International Organization

International Organization: An Assessment of the Field

International organization: a state of the art on an art of the state

Friedrich Kratochwila1 and John Gerard Ruggiea2

a1 Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Law at Columbia University, New York.

a2 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University, and Director of the Project on the Future of Multilateralism at the Twentieth-Century Fund, both in New York City.


International organization as a field of study is where the action is. The analytical shifts leading up to the current preoccupation with international regimes have been both progressive and cumulative. And the field is pursuing its object of study in innovative ways that are bringing it closer to the theoretical core of more general international relations work. As we point out, however, the study of regimes as practiced today suffers from the fact that its epistemological approaches contradict its basic ontological posture. Accordingly, more interpretive strains, commensurate with the intersubjective basis of international regimes, should be included in the prevailing epistemological approaches. In addition, as a result of its enthusiasm for the concept of regimes, the field has tended to neglect the study of formal international organizations. Interpretive epistemologies can also help to link up the study of regimes with the study of formal international organizations by drawing attention to the roles these organizations play in creating transparency in the behavior and expectations of actors, serving as focal points for the international legitimation struggle, and providing a venue for the conduct of global epistemic politics.