Joint International Teaching and Learning Conference 2019

Authority in International Organisations

Political Leadership
 
Public Administration
 
International
 
Institutions
 
Presenter
Peter Aagaard
University of Roskilde
Authors
Peter Aagaard
University of Roskilde

Abstract
In this article I provide new insight into how authority can be described in international organisations. I ask the following research question: How do actors in international organisations establish, sustain and develop their authority?

The paper takes its point of departure in the international bureaucracy literature (Barnett & Finnemore, 2004; Christiansen, 1997; Trondal, Marcussen, Larsson, & Veggeland, 2010; Wallander, 2000; Wessels, 1998) . The central claim of this literature is that bureaucracies have increasingly become political secretariats for the international organisations. Bureaucracy enables international organisations to take action for reasons of their own rather than those imposed by member states. In other words, bureaucracy provides international organisations with authority.

But how can we study IO authority in manners that transcend the divide between rational actor-analysis and constructivist analysis? To answer this question I alsp bring recent insight from public administration research (Teisman, van Buuren, & Gerrits, 2009) into the study of IO authority. This research can help explain how a coalition of actors in IOs gains authority, based on coexistence and co-evolvement. Authority becomes associated with high levels of connectivity with different actors and different institutional logics (Thornton, Ocasio, & Lounsbury, 2012) and with the ability to influence the symbiotic coevolution of multiple institutional logics through a coalition of actors.
If we want to understand authority in international organizations, we cannot just look at the states or the institutional structure of bureaucracy. We must also turn to the non-state actors inside the international organizations, that is the bureaucrats, diplomats, experts, staff managers, members of departments and committees etc. and describe them as capable, interdependent actors.
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"The less the power, the greater the desire to exercise it" - Bernard Levin


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