Laura Mahrenbach, Ph.D.

Technische Universität München/Hochschule für Politik

Country: Germany

About Me:

Laura (Carsten) Mahrenbach is a post-doctoral fellow at the Bavarian School of Public Policy/Technical University of Munich. Her research interests include emerging powers, global governance, international political economy, and big data and digitalization. 
Prior to her position in Munich, Laura worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the Technical University of Dresden, an assistant professor at Curry College and a lecturer and researcher at the Ruhr University of Bochum. More info here:

Research Interests

Political Economy


International Law & Organization

Emerging Powers

Big Data

International Political Economy

Science And Technology

International Trade

Countries of Interest




United States

My Research:

CURRENT PROJECTS focus on 1) CONCEPTUALIZING EMERGING POWERS via in-depth, qualitative comparison of Brazilian, Indian, Chinese and US motivations and framing strategies in formal in informal global governance (more info here:; and 2) EXAMINING CHANGING POWER RELATIONS IN DATA USE AND GOVERNANCE at the national and international levels, with special focus on China, India, the US and the EU.


Journal Articles:

(2019) Rising Powers in Global Economic Governance: Mapping the Flexibility-Empowerment Nexus., Global Policy

Given long‐standing criticism of global economic institutions by rising powers, it is puzzling that these same governments supported the transfer of substantial resources and responsibilities to the IMF and the World Bank during recent reform negotiations. We argue rising powers’ support for international organization (IO) empowerment is linked to their concerns regarding an IO's flexibility. We introduce two types of flexibility as being most relevant for rising powers. These include governance flexibility – the extent to which rising powers may participate in IO decision‐making – and issue flexibility – the extent to which rising power preferences are incorporated into IO policies and programs. We illustrate our argument by examining the preferences of the BIC states (Brazil, India and China) towards IMF and World Bank reforms between 2008 and 2012. Drawing on archival material with over 50 statements from BIC representatives, we find, first, that there were clear links between Bank and Fund governance flexibility and the BICs’ support for empowerment of these IOs, but that this was not true for issue flexibility. Second, we find evidence indicating the strategies of individual BIC governments differ within these IOs, suggesting a need to undertake more differentiated studies of rising powers’ IO activities.

(2019) Reforming International Organizations: How Partisanship Shapes State Preferences towards the World Bank., Global Governance

Recent scholarship has highlighted the role of domestic factors in determining state preferences towards the reform of international organizations (IOs) and especially the World Bank. We add a new dimension to this literature by examining how partisanship and ministerial control matters for state preferences toward IO empowerment. From existing literature on domestic politics, we derive two expectations. First, partisan position will determine preferences on IO empowerment. Second, when a government is constituted by multiple parties, the position of the party with the IO’s ministerial portfolio will determine the government’s position on IO empowerment. Drawing on party manifestos and government statements before the World Bank’s Development Committee, we illustrate our argument by examining the positions of four net donors (Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and two net recipients (Brazil and India) within the post-crisis reform negotiations between 2007 and 2012. By bringing domestic politics back in, this article complements existing studies on the politics of IO reform and weighs in on central debates in comparative politics and international political economy.

(2019) How Shared Ideas May Hinder Lobbying Success: British Preference Formation in the G20, Cambridge Review of International Affairs

Much existing work on ideas in policymaking and lobbying has focused on how shared ideas can facilitate achievement of policy preferences. However, interviews with lobbyists and recent research indicates shared ideas may also hinder lobbying success – a topic largely ignored to date. I begin to address this gap by mapping out two roles for shared ideas in lobbying processes: as icebreakers to facilitate communication with politicians and as instruments in pursuit of specific interests. I subsequently propose pathways via which shared ideas may facilitate or hinder lobbying success and illustrate these mechanisms in case studies examining British preference formation during G20 negotiations over tax reform. The analysis underlines the crucial role of strategic agency and the interaction of actor’s communication strategies when seeking to understand how ideas affect lobbying success. Likewise, it highlights the value of explicitly incorporating ideas’ multivocality into studies of ideas’ role(s) in politics.

(2018) Policy Visions of Big Data: Views from the Global South., Third World Quarterly

Government intentions stand at the heart of debates about how big data can and should be used in the Global South. This paper provides new insights by examining the political and economic visions promoted by emerging power governments in Brazil, India and China (the BICs). Doing so is crucial as these countries not only comprise some of the world’s largest populations, but have also demonstrated their initiative in national and international promotion of big data politics. Drawing on a content analysis of strategic and legal documents discussing the use of big data, we identify potential areas for big data cooperation among the BICs by determining the compatibility of national policy visions. Three visions are apparent: data as a force for political liberation or repression, for improving public services and for facilitating development. Successful BIC cooperation is likely related to the latter two, but less probable for the liberation/repression vision. We conclude by identifying the implications of BIC engagement with big data for the Global South more broadly.

(2016) Emerging Powers, Domestic Politics, and WTO Dispute Settlement Reform, International Negotiation

As the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) gains relevance as a rule-maker in trade governance, understanding the reform negotiations addressing its legal framework becomes increasingly important. This article examines how domestic ideas and interests affect the reform positions of two of the DSB’s most active users, emerging power states Brazil and India. Regarding domestic interests, I draw on the domestic politics and two-level games literatures to argue that the amount and favorability of domestic sectors’ experience with the DSB affects their incentives to lobby during the reform negotiations. Interestingly, this results in countries pursuing liberal interests within negotiations, despite having conflicting domestic interest preferences overall. Regarding domestic ideas, I find evidence that Brazilian and Indian politicians feel accountable to voters in the negotiations, contradicting claims to the contrary in the literature. This highlights the need for more research illustrating links between voters and officials in this context.

(2015) Deconstructing ‘Emerging Powers’ and ‘Emerging Markets’: India and the United States in Global Governance, India Quarterly

Academic literature and the media offer a variety of monikers for emerging states like Brazil, India and China, most prominently, ‘emerging powers’ and ‘emerging markets’. This paper argues the terms used to describe these states create assumptions about their behaviour in global governance (GG). In order to accurately assess the impact of emerging states on international institutions, it is necessary to more systematically examine their current participation in GG. Does the use of power and economic inter- ests in GG negotiations distinguish emerging states from traditional powers, as the ‘emerging’ part of these terms suggests? And can the content of GG negotiations predict the dominance of each factor, as implied by the ‘power/market’ part? This paper tackles these questions by comparing the behaviour of one emerging state (India) and one traditional power (the United States) in negotiations at the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations Security Council. The results demonstrate that, while there is clearly something distinctive about at least India’s participation in GG, focussing on power or economic interests alone is insufficient to explain that distinctiveness or its implications for relations between rising and traditional powers in GG.

(2008) “Emerging Powers in the IMF and WTO: New Alternatives or Reform?”, ifo Schnelldienst

Since emerging powers (EPs) like Brazil and India have benefited so much from the IMF and WTO, one would expect them to continue to focus their efforts on acting within these institutions. In reality, however, EPs have recently employed a variety of strategies vis-à-vis the IMF and WTO. In fact, their activities can be categorized as displaying one of three basic strategies: simple institutional use, reform, or substitution. This paper discusses two of those strategies in detail, in the process raising questions about how EPs evaluate these institutions vis-a-vis their foreign policy objects as well as how EP activities are likely to affect the WTO and IMF in the future.

Books Written:

(2019) The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary International Political Economy, Palgrave Macmillan

Published 35 years after Palgrave Macmillan’s landmark International Political Economy (IPE) series was first founded, this Handbook captures the state of the art of contemporary IPE. It draws on the series’ history of focussing on the oft-neglected study of the global South. Providing interdisciplinary perspectives from scholars hailing from the global North and South, the Handbook illustrates the theoretical innovations and empirical richness necessary to explain today’s ever-changing world. This is a world in which the global South and North are not only being transformed by the end of bipolarity and the rise of the BRICS, but also by diverse global crises and growing cross-border challenges. It is a world where human development, governance and security are becoming ever more elusive, where, profoundly altered by the rise of new technologies, the structure of relations between nations itself is changing, becoming increasingly interconnected, both digitally and physically. Understanding these issues is of critical importance to better understand and comprehend current and future global transformations. This Handbook is the ideal primer for all scholars, practitioners and policy makers looking to do so.

(2013) The Trade Policy of Emerging Powers: Strategic Choices of Brazil and India, Palgrave Macmillan

As emerging powers deepen their involvement in world trade and global governance, it is crucial to explore the what and the why of their strategic choices vis-a-vis the World Trade Organization. This book does just that, examining the trade policy decisions of two emerging power states, Brazil and India, since 2001. In this timely work, Laura Carsten Mahrenbach develops a broad-based analytical framework which addresses trade policy within EP states, in their regions and on the global level. The findings underline the importance of examining domestic factors when trying to understand strategic decisions by emerging powers. They also have important implications for our understanding of the role of emerging power states in global (trade) governance.

Book Chapters:

(2019) Conceptualising Emerging Powers, Palgrave Macmillan

What, exactly, is an emerging power? While empirical scholarship-discussing states such as Brazil, India, or China have blossomed over the past 20 years, little attention has been paid to conceptualising these states. This creates confusion about emerging powers themselves as well as their impact on global affairs. I argue that systematic study of three factors—growing material (especially economic) capabilities, diplomatic ambitions, and peer recognition by others—will enable us to overcome the contemporary conceptual problems of coherence and differentiation. Doing so will require scholars of international political economy to re-evaluate theoretical assumptions embedded in today’s literature. It will also empower us to better contribute to policy discussions of emerging states. These arguments are illustrated in reference to emerging power activities in global economic governance.

(2019) Continuities and Change in IPE at the Start of the Twenty-first Century, Palgrave Macmillan

This chapter reviews changes and continuities for the development of International Political Economy (IPE) in the twenty-first century. We highlight four themes, which authors in this handbook subsequently explore. These include necessary adaptations of IPE theory in response to changing global conditions; how global reordering affects global economic governance, production, and power relations; the diverse global crises to which actors must respond, often under intense time pressure; and a variety of emerging IPE issues on which we need new and/or more attention from IPE scholars and students. We conclude by identifying five trends which we argue would help enhance IPE understandings, ensure the policy relevance of our discipline, and prepare our students in the coming decade.

(2019) The Domestic Foundations of Emerging and Established State Trade Cooperation., Routledge

Cooperation between emerging and established states – and the manifold factors hindering such cooperation – stands at the center of debates about how to meet the political and economic challenges of the 21st century. Nowhere is this truer than in the field of trade. While Brazil and the United States (US) openly disagreed about who caused the recent global financial crisis and whose responsibility it was to fix it, they nonetheless agreed on the importance of trade in helping the world find its footing. And yet, bilateral trade cooperation is anything but assured between these two regional leaders, especially in the era of Trump, and trade levels themselves remain low. So what’s the catch? In this essay I argue that the inconsistent ability of the two governments to navigate conflicting domestic preferences results in inconsistently successful cooperation. This argument is briefly examined in two case studies: the negotiations for a Free Trade Area of the Americas, where Brazil and the US were at loggerheads, and the World Trade Organization’s 2008 mini-ministerial meeting, where they found substantial common ground. The essay concludes by discussing the future challenges for enhanced trade cooperation among emerging and established powers and offering suggestions for how to enhance such cooperation in the future for the well-being of the global economy.


(2018) The Promises and Challenges of Digitalization and Development in Major Emerging Markets, Global Policy Emerging Global Governance Series

Observers have noted we are now in the midst of a “Fourth Industrial Revolution” whereby new digital technologies and big data both offer the potential to address longstanding developmental challenges and simultaneously raise questions about traditional modes of governance and production (see Brass and Hornsby 2019). This new pattern of change is especially relevant for emerging and developing economies. How can data and digitalization provide new approaches to stubborn development problems? What challenges do governments face in pursuing such efforts? And what are the global governance dimensions within these processes? In this commentary, I answer these questions, examining the opportunities and challenges of digital-and data-led development in Brazil, India and China. The main research finding is that emerging markets are using their growing resources and diplomatic clout to pursue data-led development strategies at home and abroad. Their experiences provide valuable lessons for similar efforts in the Global South and highlight how global governance can assist actors in achieving the promise of digitalization and development.