The politics, power, and pathologies of international organizations

TitleThe politics, power, and pathologies of international organizations
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsBarnett, MN, Finnemore, M

Awesome article. Great for dissertation stuff.


In this article, we develop a constructivist approach rooted in sociological institutionalism to explain both the power of IOs and their propensity for dysfuncitonal, even pathological, behavior. Drawing on long-standing Weberian arguments about bureaucracy and sociological institutionalist approaches to organized behavior, we argue that the rational-legal authority that IOs embody gives them power independent of the states that created them and channels that power in particular directions. 

Our approach allows us to weigh in with new perspectives on at least three debates:

1. Different view of the power of IOs and whether they matter in world politics: IOs don't just mediate, they constitute.

2. Theoretical basis for treating IOs as autonomous actors in world politics and thus presents a challenge to the statist ontology of realist and liberal theories. 

3. Vantage point from which to assess the desirability of IOs. 

"One consequence of these redined meanings of development and security is that they legitimate, and even require, increased levels of IO intervention in the domestic affairs of states -- particularly Third World states.