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International Organizations and Power

Rodger A. Payne and Nayef H. Samhat


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Scholars frequently grapple with the relationships between power and international organizations. Power quite obviously plays a critical role in the formation of international organizations (IOs), especially the formal institutions created by nation-states to foster collective action at the intergovernmental level. Indeed, historically, international relations scholars have long been interested in the willingness of states to employ material (or “hard”) power to accomplish their goals – whether those goals primarily reflect the interests of the strongest states or the shared preferences of many states. More recent scholarship approaches the topic from different perspectives, with attention often focused on both the power generated by collective action as well as the collective identity created during the recognition and pursuit of common purposes. In other words, power can certainly be viewed as social, emerging from the relationships achieved by a community's members. As the term is commonly employed, power is the ability or authority to act, typically suggesting the capability to accomplish a task or to create something new. Those who wield power are often said to have the ability to influence or even control the behavior of others ( Dahl 1957 ). Throughout the discipline, many scholars emphasize the importance of relative differences in power ( Baldwin 2002 ). This inherently ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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