• transnational actors;
  • great powers;
  • order transition;
  • unequal power

This article rests on the assumption of the “complexity, messiness, power relations, and contested character of the contemporary dualistic system,” which comprises great powers and “superimposed, functionally differentiated global subsystems of world society” (J. Cohen, Globalization and Sovereignty: Rethinking Legality, Legitimacy, and Constitutionalism. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2012:5). The article argues then that this framework is being shaped by the current transition of global order. In turn, this raises the question how the state-led negotiation of today's order transition can be understood against the backdrop of a post-Westphalian environment. The article challenges the widespread argument pertaining to the “autonomy of transnational actors” by suggesting that the influence of nonstate actors is dependent on a particular institutional context in which the key political questions framing a social order are settled. Whereas research on international institutions and their design simply assumes that this is the case, here it is argued that, unless these framing patterns are agreed upon by major powers, the respective order and its elements, that is, institutions and regimes, remain contested or deadlocked. When this happens, the political impact of non-state actors is largely neutralized or strongly weakened and their effective autonomy from great powers is minimized.