Navigating Norms and Invisible Rules: Explaining the Case of Business influence in International Shipping Regulation

Christian Hendriksen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article develops a micro-level theoretical perspective of business influence in international negotiations. By drawing on organizational institutional theory, the article proposes that site-specific institutionalized norms can structure the nature and extent of business power. The article illustrates the value of this perspective through an illustrative case study of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) through interviews and participant observation of on-site dynamics during negotiations on environmental shipping regulation. The article shows how, in the case of the IMO, specific institutionalized norms and beliefs structure private actors’ possible influence and their claims to authority. In particular, strongly held beliefs about the nature of political deliberation in the IMO both constrain and enable business interests, sometimes overriding the general structural power of the shipping industry. This research implies that future scholarship of business power and lobbying should be attentive to specific institutionalized ideas structuring business actors’ range of legitimate activities, in particular in international institutions where individual negotiation sites can develop idiosyncratic norms and beliefs about the legitimacy of private actor participation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness and Politics
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)79-95
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: 10 January 2022.


  • Lobbying
  • Business power
  • Shipping
  • Institutional theory
  • Authority

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