A central point of disagreement animates global governance research. Some scholars see changing forms of global governance as eroding the power of the state. Others reject this claim, arguing that relative state power remains the most important factor in international affairs. I contend that analytical misconception confounds and misleads this debate. Both sides insist on modeling the state as a unitary actor; further, both neglect the temporal dynamics of international regime formation. I build an analytical framework that focuses on political processes that unfold over time and opens up the unitary state. Probing three decades of innovation in global finance, trade, and environmental governance, I find no evidence of a zero-sum relationship. In fact, experimental forms of transnational governance often empower governmental actors and state agencies. However, I also conclude that relative organizational power grounded in historical processes of regime formation matters more than relative state power in shaping global regulatory change.
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