International institutions such as treaties and organizations shape, and are shaped by, the large web-like architecture of global governance. Yet we know little about what this architecture looks like, why certain structures are observed, and how they are linked to the functioning of international institutions as well as the overall effectiveness of global governance. Over the past decade, network science has emerged as a promising and indispensable approach to unraveling structural nuances and complexities of the system of international institutions. This article presents a state-of-the-art review of this emerging field of research and seeks to stimulate its further development. In this article, I draw connections between various network analyses of global governance that are found in different bodies of literature. In so doing, I integrate three separate but overlapping strands of work on institutional fragmentation, polycentricity, and complexity and bring much-needed conceptual clarity to the debate. Building on previous studies, I propose a framework for operationalizing fragmentation, polycentricity, and complexity in network terms in order to enable systematic and comparative analysis of global governance systems. This article argues that there is much potential in the network approach and makes a case for advancing the “network science of global governance.”

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