Sympathetic critics of the world-systems perspective have emphasized the power of local conflict and culture to shape global structures. The critique has nevertheless left the main features of the global structural model intact. Two alternative approaches— institutional analysis and postcolonial cultural theory—offer important insights into how we might push the critique further. These alternative approaches, however, en-counter some similar theoretical problems: in particular, persistent analytical splits between global and local forces and between culture and economy. Analysis of these problems leads to an outline and discussion of a fourth approach: institutional world history.