Theories of International Organization Essay

The realist school Classical realism (Carr 1964; Morgenthau 1993) starts from the premise that the state is not only the major, decisive actor in international politics but also one that is unified and self-contained. Thus, in realist analyses of international politics societal actors are left out, as are differences between various states. Domestic and international politics are two different manifestations of the same phenomenon, which is the struggle for power. The efforts of states to seek security generate a permanent struggle of all against all, which always harbours the possibility of the use of force.

And since this struggle follows objective laws, there is only one way of avoiding war, and that is to pursue a policy based on the balance of power (Morgenthau 1993). According to realist theory, IGOs are of little help in challenging this perpetual power struggle since they cannot change the anarchical structure of the international system. Rather, IGOs are simply used by powerful states to implement their power politics more effectively and to pursue their self-interest.The establishment and the success of IGOs are thereby dependent on the existence of a hegemony possessing overwhelming power resources, i.

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e. , something like a legal monopoly of force. Neo-realism mostly adopts the premises of classical realism but attempts more differentiation (Gilpin 1981; Grieco 1988; Kennedy 1987; Waltz 1979).

Since, in the neo-realist view, the anarchical structure of the international system dictates the maximization of relative power, IGOs are largely ineffective, and therefore meaningless.Thus, neo-realists argue, states must ensure that other states do not benefit more from cooperation in international organizations than they do themselves because absolute gains translate into loss of powers if international cooperation is linked to relatively superior gains for other states (Grieco 1988, 1990, 1993). IGOs can only contribute to international cooperation if there is a hegemonic state that is willing to bear an over proportionate percentage of the cooperation costs, i. e. that possesses such superior power, that it can afford to tolerate the relative gains of other states in order to achieve absolute gains for itself (hegemonic stability). The effectiveness of IGOs is closely linked to the rise and fall of major hegemonic states (a law of international politics).

The institutionalist school In contrast to realists, institutionalists view cooperation through IGOs as completely rational. The essential premise of institutionalism is that in international politics the interests of different states are neither mutually exclusive nor harmoniously in agreement.Instead, international politics is distinguished by interest constellations in which states have a common interest in reaping joint gains or avoiding joint losses (Keohane 1984). Liberal institutionalism traces these interest constellations back to ever more complex interdependent relations among states which often lead to problems that no state can master alone.

Ever powerful states must depend on other states renouncing the principle of self-help in order to establish stable cooperative relationships within the context of IGOs.Neo-institutionalism, today’s dominant theory within the institutionalist school of thought, bases its premises on classical institutionalism, which it has, however, considerably extended (Keohane 2 1984). While it acknowledges that complex interdependent relationships between states do not automatically result in the creation of IGOs, neo-institutionalism nevertheless emphasizes that international institutions in general, and IGOs in particular, are continuously gaining in importance due to the increasingly complex interdependent relationships in many issue areas of international politics.The idealist school Normative idealism can be seen as a radical alternative to realism (Kant 1795).

It?s starting point is the premise that societies (“peoples”) not states, are the central actors of international politics. It accepts that different societies might have different, competing values and norms. Nevertheless, idealists hold that societies with competing values and norms can find some common normative ground. From an idealist point of view this is especially the case for the value of living together in peace. International organizations help stabilize the common ideals and values of different societies.US President Woodrow Wilson, one of the leading exponents of idealism before and after the First World War, advocated the creation of a League of Nations to represent the conscience of the community of nations and contribute to the creation of a worldwide public opinion reflecting the common norms and values of different societies. Thus normative idealism views international organizations both as the representative of an order of values supported by the societies of their member states and the advocate of the norms which contribute this order.

Social constructivism follows the tradition of the idealist school, notwithstanding considerable differences (Risse 2000). While is has shed the normative mantle of idealism, social constructivism does emphasize that social actors act not only according to their selfish interest, as in realism and institutionalism, but also in response to shared values and norms. Social constructivism therefore stresses that the creation of international institutions in general and international organizations in particular, depends on whether there is a consensus over values and norms.International organizations are likely to emerge whenever the values and norms they represent are widely shared in the participating societies. In contrast to realism and institutionalism, social constructivism focuses in the role of social groups which lobby for specific norms as well as that of specific perceptions, and particularly their effects on non-state actors, such as NGOs. Like normative idealism social constructivism underlines the dual role of international organizations, of both reflecting the values and norms on which they are founded and influencing the values and norms of participating societies.

References:Carr, Edward H. , The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939, An Introduction to the Study of International Relations, New York 1964. Gilpin, Robert, War and Change in World Politics, Cambridge 1981. Grieco, Joseph M. , Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation: A Realist Critique of the Newest Liberal Institutionalism, in: International Organization 42: 3, 1988, 485–507.

Grieco, Joseph M. , Cooperation among Nations: Europe, America, and Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade, Ithaca, NY, 1990. Grieco, Joseph M. Understanding the Problem of International Cooperation: The Limits of Neoliberal Institutionalism and the Future of Realist Theory, in: Baldwin, David A. (ed. ), Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate, New York 1993, 339–62.

3 Kant, Immanuel, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch, in: Kant, Political Writings, 2nd edition, trans by Nisbet, H. B. ed. by Reiss, Hans, Cambridge 1991, 93–130 (original title: Zum ewigen Frieden, 1795). Kennedy, Paul, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and military Conflict from 1500 to 2000, New York 1987.Keohane, Robert O.

, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy, Princeton, NJ, 1984. Morgenthau, Hans J. , Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, rev.

by Thompson, Kenneth W. , New York 1993. Risse, Thomas, ‘Let’s Argue! ’: Communicative Action in World Politics, in: International Organization 54, 1, 2000, 1–41. Waltz, Kenneth N.

, Theory of International Politics, New York 1979. Reading Assignments: Karns, M. P. /Mingst, K. A.

: International Organizations, Colorado/London 2004, p. 35 ss.