In the United States our domestic government’s bureaucracy is often observed as being corrupt, inefficient, massive agencies that manage millions of people and billions of dollars, yet have no singular face. Bureaucracies are in essence, a set of rules and regulations that often are carried out by a low-paid federal worker. This unaccountability and dysfunctional reality, which is commonly noted in domestic arenas, is often overlooked in International Organizations.
They are overlooked because economical theories, mainly Realists and Neoliberals, inherently assume that all International Organizations’ decisions have to be reflections of their members because states are the only real actors in an anarchical world system. However Finnemore and Barnett are able to show how bureaucracies themselves begin to spend time influencing the policies they implement just as much they actually spend enforcing them. They then conclude that International Organizations are able to increase their power through both their social legitimacy and their control of technical expertise and information. These advantages which are theorized to aid cooperation can (if you allow organizations to be international actors) be used for selfish gains of the organizations.
However, I think that it’s possible that the most important factor for power in bureaucracies is not the advantages discussed by Finnemore and Barnett, but more simply because they are the enforcers. And when you are the enforcer, you get to decide how, what, when, where you will enforce the policies. That gives bureaucracies an immense amount of power and control. Perhaps this is what causes International Organizations autonomy and authority, more than their advantages described by Finnemore and Barnett. However whether International Organizations’ autonomy is caused by either arguments, bureaucracies still require an internal change to check their power.
A great example is the current problems with the World Bank. One of the larger international organizations in the world it has had several problems with corruption and inefficiency. As highlighted by Behar, the World Bank is extremely dysfunctional because of three key philosophical, structural, and cultural problems. However, their is hope because the newly instated President, Jim Yong Kim, seems very capable of changing the World Bank bureaucracy. Kim is an anthropologist and physician making him separate from the IR world and therefore more open to sociological theories of Finnemore and Barnett. Furthermore this awareness of International Organizations’ autonomy and authority, he has instated several new goals to address the three issues of bureaucracy. The first is by ordering a massive reorganization of the bureaucracy, he is potentially going to change the structure of the organization itself, which could prevent corruption and make employees more easily managed and held accountable. Secondly, Kim has announced a new core mission, to end extreme poverty, which gives the World Bank a philosophical direction that it hasn’t had since first being created. And thirdly, after surveying the employees Kim discovered that “risk-aversion culture” has caused minimal action by World Bank employees and therefore that culture needs to be altered so that innovative solutions come about. Kim’s openness to sociological theory and to overhauling the current bureaucracy of the World Bank will likely allow him to create many positive outcomes for the World Bank too increase both efficiency and accountability.