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Change in Global Environmental Politics: Temporal Focal Points and the Reform of International Institutions, Michael W. Manulak

Reviewed by Luis Rivera-Vélez
 

Why does the United Nations (UN) continue to organize repeated international conferences despite tangible results? Michael W. Manulak’s book, Change in Global Environmental Politics, provides an original answer through the study of UN environmental governance. It argues that conspicuous moments in time, such as anniversaries, favor gradual institutional change by pushing multiple actors to “engage in the reform process simultaneously” (233). Manulak theorizes these moments as “temporal focal points” (TFPs), which must have a clear time frame, be perceived as unique, and be clearly visible. Consequently, they invite states to solidify and clarify their preferences, examine reform options, gather information on negotiating adversaries, and engage in coalition building and advocacy. According to Manulak, TFPs stimulate a convergence of expectations, thus facilitating institutional change.

To illustrate the argument, the book is organized in a hypothetico-deductive manner. Chapter two presents the theoretical framework and the two independent variables that lead to reform: a gradual accumulation of change incentives, such as scientific evidence or policy evaluations, and a convergence of expectations from decision-makers in TFPs. Manulak engages with neo-institutionalist approaches by bridging rational choice and sociological

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