This article introduces a conceptual framework for analysing and comparing the broader or unintended effects of cooperation anchored in border-crossing ecosystems. The importance of addressing this lacuna in our scholarship on such sub-global cooperation is underscored by research in political geography that has demonstrated how the creation of scale is an important expression of power relations and how interaction with the materiality of different kinds of spaces necessitates distinct political technologies (and thus may have distinct effects). The article introduces three key analytical angles central to policy field studies in international sociology and demonstrates their utility through a case of the Arctic/Arctic Council. These analytical angles – networks (what are the relationships shaping the field?), hierarchies (who leads and how does leadership work?), and norms for political behavior – capture key consequences and dynamics of ecosystemic politics in a concise fashion that lends itself to cross-case comparison. The Arctic case focuses on the changing network positions and roles of non-Arctic actors over time, as an initial exploration of the broader ordering effects of such forms of cooperation. The findings suggest that most non-Arctic actors have experienced a decline in their centrality in Arctic cooperation, even as the Arctic has received intensified global interest and the number of participants in Arctic Council work has increased. Further comparative work along these lines would leave us better equipped to assess whether states speaking for their own immediate environs is better – and if so, in which ways – than seeking common solutions to global challenges.
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