Sneaking through raising walls: The dynamics of institutionalizing security technology clubs

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Some technologies have dramatic effects on international politics as significant power components, affecting the balance in the international system while raising communal challenges. Their holders are credited as members of exclusive informal Security Technology Clubs (STCs). To mitigate communal challenges and secure their advantages, these tech-haves seek to prevent the spread of these strategic and sensitive capabilities, especially those with strategic lethal significance. Thus, they are often willing to relinquish some of their freedom of action and cooperate to control the distribution and use of technology, resulting in the greater institutionalization of these STCs. What conditions motivate established tech-haves to institutionalize STCs, and how can emerging tech-haves join them? We argue that this occurs under two conditions: (1) increasing numbers of actors seek to earn the technological capabilities; (2) they fear other tech-haves (would) irresponsibly use or transfer the technology to others. Institutionalization has a gradual dynamic, beginning with informal, often self-limiting, equitable arms control mechanisms benefiting the tech-haves; the following are less equitable mechanisms. Thus, emerging tech-haves are likely to become members of these more institutionalized STCs when publicly joining them before the walls are raised. We test our model by examining two cases: the institutionalization of the nuclear club in the 1960s and the early stages of institutionalization of the space club, centering on counterspace capabilities.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number102542
JournalTechnology in Society
StatePublished - Jun 2024


  • ASATs
  • China
  • Clubs
  • Cooperation
  • India
  • International institutions
  • NPT
  • NSG
  • Nuclear club
  • Security Studies
  • Space club
  • Technology
  • counterspace capabilities
  • great powers
  • informal institutions
  • instituional design theory
  • nuclear weapons
  • power shift

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Business and International Management
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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