White, Paul (2012) Protocols of Power: Lessons from ICANN For International Regime Theory. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This dissertation explores the nature of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as a governance organisation in the context of international regime theory. It examines the hypothesis that ICANN represents a new type of hybrid political entity, one that both challenges established concepts in IR theory, and that may be representative of emerging trends in other areas of global issue

The concept of international regimes, initially defined in the early 1980s by Stephen Krasner, has become one of the key elements of contemporary International Relations theory. Despite ongoing debates between proponents of various theoretical paradigms over some key questions, such as how and why regimes form and are sustained, the basic concept of the international regime has remained fairly clearly defined. ICANN, however, has been widely interpreted as a new approach to global governance in an emerging issue-area, one based upon ‘multistakeholder’ decisionmaking involving a
range of interested actor types, as opposed to the traditional model of a predominantly state-based ‘inter-national’ organisation. This dissertation seeks to examine the extent to which concepts drawn from existing regime theories remain useful as analytical tools for interpreting the types of emerging global governance arrangements represented by the ICANN system.

The dissertation begins with a review of ICANN’s history and organisational structure, followed by a literature review exploring some competing interpretations of ICANN. It then utilises three case studies of the ICANN policy development process in action, in an effort to explore how ICANN policy is made in practice and which
types of actors and interests appear to have most influence within the regime. The analysis reveals certain commercial interests, together with governments, to be the predominant actors within the ICANN system. Subsequent chapters draw upon these findings to explore how ontological models drawn from various paradigms on regime theory, including realist, neoliberal institutionalist, neo-Marxist and social constructivist approaches, might be applied to the ICANN regime. The study
demonstrates that concepts drawn from each of these paradigms, and particularly vi neoliberal institutionalism and social constructivism, are readily applicable to the ICANN case. The dissertation concludes that ICANN can be usefully interpreted as a regime using a definition based on Krasner’s, albeit of a modified type better
described as a ‘global governance’ rather than an ‘inter-national’ regime. Finally, it attempts to evaluate the extent to which lessons from the ICANN case may be applicable to emerging trends in other issue-areas of international politics.

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