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International Organization and Bureaucracy

James P. Muldoon Jr.

Subject International Studies » International Organization

Key-Topics bureaucracy, United Nations

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444336597.2010.x


Bureaucracy is a term that few, if any, scholars of international organization (IO) look kindly upon these days. Today, the bureaucracies of international organizations are often decried as wasteful, inefficient, rigid, inept, and bloated. Such epithets may be warranted in regards to large public organizations, but they miss the point (and utility) of this particular organizational form, which is so pervasive in both the public and private sectors, to the way organizations and institutions are structured and function. In fact, the bureaucratic form – “a distinct organizational setting, the bureau or office: formalized, hierarchical, specialized with a clear functional division of labor and demarcation of jurisdiction, standardized, rules based and impersonal” ( Olsen 2006 :1) – is the dominant organizational model for modern governments and the administrative machinery of political systems, including the international system. While the bureaucratic type of administrative organization is often beset by problems, such as overspecialization, rigidity of procedures, nepotism, and corruption, it remains as Weber (1947) argued a rational and efficient way of conducting administration ( Hall 1963 ; Wriston 1980 ; Kilcullen 1996 ). The bureaucratization of the international system is due to the effectiveness of this type of organization for administration and government on the national ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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