Call for abstracts — Deadline January 10, 2018

Exploitation and the Design of Global Economic Institutions

Groningen, The Netherlands, June 6-9, 2018

Conveners: Michael D. Sampson and Nicholas Vrousalis


For rationalist theories of international relations, the design and evolution of international economic institutions come to reflect one of two factors: Either such institutions represent an efficient solution to cooperation problems under conditions of uncertainty, or they simply reflect the pre-existing distribution of bargaining power between the negotiating parties. In both cases, questions of agency, freedom, and equality are excluded from the analysis.

In neglecting exploration of these crucial concepts, contemporary theories of institutional design fail to take into account forms of inequality and power that lead to exploitation. For example, theories of international trade that focus exclusively on mutually consensual and beneficial transactions between states—e.g. transactions driven by considerations of comparative advantage—typically fail to consider the possibility that such transactions might be exploitative.

In this spirit, we welcome papers in international relations theory, international political theory, and international economics, from a variety of methodological traditions, addressing the topic of exploitation and the design of international economic institutions, broadly construed.

Possible Paper Topics

An indicative but non-exhaustive list of paper topics to be addressed in this workshop is as follows:

  • In what ways can economic institutions be exploitative, even assuming international actors voluntarily agree to participate in them?
  • Do weak international actors voluntarily consent to participate in such institutions?
  • What is the relationship between exploitation and national or international economic power?
  • Does international anarchy make international exploitation more pervasive than intranational?
  • In what ways can the concepts of imperialism, or of formal and informal empire, illuminate the study of exploitation in international relations?
  • How should we study the dependence relationship between multinationals and developing countries?

Abstract Submission

Please submit an abstract through the online submission system, here:

Submission: January 10, 2018
Notification: February 2018
Workshop: June 6-9, 2018

Information about conference fees and accommodation will be posted on