This article examines whether the two-level game can theoretically explain negotiation breakdowns without referring to uncertainty alone. For this purpose, social conflicts are integrated in the two-level game. In this light, the classical hypothesis that smaller win-sets increase the risk of a negotiation breakdown can no longer be maintained. Instead, conflict intensity – and thereby the risk of breakdown – correlates with the intersection of the win-sets in the form of an inverted U-curve. It follows that negotiations are most likely to break down when the intersection of the win-sets is perceived as medium-sized, because the bargaining space and thereby the potential of conflict intensity is largest/highest. Furthermore, the insertion of social conflicts into the equation runs counter to the hypothesis that issue linkages facilitate international cooperation. On the contrary, issue linkages increase the risk that goal conflicts, in particular, intensify each other by spreading from one issue to another.
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- Author or Editor: Holger Janusch x
In classical two-level games, international cooperation is less likely when there is large programmatic distance and smaller domestic win-sets as a result of changing preferences. The US trade negotiations with South Korea and Colombia question this hypothesis and emphasize two empirical insights that can be integrated into the two-level game to improve its explanatory power. First, smaller win-sets due to preference changes can mitigate conflicts of distribution and make cooperation more likely if the negotiators are aware of the smaller win-sets. Second, when negotiators perceive the already achieved bargaining results as a new status quo, former positive sum games can transform into zero sum games, which makes cooperation more difficult, irrespective of the size of the win-sets. Negotiators who perceive conflicts as zero sum games will put more effort into avoiding losses and, as a result, domestic constraints cannot be used as bargaining levers vis-à-vis a foreign country.