Member-dominated international organizations as actors : a bottom-up theory of corporate agency

Faculty/Professorship: International Relations  
Author(s): Gehring, Thomas  ; Urbanski, Kevin 
Title of the Journal: International theory : a journal of international politics, law and philosophy
ISSN: 1752-9727, 1752-9719
Publisher Information: Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge Univ. Press
Year of publication: 2023
Volume: 15
Issue: 1
Pages: 129-153
Language(s): English
DOI: 10.1017/S1752971922000069
This article introduces an innovative theoretical conception of the corporate agency of international organizations (IOs). Existing rationalist and constructivist accounts attribute IO agency to the influence of intra-organizational agents. Drawing on general conceptions of corporate agency in International Relations, sociology, and philosophy, we elucidate how IOs can develop corporate agency, even if the member states prepare and adopt all organizational decisions themselves. In line with recent studies on international political authority, we replace the IO-as-bureaucracy model with the more comprehensive concept of IOs-as-governors. To establish the micro-foundations of IO agency, we adopt a bottom-up perspective and outline how, and under which conditions, IO agency arises from the interaction of constituent actors. Irrespective of any specific institutional design, IOs become actors in their own right whenever they gain action capability and autonomy. They acquire action capability whenever their members pool governance resources like the right to regulate certain activities or to manage common funds and authorize IOs to deploy these resources. IOs gain autonomy whenever they affect organizational decisions. Both dimensions of IO agency are variable and open to empirical enquiry. To illustrate our argument, we refer to the United Nations Security Council and other IOs with member-driven decision processes.
GND Keywords: Internationale Organisation; Handlungskompetenz; Entscheidungsfindung
Keywords: International organizations, corporate agency, authority, autonomy, pooling, theory
DDC Classification: 320 Political Science  
RVK Classification: MK 4100   
Peer Reviewed: Ja
International Distribution: Ja
Type: Article
Release Date: 7. December 2022
Project: Collective Agency of Horizontal Regulatory Organizations in Global Environmental and Financial Market Governance
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