|International governance is a feature of all international systems. Most acts of the changing forms of twenty-first-century international governance, however, present “global governance” as either sui generis or in terms of a historical comparison to the modern states system or medieval Europe. I characterize contemporary international governance instead in terms of a comparative analytical framework of general applicability based on a reconceptualization of the nature of international political structures. After some conceptual and analytical preliminaries, I sketch two models of special relevance: states systems (understood as systems of multiple relatively homogeneous territorial polities with relatively simple patterns of stratification) and “heterarchies” (systems of multiple functionally differentiated non-territorial centers arranged in divided or tangled hierarchies). Contemporary international society, I argue, can best be modeled as a states system with a heavy heterarchic overlay–and may be moving towards a heterarchic international system with a heavy states-system residue. After sketching this account, and illustrating it with the case of the governance of international human rights, I compare my framing with several leading alternatives, including global governance, multilevel governance, “fragmegration,” neo-medievalism, and the embedded state. It is only the start to the story to say that the overwhelming predominance of strong and robust multifunctional states exercising territorial jurisdiction, which created modern state-centric governance, is being overlaid with (and perhaps is giving way to) heterarchic multi-level, multi-actor, non-territorial governance. I argue, though, that it is a good start that allows us to investigate potential paths of change systematically and comparatively.