their outcomes. Specifically, I develop a theoretical argument that highlights three dimensions along which institutional complexes may vary—overlap, centralization, and informality—and that links variation in these three dimensions to differences in the level of policy conflict among the institutions in a complex. I explore my theoretical argument empirically using methods of network analysis and automated text analysis and new data on intergovernmental and transnational institutions in the development, climate change, and energy domains.