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Rule for the World by Barnet and Finnemore Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Jul 20th, 2020

From the first chapter of the book, the authors explore how the world politics have been bureaucratized through the establishment of international organizations. To a large extent, the authors are quite categorical that international organizations have indeed evolved and become highly bureaucratic in the sense that they have the power to exercise their ideals over independent states across the globe (Barnet and Finnemore 6).

While such an assertion may imply that international organizations have become autocratic in their operations, the authors should have emphasized that these organizations usually seek some form of authorization from individual states. It is also worth to mention that the degree of bureaucracy mentioned in the book may not be common across the board especially when all the global states are put into consideration.

From the book, it is evident that international organizations have taken a center stage in influencing global politics and governance policies. Although not all of these organizations can be judged the same way, the common emerging trend is that these organizations are turning out to be special bureaucratic bodies. Initially, international organizations were mainly known to execute pacts between international states.

Such pacts were meant to forge a common benefit among partner states. In other words, the guiding principles were drawn from the affected states. The latter had the sole mandate to decide the best governing or regulation policies that could be used. Even productive rights are being controlled by some of these organizations. A case in point is the World Health organization that has the authority to issue restrictive birth control guidelines to specific independent states.

Such restrictions are usually issued in cases when some of these states need international aid. Another typical example is the European Central Bank which is currently influencing monetary policies among several states across the globe. The authors highlight that it may not be a fair practice for an organization such as the European Central Bank to influence the fiscal policies of sovereign states since it directly amounts to a high level of bureaucracy and autocratic form of leadership.

Nonetheless, the authors have failed to develop a clear-cut difference between being authoritative and autocratic especially in regards to elements of bureaucracy that have been witnessed in most of these international organizations. Perhaps, aligning the roles of individual international organizations with the enforcement tactics that have been put in place may shed additional light on the bureaucratic performance of the aforementioned organizations.

It may not be justified to label all the activities of these international organizations with negative attributes of bureaucracy. In any case, there are several states that often acknowledge the operations of the so-called bureaucratic international organizations. Even though these organizations are often discredited and harshly judged in public discourses, it is indeed factual that they perform vital roles in their specific areas of concern.

The national military arrangements of most member states of the North Atlantic Treaty organization (NATO) and United Nations Organization (UNO) are now being monitored. Needless to say, these two global organizations are instrumental in creating and pursuing stiff policies that govern international peace and stability. However, the authors seem to concentrate more on the bureaucratic nature of the UN and NATO without factoring the aspects of efficiency and overall goodwill.

For instance, it can be recalled that the main reason why the UN was formed immediately after the end of the Second World War was to prevent the occurrence of another similar global war. If this was indeed the case, then the events that took place especially after the end of the active Cold War era would not have been witnessed at all. For example, the Gulf War took place with the full support of the UN veto states.

While the war led to massive loss of human life and property and consequent humanitarian crisis, little was done to avert the war in the first place. The on-going civil war in Syria is yet another critical example of how the highly lauded bureaucratic international organizations have failed to perform their roles as expected.

Travel advisories are usually issued by World Health Organization. The authors note that International Organizations have become bureaucracies since they “have distinct social form of authority with its own internal logic and behavioral proclivities” (Barnet and Finnemore 3). It is understood that most of these travel advisories are often injurious to domestic economies especially in regards to the tourism industry.

One of the notable strengths in the authors’ arguments is that the travel advisories that may be issued by institutions such as the World Health organization and the sister organizations may be beneficial to individual travelers across the globe. In fact, the authors concur that if international organizations could perform their mandates with goodwill, then, their activities could be lauded without any element of doubt.

In terms of methodology, the authors make use of both empirical and theoretical approaches in exploring how international organizations have changed into highly bureaucratic institutions that do not respect the sovereignty of individual states. From the theoretical framework, the discussions in the book have been approached from various international relations’ perspectives. For example, it is indeed agreeable that the diffusion of norms and dysfunctional behaviors are common features of most modern international organizations.

The theoretical framework has been addressed in details and satisfactorily, bearing in mind that history attests to most of the arguments presented in this section. In fact, the theoretical framework used assists in revealing the strength of the book. However, the empirical examination of the three international organizations lacks adequate primary data that can be used to cement the arguments. Hence, there is a slight mismatch between the theoretical and empirical methodologies used in the book.

The authors emphasize that IMF has heavily influenced domestic monetary policies; UNHCR has contributed towards the poor repatriation policies while the bureaucratization of peacekeeping has been worsened by the UN Secretariat. Besides, both methodologies demonstrate that change, dysfunction, power and autonomy are the four key behavioral patterns of international organizations.

These features enable us to treat them as bureaucracies (Barnet and Finnemore 32). We can only comprehend international organizations if we understand their activities. These organizations make use of their authorities to control key state activities across the world. International organizations also evolve with the passage of time. Both methodologies also treat international organizations as bureaucracies since Modern life is dominated by various levels of bureaucracies.

Although we perceive that bureaucracies perform integral roles in our society, there is growing dislike for institutions that are associated with bureaucratic activities. Rules are used to constitute bureaucracies (Barnet and Finnemore 42). From the empirical studies carried out by the authors, the constitutive mechanism of change was found to be instrumental. In addition, the internal/cultural box has been used to reveal bureaucratic culture.

Works Cited

Barnet, Michael and Martha, Finnemore. Rule for the World: International Organizations in Global Politics. London: Cornell University Press, 2004. Print.

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