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World polity or world society?: Delineating the statist and societal dimensions of the global institutional system

International Sociology

Published online on


The world society/polity perspective developed by John Meyer, his collaborators, and his students has grown tremendously over the past three decades. It is, however, theoretically and conceptually imprecise in one crucial respect: the very terms by which the perspective is called – ‘world polity’ and ‘world society’ – are used interchangeably and indiscriminately. This article proposes the utility of developing an implicit conceptual distinction between these terms. The world polity and world society describe, respectively, the state-centric and civil society dimensions of the global institutional order. After explicating key differences between the world polity and world society, the author offers suggestions for operationalizing these concepts in empirical research and considers possible avenues of inquiry.